Huge, Historic Henry Street Property Sells

This is big news that can’t wait for next week’s Biggest Sales post…A unique, roughly 100-by-200-foot property at the corner of Henry and Kane Streets in Cobble Hill has just changed hands for $5,400,000. In addition to 200-foot deep side yard (with a large parking lot on Strong Place) the plot includes two double-wide brick townhouses that, according to the LPC report, were most likely built in 1848. When we stopped by, we couldn’t exactly tell what was up with the property. The buildings, which are architecturally gorgeous, seem to be in decent structural shape, but still look a bit shabby with some of the windows broken. The buyers live in the neighborhood, at 27 Strong Place, and there doesn’t appear to be any sort of development company involved. Anyone know the history of these two properties? Looks like a pretty good investment to us. Update: Lost City has done previous detective work and confirms the site was once a convent. See here for a post about the wall surrounding the lot, and here for a picture of the backyard inside it. GMAP

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  • wow. i only just noticed these buildings a few weeks ago when i was walking by. the scale of them is absolutely incredible — you have to see it in person.

  • does sound pretty cheap.

  • propshark shows 18 units. so likely rent-stabilized bldg. So should not qualify for biggest sales.
    get montrose on this to search history

  • All that and you don’t get the pool next door?

  • more4less

    even with rent stabilized tenants, it’s still sweet deal

  • Damn. I always wanted to build a palazzo on that parking lot.

  • Really interesting building with odd history. I believe this was a convent for a while. It was also the headquarters for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Before that it was a club for Swedish Engineers. As long as I’ve lived around here this building has looked abandoned on the first floor but there were obviously occupants on the upper floors. There is also an abandoned car out back in the parking lot that is part of the same property, I believe. I’m pretty sure an architect owned it until the recent sale. It is one of the cool real estate mysteries around here.

  • I agree that these houses have always been a bit mysterious. I always assumed they were owned by old-line Brooklyn families, crazy as loons per the usual. But I guess they are owned by just one crazy old family.
    Because the properties are in the historic district and because they are so significant I assume whatever happens here will be non-destructive.

  • Hey Pete, stop volunteering me!

    Seriously, they are cool, and it would be a good story. We’ll see…..

  • Minard, why have these houses always been mysterious? And what about the crazy family that owns them? What makes them crazy.
    Would love to hear the story.

    But that is some lot/s.

  • chickenoid23

    does anyone else find it troubling that this guy just roams around and takes pictures over people’s fences??? a bit of an invasion of privacy if you ask me.

  • What guy? It’s called Google Earth.

  • when these houses were new, they must have been palatially appointed inside. They look like they housed very prominent families who wanted to live a little distance away from the more congested parts of the Heights. This part of what is now Cobble Hill must have had a great deal of wide open land in 1848.

  • I did some digging, just for fun. This house was once owned by John J. Van Nostrand. Very old NY family, probably somehow related to the guy who inspired Nostrand Avenue.

    Van Nostrands seem to have mixed it up with Remsens and Middaghs and Gardiners and other established fancy families.

  • daveinbedstuy

    randi, not being very photogenic, you have nothing to worry about

  • This building is a fascinating case study in neighborhood evolution. As “Carol Gardens” notes, at the turn of century, before this was bought by the Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor (and later the Hare Krishnas), it was the location of the Swedish Engineers’ Club, which reflected the Scandinavian population in the neighborhood. They had meetings, lectures, dinners, and other events. Swedes were centered around Atlantic Avenue, which according to the Eagle was once known as the “Swedish Broadway” (though other nationalities probably also claimed it), while Norwegians and other Scandinavians seem to have clustered further south toward Red Hook, along the waterfront and in today’s Carroll Gardens. Many of the Norwegians moved to Bay Ridge and then to Staten Island and New Jersey. Many Swedes were shipbuilders, mechanics, and in technical trades, hence the formation of the engineers’ association. The Club was founded on Sackett Street in the late 1880s before moving to 439 Henry (this building) a few years later, and then it moved to Hicks Street and Manhattan. I believe it evolved into the American Society of Swedish Engineers, which is still active.

    I remember a Swedish restaurant on Atlantic near Hicks but it disappeared in the 1980s or perhaps early 1990s. I never ate there, but was always curious.

  • From LPC report…

    The northernmost three houses (Nos. 439 – 445 ) provide a handsome terminus for this block. They were built as early as 1848, with the two mansards added later in the century. On the basis of the windew alignment, these three houses, though on different sized lots, were built as a row.
    Except for the mansard, Nos. 439 and 44l are pairs. Each is unusually large, being four windows wide with the entrance off center. They retain their mid-century proportions and long parlor windows. The stoops have
    interesting later ironwork. The mansard added to No. 44l in the 1860s has three pedimented dormers and rests on a cornice supported by an unusual closely serrated row of brackets. This north end of the block running through
    to Strong Place was assembled in 1846-1848 by John Van Nostrand, grocer-merchant of New York City. He made his residence at No. 44l. James Van Nostrand, president of the Merchants Exchange Bank of New York, made his residence in 1848 at No. 439. which had a large garden. Both houses now comprise the Convent of the Infant Jesus, with a total frontage on Henry Street of 101 feet, including the spacious walled garden along Kane Street.

  • What is the consensus regarding two house together?

    Is a bundle of two attached houses worth more than the two individually? I could imagine a condo development that spanned both properties.

    I have looked into the hallways of these buildings many times, and as near as I can tell, they are similar laid out to a 25′ wide building, except they have another set of smaller rooms off the other side of the stairwell.

  • What makes the property even more curious is the large grove of bamboo on the north west corner of the property- indicated by the lighter green in the Google satellite view. The unusual fourth “bay” was likely a reception or receiving room.