Building of the Day: 135 Stratford Road

135 Stratford Rd 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Private house
Address: 135 Stratford Road
Cross Streets: Albemarle and Beverley Road
Neighborhood: Prospect Park South
Year Built: 1906
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival with Flemish detail
Architect: George E. Showers
Other Work by Architect: Other houses on this side of Stratford, as well as elsewhere in Prospect Park South
Landmarked: Yes, part of Prospect Park South HD (1979)

The story: Developer Dean Alvord began planning his elite Prospect Park South neighborhood in 1899. Like many people with great vision, it seems the planning stages and beginning developments were a source of great attention to him, but in a few years, when the project started to slow down, and was more than three quarters finished, he began to lose interest, and he began turning that attention to the next project, the next hurdles to overcome. By 1905, only six years later, he sold all of his remaining interests in Prospect Park South, and turned his attention to the development of Laurelton, Queens, a community he built in much the same fashion he built Prospect Park South.

The forty-five vacant lots remaining in the area were sold to the Chelsea Improvement Company, who began putting up houses that were generally smaller and less impressive than Dean Alvord’s magnificent mansions. Some of these lots were developed by the team of George T. and Lizzie Moore, who built primarily on this east side of Stratford Road, as well as elsewhere in the neighborhood. They worked mainly with architect George E. Showers. This team was responsible for this attractive, medium-sized Colonial Revival, with a twist.

The house is a very symmetrical Colonial Revival, although at first glance one might not quite know how to characterize it. Its most unusual and eye-catching features are the Flemish style gables that flank the roof of the house. The stepped roofline has no real function other than ornament, but gives the house some style, especially clad in shingles. It’s a nicely proportioned building, with Colonial Revival sidelights, a great porch, nice detailing, and unusual arched dormer windows.

The first resident of this house was a diamond merchant named William Kleinschmidt, in 1906 or 1907. He may or may not be the same William Kleinschmidt who lived at 462 East 16th Street, in nearby Ditmas Park, in 1910. If he was, then he left the diamond business for the insurance business, and was a broker. On February 3, 1910, he came home after work, was in a down mood, ate supper with his wife, went upstairs to the attic and shot himself in the head. His horrified wife and the maid heard the shot, and found him. He was said to have been despondent about financial matters and a loss of clients at work. He was also said to be very devoted to his wife, which makes the story even sadder.

The architect, George E. Showers, left little records behind besides his body of work here in Prospect Park South. He designed some very nice suburban houses on this block, and had some imaginative ideas. I hope there is more work of his to be discovered. GMAP

135 Stratford Rd 2

6 Comment

  • Those steeped rooflines are quite bold! I wonder if they were requested by a quirky client or just a playful Mr. Showers. I would love to see an early photograph of this house as so often, I find, something seems “missing” in current images of old houses. I suppose it is usually an improper approach to fenestration. Aside from window awnings, I can’t really pick out any possible areas where actual decorative structural elements would have fallen off.
    As always, I await Minard’s definitive opinion.

  • This is really a charming house. The stepped gables are a characteristic feature of Dutch domestic architecture. The Dutch built houses with these gables in New Amsterdam and up the Hudson to Albany. I think there are still a few examples surviving in New Paltz and Albany although of course all traces of New Amsterdam have long since been erased.
    The really original and charming thing about this house is that the stepped gables are done in wood with cedar shakes. Very nice. or as Mrs Mingott may say: tasty!

    • Ha! I love your mini lectures on architecture. Thank you, dear. “Tasty” and the architect by the name of Showers got me thinking.
      A very long time ago, I lived next door to a drag queen whose stage name was April Showers. Whenever I saw her in the hall and asked how she was doing, she started out with: “Gurrrrrrllllll, let me tell you the taste.” If there was something truly entertaining going on, it was: “Oooooo…things about to get tasty!” To my surprise, she did the best Katherine Hepburn impersonation I ever heard. Uncanny. She used to prank call Elaine’s and chat with Mrs. Kaufman who thought she was the real McCoy.

  • It may be the paint job that looks off. I picture this house in darker, victorian colors, with one color on the main shingles, another on the decorative horizontal band above the windows, and yet another for the window and other trim, which was likely not white in the original.

    • Wild guess: shingles are not original. Larger and rougher than I would expect. Imagine this house … in clapboard. Anyways, “paint job looks off” could not be truer … shingles were 99.999% certainly unpainted. This is where onlining the tax photos would be great.