Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Private House
Address: 177 Rugby Road
Cross Streets: Albemarle and Beverley roads
Neighborhood: Prospect Park South
Year Built: 1901
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Architect: John J. Petit
Other Work by Architect: “Japanese House” and many other houses in Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, and Victorian Flatbush.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Prospect Park South HD (1981)
The story: This house was one of the earlier speculative houses to be built in Prospect Park South. Dean Alvord commissioned his chief architect, John J. Petit, to design a couple of houses that showed prospective customers what living in his swanky Prospect Park South could be like. This house was a good example, a large 3,400-plus-square-foot piece of Colonial Revival heaven here in Brooklyn. It worked, and in 1902, the house was bought by Mrs. Mary A. Smith.
The Colonial Revival style of architecture was America’s architecture, the favorite for the emerging 20th-century suburbs and growing small towns. Take pieces of mostly British colonial design, the elegance of classical detail and Georgian proportions, or perhaps a Dutch gambrel roof, or some New England shakes and shingles, and give them some all-American heavy meals. The results are massive 25-room suburban houses that few Georgians and far fewer Colonial folk would recognize, but were right at home in growing suburbs such as Flatbush at the time.
In 1904, Mrs. Smith sold the house to George O. Walbridge, a real estate broker who had formerly lived on Garfield Place in Park Slope. Dean Alvord pitched many of his advertisements to men like Walbridge, encouraging them to come to Prospect Park South and away from the “box houses” of the city. This house appeared in one of his ads, with a description of the features inside.
Of course, it originally had a wraparound porch, which gave the house a much better sense of proportion. I’m sure the men stripping the paint from the house are glad the porch is gone, but as you can see from the picture, it really made the house.
The advertisement says that the house had a large library in English oak, with built-in bookcases, a fireplace and stained-glass windows, plus a quarter-oak dining room with built-ins and stained glass that was connected to a butler’s pantry and a modern kitchen. There was also a Turkish smoking room. Upstairs were bedrooms with fireplaces and full bathrooms with showers. The third floor had a billiard room, storage, servants’ rooms and a bathroom.
Over the years the porch was lost, but this is still a beautiful house. I appreciate someone spending the money to strip and repaint the house. It’s expensive, but the results are beautiful. My photos were taken in early December. GMAP