Building of the Day: 267 Lewis Avenue

267 Lewis Avenue, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 267 Lewis Avenue
Cross Streets: Madison and Monroe Streets
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: Sometime between 1882 and 1888
Architectural Style: High Victorian Gothic
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story:
When I first started this column, it was a paragraph or two about a building. As time went on, and also as more on-line resources became available for researching, I was able to get more info, and the columns grew. But sometimes there are great buildings in Brooklyn that just don’t have a lot of info available on them. But there they are; often anomalies in the middle of a block, a building that I think is unusual, or spectacular, or just eye catching for some reason. Some research into its architect, date, occupants or events turns up nothing much. But still there is a great building there, and sometimes we just have to call attention to them because at the rate Brooklyn is changing, they may not be here the next time you pass.

I saw this house on my way out of Brooklyn last week, as I rolled down Lewis towards the parking lot that is the BQE. I did not have time to stop and take pictures, except from the side, at the light. The bay that juts out is quite eye catching, even from a car, and the brickwork at the top caught my attention. The building looks as if it could be a school or some kind of institution, but it’s not, it’s “just” a house.

Because the building is so striking, when I got into the research, I fully expected to find a lot of information, but not this time. I don’t know who designed this house, which was obviously built after and separately from the Neo-Grecs next door. A look at a couple of maps does not show a church or school in the lot next door, either. This house is already standing at the end of the row in 1888. The lot next door is the back yard to the house on the corner, although the lack of side windows and the way the building is faced suggests something abutted it at one time. However, that theory messes up the lot lines on the block, which are quite even and sensible now.

Could it have been the parish house for nearby Cornerstone Baptist Church, which was built as Grace Congregational Church? I’ll have to do more research on that possibility. From the design, and the date and location of the house, this was not a speculative home. It was built for someone specific. The architect could have been any number of people working at this time, but Amzi Hill and Theobald Engelhard are both in the running for possible candidates. Both were masters of brickwork, and both were masters of working eclectically within a specific style.

The tower makes this house, which otherwise is an 18-foot row house. The tower gives it some extra room on the inside, and calls attention to the house with that extra story room up top, which must have a great view. The brickwork cornice shows the talent of Brooklyn’s masons, and complements the entire building well. I would imagine the original entrance and stoop was in front of the tower.

As for who lived here, I found some names, but no other information except funeral info. In 1895, however, the house belonged to Dr. Walter Goodnough and his wife. She entertained here, and a charity event made the Eagle in 1895. He was the Director of Shopwork in the Public Schools of New York City in 1915. As such, he supervised trades education in the schools, specifically what we call “shop” class today – woodworking, carpentry, etc. His tour of the city’s schools was noted in the paper.

Whoever commissioned or designed and built this house is gone from the records, at least on a superficial search. But the building remains, an interesting mystery, and a nice piece of urban residential architecture. Long may it stand. GMAP

(Photo: Christopher Bride for PropertyShark)

Photo:S. Spellen

Photo:S. Spellen

Photo: Google Maps

Photo: Google Maps

3 Comment

  • Amzi Hill

    Your right it is architect Amzi Hill built in 1886 by Benjamin Linklin.

  • Linikin, not Linklin (yes, I was looking too!). Linikin was a prolific builder in Bed Stuy in the 1880s (and perhaps beyond). But he often shows up as a builder and as an architect. Which raises an interesting point about architecture and development in this period – what exactly was Hill’s role and what was Linikin’s? We tend to think of design as being in the hands of the architects, but in the 19th century, much of the design rested with the builder (who was often the developer).

    In this case, Linikin bought the entire corner lot, running 100′ north on Lewis and 320′ or more on Madison, and the developed the properties in groups of four to six buildings. Looking at the transactional records, he seems to have brought on investors for each lot prior to construction, and then built out the lots and sold them. The three buildings to the south on Lewis were developed by Linikin and (at least officially) designed by Hill (on consecutive New Building applications with 267), as were a row of five buildings mid-block on Madison (permitted about 6 months earlier). With the exception of 267, all of them look very similar to one another and very similar to other Linikin-designed buildings from the early 1880s, presumably before he hooked up with Hill (cf., the 6 buildings on the west side of Spencer Place at the corner of Hancock, designed and built by Linikin in 1881). Builders and architects (and developers) were much more fluid definitions back then, when the professional field of architecture was still emerging. So – did Hill really “design” all of the buildings on Lewis and Madision? Did Hill design other aspects of the buildings (interiors, maybe)? Or did Hill just provide basic plans that Linikin then dressed up with the current vogue in masonry for spec sale (this was very common in this period). But then what happened at 267? This is definitely an oddball (and a very nice one) in this block of spec development. Was this purpose-built? Designed by Hill in the sense that we think of an architect designing today? Linikin brought on partners on a lot-by-lot basis for this development – did the development partner for this lot want something different? Or is this a post-Hill and post-Linikin alteration?

  • Montrose Morris

    Excellent points, WB’er, and thank you and Amzi for finding both men. Sometimes I find these guys relatively easily, and other times I search for hours, and then have to give up and leave it to readers. I’m just glad someone has the information. I think the roles of late 19th c. architects, builders, and developers is rather fascinating, and the deeper you get into the research, the more blurred the lines can become. Great stuff, and I’m sure the topic of many a class in grad school.