Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Row house
Address: 165 Sixth Avenue
Cross Streets: St. Johns and Lincoln Places
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1874
Architectural Style: Italianate/Neo-Grec
Architect: Henry Samuel, builder
Landmarked: Yes, part of Park Slope HD (1973)
The story: There are thousands of Italianate and late Italianate/Neo-Grec brownstones in our fair burg; they are part of the reason that Brownstone Brooklyn is as sought after as it is. These are, after all, the quintessential brownstones, the buildings that gave all of New York’s row houses their names. But some of them are just special. They aren’t all in upscale neighborhoods, either. They are brownstones that through their superior construction, years of care, landscaping, luck, and the accident of light and shadow, make us smile, and remember why we liked living here so much. At least they do it for me. This is one of those buildings.
It’s next door to the “Squid and the Whale” house, the brownstone featured in the movie of the same name that sold for big bucks recently. Both houses were built as a pair by Henry Samuel, a local builder, in 1874. Ten years later, builder John Monas built the adjoining row, tying them together with similar cornices, rooflines and materials, creating, at first glance, a unified group on this side of the street. But if you look closely, the earlier houses hold their own next to their later neighbors.
By 1874, the Italianate style was waning, and transitioning into the Neo-Grec. The heavy lintels and doors, and the very organic and three dimensional carved acanthus leaf brackets that characterize the Italianate style, were now being paired with the lighter, incised, two-dimensional carvings of the Neo-Grec style, creating facades with more ornament than before. Paired with the tall stoops, heavy balusters and newel posts, long doors and windows, this period of building is especially attractive and elegant, a masterful combination of heavy and light, shadow and mass.
In 1893, the home belonged to Thomas Barrett, a paper manufacturer. In 1902, the house was home to Robert V. Samuels, a prominent lawyer. Mr. Samuels was counsel to the Marine Journal Company, a shipping company run by his father, Captain Samuel Samuels. He suffered a fatal heart attack after a board meeting in lower Manhattan, dropping dead at the feet of his father, who was also at the meeting. The house would go on to have many other owners, all of whom made sure the exterior, at least, retained the original doors, steps and fencing.
I noticed the house for two reasons: its great condition, and the way the light happened to be hitting it when I passed last spring. There was also a beautiful cherry tree in blossom in front of the house, its pink flowers contrasting so well with the brownstone and wood. You’d have to really hate brownstones and flowers to not think this sight beautiful. Kudos to the owner and Mother Nature.GMAP