Oldest House in Crown Heights North Now More Ruined and Expensive Than Ever

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The oldest house in Crown Heights North, the freestanding wood frame Susan B. Elkins house at 1375 Dean Street, built in the mid-19th century when the area was still mostly open farmland, is back on the market. This time the ask is $1,100,000, and the building looks to be in worse condition than when it last changed hands in 2011 for $194,000, according to PropertyShark.

At the time, buyer Real Properties Group said it planned to restore the exterior to its 1939 tax photo condition and turn the interior into apartments. In recent months, the Crown Heights North Association reported the owner for “demo by neglect” because neighbors saw gaping holes in the roof.

Unfortunately, the building was left open and looted over the years. Now the current owner appears to have gutted what little remained of the interior. The listing says “Delivered vacant and with an interior that has been completely cleared, you can project your fantasy home and build out to suit your individual tastes and desires.”

As one might expect, there are no interior photos, but click through to the Corcoran listing see a floor plan.

“Yes, it’s finally on the market, the house that we’ve fought so long to protect,” said a member of Crown Heights North Association in an email. “Now it’s our turn to help find a buyer who will restore it to its glory.”

It’s landmarked, so presumably any exterior restoration will not be cheap, quick and dirty. Any deep pockets out there?

1375 Dean Street Listing [Corcoran]
Construction Back on at Susan Elkins House? [Brownstoner] GMAP

5 Comment

  • minard

    The exterior of this building is pretty simple. It’s just wooden clapboards, wooden trim, and windows. It’s not like there will be massive carved ornamentation or ironwork or marblework that will cost so much. I suppose the cost of doing the work to landmark standards will be a bit higher than covering the exterior with vinyl siding but it will not be near as expensive as redoing an Italianate brownstone facade. Complying with the Landmarks Commission’s rules for wood siding and nice windows are the least of the challenges faced by this property.

  • Montrose Morris

    This is so disheartening. Eight years ago, when this house was on the market in the $600K range, also listed by Corcoran, there were several people who were very interested in buying it, and restoring it. At the time, it was in much better shape. I have friends who offered $400K and were laughed out of town. They would have made this a showplace.

    Since then, the house deteriorated even more, more water damage was allowed to happen in the form of leaving a large roof hatch open for almost a year, thieves stole whatever hadn’t been stolen before, and the owner got foreclosed on. Some mortgage company in Texas picked up the property in the 2008 crash for pennies on the dollar. I believe they payed less than $100K for it.

    They tried to flip it, at which point the Crown Heights North Association tried to get them to donate it to us, as a tax write off, for use as a community arts and learning center. The Texans were not looking good themselves having been in the news for foreclosing on Iraqi veteran’s houses while they were at war, but they didn’t go for it. So we made them an offer, but we couldn’t get funding for rehab. We had to let it go. The current owner bought it for cheap, promising the commmunity to restore the exterior to its 1930s tax photo state, and to renovate it as housing.

    He then noodled around with it for years, did some repairs to the roof and some shoring up, but tore off the back porch, and gutted the interior. There was salvagable detail inside, but no more. He was supposed to be working with the LPC and DOB, but he had no permits, and a SWO was served. Aside from some more shoring up, that was the last we saw of him. Now we are here.

    Several years ago, I toured the house with an architect and two structural engineers. All said it was plumb, in spite of the years of neglect. The foundation was solid, the cellar was dry, and the bones of the house were good. There was a lot of water damage on the third floor, due to the open hatch and broken windows. The second floor had damage as well, from leakage from above, but it wasn’t that bad. The parlor floor had no water damage, but was just old and worn out and neglected. The plaster walls on the parlor floor were salvagable, as were the floors.

    The original ceiling medallions were still up, and might have been able to be saved, or at least a mold could have been made. The parlor floor rooms were typical of Greek Revival villas, with high ceilings and tall windows. It was once a beautiful and elegant house, with a center staircase, with double parlors on both sides.

    The grounds are on a hill and spacious, and would be wonderful restored. There is a large backyard and a retaining wall. This house can still be saved, but it’s going to take a lot of money, care, and time. Since it’s a landmark, the LPC will have to be your partner, but they are very anxious for this house to be brought back, and are willing to work with a new owner. This one has been on their watch list for a long time. I hope someone takes up the challenge. But first the price is going to have to come waaaayyyyy down. Sorry, Greg (RE agent).

  • I think it might be a uniquely New York problem, houses decaying because they’re too expensive to save, but it’s depressing.

    • Actually, New York is where this is least a problem, because there is value in the property. Just think that a house like this one in Detroit or even Philly requires the same investment to rehab, but may never reach the amount of the total investment in property value. That said, I don’t believe this particular house is priced reasonably.

  • According to the extremely detailed history of 1375 Dean on the Landmarks website, which is more a history of the n’hood, Crown Heights at one point eclipsed Brooklyn Heights in terms of property values. Would anyone think twice about paying $1.1 million for this property if it were in Brooklyn Heights?
    Consider that when I was working for BEC New Communities, a non-profit developer active in Crown Heights in the early 90’s, the City was giving away properties in Crown Heights for $1 and offering up to $40,000 in subsidies per unit to renovate the buildings. No for-profit developers would touch this deal, only non-profits.
    Fast forward to 2013, where even buildings needing serious renovation are going for over $1 million if they have historic value.
    Fast forward to 2023 and ………………..
    Few know that when Teddy Roosevelt ran for president his political club was based at the Union Club, located on Grant Square, at Bedford and Dean in Crown Heights. That Abraham Abraham, of Abraham and Strauss, chose to build his spacious mansion, not in Cobble Hill or Fort Greene, but on St. Marks Avenue near Brooklyn Ave. Near the home of the world’s first Children’s Museum, established in a donated mansion on Brower Park. Named after George V. Brower, first Parks Commissioner of New York after it merged with Brooklyn in 1897, who lived at the corner of Kingston Avenue and Park Place. Near the Carter Mansion on Brooklyn and Prospect. That was the home of Walter S. Carter, who founded the legendary law firm of Hughes, Hubbard and Reed, whose daughter married Charles Evan Hughes at this same mansion (the same Hughes who went on to become governor of New York and chief justice of the Supreme Court). For a time the Carter Mansion was the home of the Froeble School, a prominent private school whose alumni include the children of Walter O’Malley, and Roger Kahn, author of the book The Boys of Summer.
    So don’t start trash talking Crown Heights North unless you’ve done your homework. Booya!