Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Apartment building
Address: 109 South 9th Street
Cross Streets: Bedford Avenue and Berry Street
Year Built: 1887, completed in 1890
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Montrose W. Morris
Other buildings by architect: Clinton, Roanoke, Renaissance, Imperial, Bedfordshire, and Arlington apartment buildings, plus others, as well as row houses, hotels, freestanding houses and mansions and a church, in Bedford Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant Heights, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, and Park Slope
Landmarked: No, but should be
The story: I get practically giddy when I find another Montrose Morris building that has not been documented before, at least not to my knowledge. Recently on one of my trips back to Brooklyn, my friend Morgan and I were driving around Williamsburg, and we landed on this block of goodies. There are several other fine buildings on this block as well. But this one stood out. As everyone knows, I love terra cotta, and this building has it in spades, so I was immediately drawn to it. We wondered who the architect was, and noted that it looked like Morris’ work, but we hadn’t seen any documentation of his work in Williamsburg, except for one other building he did that was torn down when they built the BQE. So we figured it was someone else. Still a great building, so I took some detail shots.
So imagine my surprise when I decided to feature this great building as BOTD, and I started researching. Whose name should come up in the Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide but my namesake, Montrose W. Morris! Here’s the entry: “A four story brick (stone and terra cotta front) apartment house, 25 x 55, will be built on South 9th Street for George Wyners of New York City. The building is designed by Architect Montrose W. Morris, of New York City, in the style of the French Renaissance period, and will cost about $15,000. – February 5, 1887”
In retrospect, we should have known.
I mean, the building is classic early Monty. In 1887, Morris was at the beginning of his career. This building was commissioned before the Alhambra Apartments, which made his reputation, but wasn’t completed until a year after the Alhambra. It shows many of the stylistic elements that define his early work. First of all, he was one of the first of Brooklyn’s major architects to embrace the apartment building. His apartment buildings are still some of his finest work. He excelled in them in part because their greater size gave him more of a canvas to have fun working out his designs.
Here we have several elements that he would use over and over. The massing of brick over a stone ground floor. The Romanesque Revival style, of which he was a master, would use this to great effect. Morris based most of his buildings on a stone base like this. Moving up, his use of large windows, or a pair of windows, often highlighted by some kind of trim. His often mixed rectangular windows with arched windows, using brick to highlight the arch, again, a very Richardsonian Romanesque technique.
Morris loved to place little colonettes on his facades. When he had the room, they became whole columns in an arcade, usually with a loggia behind them. This is classic Monty. His use of beautiful decorative terra cotta is a Morris trademark as well. Here he frames his windows beautifully, with extra panels of terra cotta to balance it all out. The windows would have originally had stained glass transoms, another Montrose Morris favorite.
And then the big giveaway, the large oversized overhanging cornice, with lots of brackets. This feature can be found on many of his buildings, including the Bedfordshire Apartments, which resembles this, and even his last row houses on record, on New York Avenue, built in 1912. The cornice almost by itself makes the building a Monty.
I would love to know if the apartments inside had classic Monty features as well: the pocket doors opening up the public rooms into one large salon, the fine woodwork and fixtures. This building was built for four families, and still has only four apartments. It’s a beautiful building, a fine example of anyone’s work, and I am thrilled to add it to my collection of Montrose W. Morris designs. GMAP