08/31/15 1:00pm

2307 Beverley Rd, Sears, NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Sears is one of the nation’s most recognizable store names. This landmarked building has been a shopping destination for Brooklynites for over 80 years.

Name: Sears, Roebuck & Company Department Store
Address: 2307 Beverley Road
Cross Streets: Corner of Bedford Avenue
Neighborhood: Flatbush
Year Built: 1932, addition added in 1940
Architectural Style: Late Art Deco
Architect: Nimmons, Carr & Wright, with Alton Craft
Other Buildings by Architect: NC & W — in Chicago, various Sears stores and private homes for Sears execs
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (2012)

Sears & Roebuck, Mail-Order Giant to the Nation

It’s hard to believe, but this store, which has always been a Sears, has been here for over 80 years. Just like its neighbor, the recently revived Kings Theatre located directly behind it, this Sears has been a Flatbush institution.

Sears started out in the 1890s as a mail-order catalog that sold a huge variety of goods to customers in rural areas who had little to no access to stores and shops. Its first retail store was built in 1925. Based in Chicago, Sears & Roebuck expanded all across the country.

Because of its dealings with Manhattan’s garment center, Sears was a presence in NYC long before its bricks and mortar stores were in place. When the company sought to expand its retail presence in the New York City area, Flatbush was seen as an ideal location. (more…)

08/28/15 1:00pm


Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This is one of the oldest houses in Brooklyn Heights. Its place next door to the historic Plymouth Church also assured that a lot of history passed through these doors over the years.

Name: Wood-frame house
Address: 69 Orange Street
Cross Streets: Hicks and Henry streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1828
Architectural Style: Federal, with later Victorian add-ons and alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights Historic District (1965)

Almost Two Centuries of Architectural Changes

This Federal-style clapboard house has seen a lot of physical changes in its 187-year history. Sometime in the post–Civil War years, someone added another story to the house using a mansard roof.

There were also changes to the windows — which were lengthened — as well as the door and the railings. According to Mrs. Iago Gladston, who lived in the house in 1961, there was also a porch she had removed 24 years before when she and her husband moved in.

That porch would also have been a Victorian-era addition, but Mrs. Gladston didn’t like the way it jutted over the front steps. She was interviewed for a Long Island Historical Society article in 1961.

There was also a house next door, to the left. It was a similar clapboard house that can be seen in old photographs of Plymouth Church. (more…)

08/27/15 1:00pm

Brooklyn Bridge, postcard 3

Here’s an updated look at the most important thing to happen in Brooklyn since Henry Hudson landed at Coney Island. Many people call it “The Great Mistake.” Was it?

With Brooklyn’s much-hyped status as the hippest place on Earth comes some nostalgic feelings about “The Great Mistake,” as many called the consolidation of New York City. On that fateful day, January 1, 1898, Brooklyn the city disappeared, and Brooklyn the “outer borough” was born. (As were the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.)

The decision to join all of the counties surrounding Manhattan into one central city was not made easily, quickly or lightly. Politicians, businessmen, city fathers and ordinary citizens argued and lobbied for or against this for almost 20 years.

Consolidating New York City took a tremendous amount of money and power, along with the consideration of business interests, tax revenues, city bureaucracies, social issues and civic identity. Some people thought it was inevitable and progressive — but for others it was the end of the world as they knew it, the Death of Brooklyn. (more…)

08/26/15 1:00pm

356 Fulton St. CapOneBank, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Downtown Brooklyn is full of wonderful old 19th century buildings of all kinds. It also has a small collection of more modern bank buildings, most of them built in the 1960s and ’70s. Here’s one of them.

Name: Former Equitable Federal Savings and Loan, now Capital One Bank
Address: 356 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Red Hook Lane
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1967-1968
Architectural Style: Neo-Formalism (perhaps stretching it a bit)
Architect: Goldberg-Epstein Associates
Other works by architect: Lincoln Savings Bank in Gravesend, public housing
Landmarked: No

Downtown Brooklyn is layered with architectural history, making it one of Brooklyn’s more interesting neighborhoods. A single block can span the distance between the years before the Civil War up until the present.

This bank building is a bit of mid-20th century suburbia right in the heart of the city.

