A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
The Lefferts were early Dutch settlers in Brooklyn, and one branch of the family settled in the town of Bedford Corners, centered on what is now Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street. By the Revolutionary War, the family, under patriarch Jacobus Lefferts and his son Rem, were the wealthiest landowners in the area, owning most of what is now Bedford Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant Heights and Crown Heights North. They were the largest slaveholders in the town, and all of their farming and business concerns made them rich enough to start thinking about building big.
Jacobus Lefferts built this house in 1768, somewhere near the corner of Arlington Place and Fulton Street, using the finest materials. It was a Georgian style house, with tall columns and what could be a dome in the center. The mansion was described as having solid mahogany doors, sterling silver doorknobs, and tall ten-foot windows that reached from floor to ceiling on the parlor floor, as well as fireplaces large enough for a man to walk through.
Legend has it that before the Battle of Brooklyn, General Israel Putnam stood on the roof of the house, where he was able to see the dust trail of the approaching British, giving his men time to move out. After the battle, the British occupied Bedford Corners until the end of the war in 1783. During that time, the house had already passed to Jacobus’ son, Rem Lefferts. He was displaced for the duration of the war, as the British officers made this their home. They also commandeered the homes of Bedford’s other wealthy residents.
The house stood on Arlington Place for more than a century as Bedford grew around it. Fulton Street became the main thoroughfare, and commercial buildings began to encroach on the old mansion and its neighbor, the other remaining Lefferts homestead, a classic gambrel-roofed Dutch style house, called the Rem Lefferts house. In a move of incredible short-sightedness by the city, Jacobus Lefferts’ house was torn down in June of 1893. Rem’s house lasted until 1909. The destruction of these two houses obliterated all trace of Bedford Corners’ colonial past. Today, stores mark the spot, nothing more. GMAP
(Originally posted 10/14/11)