Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Single family house
Address: 1315 President Street
Cross Streets: New York and Brooklyn Avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: ‘teens-early 1920s
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival/Mediterranean hybrid
The story: Crown Heights South, as I have said many times before, is a wonderful architectural pastiche of housing stock, running the gamut from early 20th century limestone row houses to suburban tract housing, with mansion lined streets, streets with nothing but 6 story apartment buildings on them, to high rise subsidized housing. You’ve got a bit of everything here, some of it really, really good, and some just downright depressing. For the most part, the best of the area is that which is closest to Eastern Parkway, and only two blocks from Eastern Parkway lays President Street, home to the neighborhood’s most impressive single family housing.
Someday, when someone funds me, I’d like to do a history of this area, because there are so many mysteries and hidden stories here just aching to be told, and very little readily available information. For many years, the blocks on President between New York and Kingston Avenues were called “Doctor’s Row,” and the area was home to wealthy doctors and other professionals. I have not been able to find out who started the upscale building on Doctor’s Row, and there are only a few of these fabulous mansions that have their architects and pedigrees known.
The building started in the early years of the 20th century. By the ‘teens, it was running full steam, ending in the mid-1920s, before the Depression. The styles were varied: from Renaissance Revival to Colonial Revival to imaginative mixtures of even more showy European derived styles, as new home builders and buyers upstaged each other. A walk down these streets shows that among the most popular of these styles was a Mediterranean-influenced hybrid, usually another basic architectural style with some Mediterranean roofing and other details tacked on.
Take this house, for example. Minus the roof, the porch and porte-cochere roof, you’re left with a very nice suburban Colonial Revival foursquare. This three story house has some great brickwork, with ornamental patterns in herringbone, with the main body of the house in a very textural and decorative Flemish bond. The arched second story Palladian windows are set in decorative brick arches with limestone or cement capstones. Fine collonettes with ornate capitals and embossed architraves frame the two prominent windows. Below, almost hidden by the porch, is another Colonial Revival detail, a columned entryway, with more classical columns supporting the porch roof.
Capping all of this Colonial Revival goodness is a pure Mediterranean tile roof, with a wide overhang, supported by wooden brackets. You probably can’t see it, but there is a nice patinated copper finish on the metal underlay, making the green roof even more pleasing. The same effect was rendered on the porch and porte-cochere roofs.
The result is an interesting house. Its neighbor at 1311 has a similar basic body, but the more Colonial Revival details. I think 1315 is a better house. Both houses have garages in the back yard. Whoever the architect of these two houses was, he had some interesting ideas. These houses are by no means the most ornate on the block, far from it, but they are still visually arresting, and part of an enclave of unique housing that should be landmarked, lest it be destroyed or altered beyond recognition. GMAP