Mid-20th Century Neo-Formalism

Adolf Goldberg and his firm, Goldberg-Epstein Associates, built suburban banks like this, as well as more anonymous-looking housing developments and other buildings. Goldberg retired in 1967, so this is one of his last buildings. (more…)

08/26/15 11:31am

Buttermilk Channel, Jim Henderson for Wikipedia

Sponsored By The O'Connell Organization.

The O'Connell Organization is a family owned and operated real estate development business with over 150 properties in New York State.

Created By BlankSlate

Our neighborhoods all have interesting place names. The streets, thoroughfares and neighborhoods themselves are named for people, landmarks, or natural features that were a part of its history. So it stands to reason that Red Hook, with its storied past, would have some interesting street names.

Red Hook

The name “Red Hook” goes back to the city’s Dutch past.

When settlers first put down roots here, they named the area Roode Hoek because of the color of the soil, and the general shape of the land. “Hoek” means “point” or “corner.” It referred to a point that stuck out into the bay near today’s Dikeman and Coffey Streets.

The Dutch must have felt Gowanus and Red Hook to be just like home. It was a low-lying area, with streams, tidal ponds and marshes leading to the sea. They cut small canals through it, harnessed the water with windmills, and raised streets and farmland.

Centuries before a highway bisected it, Red Hook was a town apart due to the swampy land of Gowanus, and a creek which effectively cut it off from the rest of South Brooklyn. The creek was filled in long before Gowanus’ land was permanently drained for the canal in the mid-19th century. (more…)

08/25/15 1:00pm

1005 Bedford Ave, Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

While this may look like the world’s fanciest traffic-court building, it started out with a calling more sacred than the adjudication of parking tickets. 1005 Bedford Avenue — at the corner of Lafayette Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant — was the home of Temple Israel, one of Brooklyn’s oldest Jewish congregations.

Temple Israel, established in 1869, was a place of worship and community for Brooklyn’s German Jewish residents. It held its first services in the old YMCA, located downtown at Fulton Street and Gallatin Place.

In 1872 the congregation purchased its own building, a now-landmarked church on Greene Avenue, where the community grew. By the time it had to move again after a number of years, many members of this German Jewish community were doing quite well.

Membership included wealthy merchants such as Abraham Abraham — one of the founders of Abraham & Straus — and the congregation was able to afford to commission one of the city’s best architectural firms to design a new temple. (more…)

08/24/15 1:00pm

410-418 Myrtle Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

A local entrepreneur and developer built these buildings on Clinton Hill’s only commercial corridor, and then put his brother’s bank on the corner lot.

Name: Storefronts with flats above
Address: 410-418 Myrtle Avenue
Cross Streets: Clinton and Vanderbilt Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1887-1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: George Walgrove
Other works by architect: 287-293 DeKalb Avenue, Clinton Hill; row houses in Manhattan; several buildings on Riker’s Island
Landmarked: No

A Commercial Hub

This set of storefront and apartment buildings was built on one of Clinton Hill’s busiest corners. The Queen Anne style of architecture was a mixture of materials, shapes and textures, and these buildings fit the bill.

The architect, George Walgrove, mixed brownstone, brick, pressed metal, and terra cotta, with arched Romanesque Revival windows, a nice corner turret and expansive windows on the ground floor commercial spaces.

Built for the Family Bank

John Englis was the son of a Greenpoint shipbuilder. His father’s company built many of the sailing ships that plied the China route. After his father’s death, he and his sons renamed the company John Englis & Sons. They produced some of the finest steam ships that sailed up and down the Hudson River. (more…)

08/21/15 1:00pm

457, 461 Vanderbilt, BeyondMyKen for Wiki Commons 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Carriage houses and other service buildings were as important to the development of a neighborhood as the houses themselves. This is a particularly elegant example.

Name: Former carriage houses
Address:457 and 461 Vanderbilt Avenue
Cross Streets: Gates and Greene Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: between 1880 and 1887
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Soaring Arches and Room for Horses, Too

These Clinton Hill carriage houses are among my favorite in the neighborhood. It’s too bad we know so little about who built or owned them. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they were designed by one of the well-known architects working in the area. They are really good, especially for service buildings.

First of all, the overall brickwork here is first rate. Late 19th century Brooklyn had excellent bricklayers.

There’s some Rundbogenstil styling going on here — soaring round arches which are typical of this German progenitor of American Romanesque Revival styles. It’s almost ecclesiastical, the arches stretching three stories high, with two upper stories of windows. (more…)

08/20/15 1:00pm

First Nat Bank, Chicago, 1883, officemuseum.com 1

Bryce Arthur Whyte was as English as Queen Victoria. He had a plummy upper-crust sounding name. He was handsome, with a slight blonde mustache and carefree air, well-mannered and, apparently wealthy.

