Building of the Day: 651 St. Marks Avenue

651 St. Marks Ave. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 651 St. Marks Avenue
Cross Streets: Rogers and Nostrand Avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: around 1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: George W. Chappell
Other Buildings by Architect: surrounding houses on this side of the block, many, many other row houses in Crown Heights North, as well as Bedford Stuyvesant, Park Slope, Clinton Hill. Also churches, flats buildings and a factory in Manhattan.
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed Phase 4 of the Crown Heights North HD.

The story: George Poole Chappell designed at least eight row houses on this northern side of St. Marks Avenue. In fact, there are examples of his work on every block of St. Marks Avenue between Rogers and Kingston. This block would have been special to him, though, because he lived here for many years, at 645 St. Marks, only a couple of doors down. That was the house he built his first wife, Hester Louise, and was where they lived until her death from cancer in 1900.

This Chappell house became home to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Russell Parker. He was the President of Parker, Stearns & Co. They manufactured all kinds of rubber goods, with a factory on the Brooklyn/Queens border, in East New York.The Parkers were quite active in Society, and were often in the papers, mentioned for their attendance at various social and charitable functions.

Mrs. Parker gave luncheons and card parties at the home. Mr. Parker was active in civic functions and was quoted several times in the papers on various topics, usually related to the state of roads, and Brooklyn business life. He was very upbeat on that topic. Parker was considered an expert in his field, and held a patent for a rubber oil separator used in engines.

The couple had a son and a daughter. The son, J. Russell Parker, would grow up and join Parker Stearns as Vice President and General Manager, while his father was President. As a young man in 1896, he and several of his friends were credited with putting out a fire in the small town of Walpole, NH. They were motoring by on vacation, saw the blaze, and stopped to help. A photograph of the group shows J. Russell smoking a pipe, standing to the far left of the picture. He would later marry a girl who lived only a couple of blocks away on Dean Street, and they moved a few doors down from here to 665 St. Marks. They would later move to Forest Hills in the 1920s. Russell Parker and his wife would leave here and move south to 1437 President Street by 1914.

When researching people of means, from the early 20th century, it’s always amusing to find them listed in the AAA book of automobiles, this entry from 1914. There were so few cars on the road at the time that the Automobile Club could list them by permit number in a booklet, with their names, addresses and make of car. Russell Parker drove a Hupp.

The Russell house is classic Chappell. He uses a mixture of materials, textures and shapes to design the classic Queen Anne townhouse. The rounded bay is accented by terra cotta trim before ending at the third floor, a little detail that adds a lot to the house. He mixes the straight rectangular lines of the windows and the verticality of the pilasters on the top floor with the curved lines of the bay, the pediments over the top floor windows, and the decorative bracket just above the front door. The face carved into the Byzantine leaf ornament is wonderful.

This house, in turn is quite different from the other houses around it, all of which were designed by him. The house is also huge, with a large double extension that would not be allowed today. It sits on an extra-long 125’ lot, and has 5,480 square feet of space. Today, it is divided into three units. Nice! GMAP

(Photo:S.Spellen)

Photo: S.Spellen

Photo: S.Spellen

Photo: S. Spellen

Photo: S. Spellen

Photo: S. Spellen

Photo: S. Spellen

J. Russell Parker, far left. 1896 photo: Street family archives, via Walpole, NH Historical Society

J. Russell Parker, far left. 1896 photo: Street family archives, via Walpole, NH Historical Society

One Comment

  • This looks a like the homes on Washington Ave near Greene done by Adam Fischer and the homes on Hancock and Jefferson by J. G. Prague. Prague and Fischer did many homes together like these on the UWS I wonder what the Chappel connect is to these architects.