Brooklyn, one building at a time
Name: Row houses
Address: 337-347 Stuyvesant Avenue
Cross Streets: MacDonough and Macon Streets
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect:W.R. Bell & Co.
Other work by architect: houses around the corner, at 371-375 MacDonough St.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Stuyvesant Heights Extension HD (2013)
The story: For many people, Stuyvesant Avenue is the border of Bedford Stuyvesant, but in reality, it’s only the center of the Stuyvesant Heights neighborhood, which was developed quite independently of Bedford. Bedford Corners was a thriving crossroads town as far back as the end of the 17th century, but Stuyvesant Heights was largely a suburban community, with little development until the latter part of the 19th century. It wouldn’t be until the 1930s that the two communities were joined, called Bedford Stuyvesant by a Con Edison article in a newspaper.
Stuyvesant Heights extends many more blocks eastward from Stuyvesant Avenue,and is one of the main north/south streets. Most of it is residential, with only scattered commercial buildings here and there, primarily on some of the corners. Development here stretches from 1850s wood framed houses, to the early brownstone styles of the Italianate and Neo-Grec variety, to the late 19th century Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne and Renaissance Revival styles, on to the rich Beaux Arts houses near Fulton Park, with a few mansions and much later 20th century infill houses tossed in for good measure.
Many of these buildings were built by prominent architects, but even more were built by smaller developers; many of whom were their own architects, builders and property owners. These men often only had the money or opportunity to buy a couple of lots, but they put up their buildings where they could, made some money, and a century later, have contributed to the streetscape of our city. Some of these guys were generic, some were quite good, and every once in a while, some were quite brilliant.
William Bell, who was the owner, architect and builder of this group of houses, was somewhere in the middle. This group of six, plus a smaller group of three houses around the corner, represents his only known contribution to the area. Perhaps as we gain more knowledge of the rest of Bedford Stuyvesant, more of his work will surface. Here, he designed an eclectic group of Queen Anne style rowhouses, with all kinds of stuff going on, architecturally speaking. (Above, 337-347 Stuyvesant Avenue.)
The row is a basic ABCCBA group, with the group’s steeply peaked roofed “A” houses enclosing them. The “B” houses have really interesting upturned metal cornices, and, oddly enough, only one of the “C” houses has a Gothic style upper window. This house, number 343, also has heavily carved Byzantine leaf worked ornamental stone capstones and brackets, but all of the other houses have very shallow etched reliefs. One can only imagine that Mr. Bell ran out of money, and had to settle for cheaper ornament on most of the houses. The result is an architecturally uneven group, but the good stuff; the details like the really nice pressed metalwork, the Gothic window and the carvings, show that Bell had talent.Hopefully, his money was well spent inside, and he didn’t have to skimp there, too. I hope there is more of his work around. GMAP