Whyte came to America in 1888, the son of a Liverpool merchant who had made a great deal of money in the East India trade. He decided to make money — so that he wouldn’t be bored, as he told friends — and got connected with the founders of the Wallabout Bank.

When the Bank opened its doors on the corner of Clinton and Myrtle Avenues later that year, Bryce A. Whyte was an assistant clerk, responsible for taking in and recording deposits.

Bankers are not by nature a trusting people. The bank had asked for and received a guarantee of trustworthiness for young Whyte. The Guarantee Corporation of North America, located in Manhattan, put up a $10,000 bond as security for his honesty.

But unbeknownst to everyone in his new American home, all was not well in Whyte’s well-presented life. (more…)

08/19/15 1:00pm

186 St. Johns, Mem.Pres.Chch. BeyondMyKen, Wiki Commons 1

Discussions of our 19th-century communities would be incomplete without a look at their houses of worship. These buildings represent some of the best architectural work in these neighborhoods. Some were designed by specialists, while others were designed by the same men who designed many of the houses.

Name: Memorial Presbyterian Church
Address: 186 St. Johns Place
Cross Streets: Corner of 7th Avenue
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1881-1888
Architectural Style: Late Victorian Gothic Revival
Architect: Church — Pugin &Walter (1881-83).  Chapel and Sunday school — Marshall & Walter (1888)
Other Works by Architect: P&W — greenhouse at Lyndhurst and McDougal Street Baptist Church in Manhattan; M&W — hotels, townhouses in Manhattan, NYC-area churches
Landmarked: Yes, part of Park Slope Historic District (1973)

Although often overshadowed by the larger churches in the neighborhood, Memorial Presbyterian is one of the great churches of Park Slope.

This corner of St. Johns Place and 7th Avenue has three churches on it, with several more very close by. Grace United Methodist is on the opposite corner of 7th Ave, with St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street, mid-block.

This was indeed a holy corner on Sunday mornings. (more…)

08/18/15 1:00pm

275 Clinton Ave, Clinton Apts. Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Joseph Fahys was born in France in 1832. His father died young, and Joseph and his mother immigrated to the United States in 1848, settling in New York. He apprenticed himself to Ulysses Savoye, in Hoboken, one of the first watch case manufacturers in the United States.

He worked for Savoye for five years, learning the business, and then set out on his own. By 1857, he had bought out Savoye, changed the name to Joseph Fahys & Company, and brought the manufacturing business to Nassau Street, in lower Manhattan.

Through different partnerships over the years, the business continued to grow, with watch case plants in New Jersey and Long Island. By the time he and his partners established the Brooklyn Watch Case Company in 1887, Joseph Fahys was a very important and wealthy man. (more…)

08/17/15 1:00pm

330-334 Ellery St. PS 52, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This 1883 schoolhouse, one of hundreds designed by Brooklyn school architect James W. Naughton, has been repurposed as space for artists and performers.

Name: Former Public School 52, now “The Schoolhouse”
Address: 330-334 Ellery Street
Cross Streets: Broadway and Beaver Street
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1883
Architectural Style: Late Italianate with some High Victorian Gothic detailing
Architect: James W. Naughton
Other Works by Architect: Many other school buildings in Brooklyn, including PS 9 Annex in Prospect Heights, Girls High School and Boys High School, both in Bedford Stuyvesant, and PS 107 in Park Slope
Landmarked: No

School Architecture in the City of Brooklyn
Bushwick’s first school was built in 1662. That one was augmented in 1815 by the building of Bushwick District School 2, on Stanwix and Noll streets. Bushwick was still an independent town back then.

In 1855, Bushwick became part of the city of Brooklyn, and the school’s designation was changed to Public School 24. By the 1880s, Brooklyn’s Board of Education had changed greatly in just 30 years.

There were new ideas about educating students and a new Superintendent of Buildings, James W. Naughton, was settling in after replacing Samuel B. Leonard, the last holder of that job.

A Good Building Can Help Make a Good School
James Naughton, an Irish Immigrant who studied architecture at Cooper Union, was one of many educators who realized that the school building itself could be an aid to good education. (more…)