Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Private House
Address: 979 Park Place
Cross Streets: New York and Brooklyn Avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: George P. Chappell
Other works by architect: St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Pacific Street, numerous row and several free-standing houses throughout Crown Heights North, as well as in Park Slope, Bedford Stuyvesant and Stuyvesant Heights.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase 2 of the Crown Heights North HD (2011)
The story: The AIA Guide to NYC calls this house a prototypical model for Vincent Scully’s great 1955 book, “The Shingle Style.” It’s one of Crown Heights North’s great private freestanding houses. If George Chappell had been a painter, instead of a brilliant architect, Crown Heights would have been his canvas. His best works are here, and all are quite different, ranging from his Arts and Crafts St. Bartholomew’s Church, to his Queen Anne row houses on Dean, his classically inspired limestones on Bergen Street, to this Shingle Style house. And those are by no means all. This house is classic Chappell during his Queen Anne stage, with a prominent peaked roofline embellished with his signature fishscale shingles.
It was built for Joseph Lazarus, a wholesale importer of skins and hides. He and his wife, Florine, lived here with five servants. They had no children. In the 1930s and 40s, the house belonged to Thomas E. O’Brien, his wife Alice, and their eight children. O’Brien was a well-known lawyer, specializing in construction and building law. The family was quite socially active, as well as leading members of nearby St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, just down the block.
This house is one of those neighborhood treasures that we in Crown Heights North had our eye on, hoping that it would be landmarked before it was sold to developers. A previous owner was a mortgage and real estate broker who worked out of the house for years. He died, and it was on the market with different brokers, always advertised as an investment property, as it sits on a large lot. It then got lost to foreclosure, and at the last minute was finally rescued by the family that has lovingly restored it, turning it into a two-family home. They’ve done a great deal of work, both inside and out, which can be seen in the 2006 and 2013 photos. Thanks to them, this architecturally significant house can be enjoyed by people who love it, and it will remain a standing testament to George Chappell’s talents.GMAP
And if you’ve always wondered what the interior looked like, here’s your chance. This house is one of nine featured on the Crown Heights North House Tour, taking place tomorrow, Saturday, October 5, 2013. The tour begins at St. Gregory’s RC Church, corner of St. Johns and Brooklyn Avenues, from 11 to 4. A short opening ceremony and continental breakfast begins at 10:45. Tickets are available for $20 on line up until midnight tonight on our website: www.crownheightsnorth.org. You can also buy them in person the day of the tour, at St. Gregory’s. The price at the door is $25. We hope you’ll come out and support the Crown Heights North Association in our ongoing mission of preservation and community pride.
(Photograph: Hal Drellich)