Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Row houses
Address: 11-15 Greene Avenue
Cross Streets: Fulton, South Oxford, and Cumberland Streets
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1860
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Nicholas Rhodes
Other works by architect: Houses next door at 17 and 19 Greene Avenue
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene HD (1978)
The story: Architecturally speaking, Fort Greene is a fascinating neighborhood, because much of its architecture represents the growth of middle class Brooklyn in the years preceding and just after the Civil War. As Brooklyn spread outwards from the Heights in the early 19th century, neighborhoods like Boerum Hill, South Brooklyn (Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens) and Fort Greene developed and thrived, as Brooklyn moved towards becoming a city in its own right. While all of those neighborhoods grew at this time, Fort Greene was the largest, and with more people and more blocks of houses came more commercial thoroughfares.
This group of three houses is unique in the neighborhood. The houses were built by one of the area’s many architect/builders who built pre-Civil War Brooklyn. His name was Nicholas Rhodes, and he built this group, as well as the two houses next door, in 1860. The Italianate brownstone was king at the time, but Rhodes had the imagination to alter the usual design a bit, and add peaked roofs to his three houses, which were built as residences, and did not have storefronts. The cornice work on the peaked roofs is quite nice, and amazingly intact, and the roofs add so much to the pleasing appearance of these houses, separating them from the thousands of flat roofed Italianates in Brooklyn.
Of course, you also have the storefronts. These were added in the late 1800’s, as was the third floor pressed metal oriel on number 15. By that time, probably between 1888 and 1895, this stretch of Greene Avenue had been commercialized, with small storefronts for neighborhood shops like butchers, grocers, notions and sundries, druggists, candy stores, and laundries. Many of these stores became neighborhood institutions and lasted many years, helping to stabilize the neighborhood, and giving it a unique sense of place. Over the years, the basement floors became businesses like laundries, while the parlor floor stores were taken over by dress shops, hat shops and other businesses that could take advantage of the large display windows. This group is still quite evocative of Old Brooklyn, while still evolving with the new. GMAP
(Photo: Christopher Bride for PropertyShark)