Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Private house
Address: 278 Highland Boulevard
Cross Streets: Miller Avenue and Barbey Street
Neighborhood: Highland Park
Year Built: Early 20th century, before 1915
Architectural Style: Arts and Crafts
Architect: Unknown, perhaps Adam Wischerth
Landmarked: No, but entire block should be
The story: Highland Boulevard was the Gold Coast of the Highland Park/Cypress Hills neighborhood. This broad street is lined with some impressive mansions, as well as smaller, but no less interesting turn of the 20th century one family houses. Almost all of the houses on this block date from this time period, when fortunes were being made by the mostly German-American households who lived here. The largest monuments in nearby Cypress Hills and Evergreen Cemeteries all bear witness to the success of those people, and the general community.
One of those successful people was Adam Wischerth (often spelled Wischert, as well). Both variations of his name appear in the papers and building trade magazines, identifying him as a successful local developer and builder and sometimes architect. His name was connected to Adolf Gobel, the “Sausage King of Brooklyn,” who lived just across the street, and Wischerth is on record as the architect and builder of Gobel’s factories in Bushwick. He also built or designed many other small industrial and commercial buildings in the areas of Bushwick, East New York and Ridgewood, Queens.
Researching Mr. Wischerth can be confusing. Between the variations on his name and some confusion as to where he lived, which at times is here, and other times is at the Gobel mansion address, he seemed to be all over this block. Perhaps he was, but the preponderance of evidence seems to be that this house, number 278, was his actual home. There are mentions of his wife entertaining here, which appear in the Eagle and other local papers. It’s an interesting house with a large parcel of land around it, giving it a wonderful isolation within a city block. The land also allows the house to present itself with great panache.
It’s a large Arts and Crafts cottage, with some extra zing. The river rock exterior gives the house a wonderful rustic look, so very different from the limestone mansion of the Gobel house, or the Stick style late Victorians across the street. The steep pitched tile roof is a perfect textural complement. There are a lot of building materials in use here: river rocks, shingles, and Mediterranean roof tile, it’s a color and textural quilt that really works.
It’s also got a strong Prairie style vibe going on with the lines of windows on the front façade, as well as the style of the front door. Those same elements are taken over to the small garage, done in the same materials and style. It’s a mish mash of elements, but it all works. I’d love to see what they did inside. Is it rustic? Colonial Revival? Only the chain link fence is a disappointment. The house probably also has killer views of East New York, all the way to the bay.
The second owner of the house was the family of Benjamin Berger, a clothing manufacturer. He and his family lived here from at least 1924. The Berger dress factory was at 2941 Atlantic Avenue, on the corner of Cleveland Street, not too far from here. At his death in 1932, Berger’s estate was worth $92,000, which was a tidy sum during the Depression. He owned a lot of real estate besides this home, and his wife and family were probably set for life. Today, the house is still a single family home, and remains a wonderful stylistic anomaly on this very eclectic and interesting block. GMAP