07/28/14 3:00pm

333 Adelphi St. SW,PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Wood-frame row house
Address: 333 Adelphi Street
Cross Streets: Lafayette and Greene avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1855
Architectural Style: Transitional Greek Revival/Italianate
Architect: Edward W. Genung, builder
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene HD (1978)

The story: Adelphi Street was named for the Adelphi, a neighborhood of terraced (row) houses in London, first begun in 1768. Nearby streets in Fort Greene, such as South Oxford and South Portland streets, are also named after neighborhoods or cities in England. Fort Greene’s early developers were trying to evoke the ambiance of those upscale places to their new projects, making living on those blocks even better than the houses themselves would suggest. Marketing really hasn’t changed all that much over the years. But even without the hype, most of the housing on these blocks was quite good, anyway. Look at this delightful example of mid-19th century charm. (more…)

07/25/14 3:00pm

110 Wolcott Street, Christ Church Chapel, KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Christ Church Chapel, now Red Hook Pentecostal Holiness Church
Address: 110 Wolcott Street
Cross Streets: Van Brunt and Conover Streets
Neighborhood: Red Hook
Year Built: 1899
Architectural Style: Romanesque/Gothic Revival
Architect: W. & G. Audsley
Other Buildings by Architect: Prince’s Road Synagogue, Liverpool, England. Also Bowling Green Offices, Manhattan, (NYC Landmark) and the Church of Edward the Confessor in Philadelphia.
Landmarked: No, but should be.

The story: Few cities in the world are as blessed with as much great natural harbor space as New York City. When the Red Hook coastline of Brooklyn became one of the busiest ports in the metropolitan area, blocks of houses and tenements were built to house all of the people who made their living from the docks or the many factories and warehouses spreading out and away from the shore. Most of the inhabitants were the working poor, struggling to survive on the low wages and long hours required to keep their jobs. They certainly did not have the resources or time to build fine institutions for worship or education.

The churches in the more established areas of Brooklyn, in nearby Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, saw Red Hook as a field full of souls ready for harvest. There were both spiritual and physical needs to be met there, so many of Brooklyn’s churches established mission churches in Red Hook. One of them was established by Christ Church, the venerable Episcopalian Church on the corner of Clinton and Harrison Streets in Cobble Hill. (more…)

07/25/14 10:45am

Prospect Park Lake composite

A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Because it was so carefully planned and executed almost 150 years ago, Prospect Park today looks as if it had always been there. Which, of course, was the whole idea. If you don’t know the park’s history, you could easily think that all that needed to be done was to enclose the park with a fence, cut some roads and pathways, build a couple of bridges, follies and a grand entrance or three, and mow the lawn. But in reality, Prospect Park is as constructed as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Both look real, and permanent, and in effect, are, but every aspect of both the park and Hogwart’s School has been carefully thought out and crafted.

After Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted finished Central Park in 1857, Brooklyn wanted a grand park too. The two cities were still fierce rivals, while also co-dependent on each other. Brooklyn’s city fathers came up with a park committee whose president was one of Brooklyn’s leading citizens, James S.T. Stranahan. The committee gave the job of designing the park to Egbert L. Viele, the Charlie Brown of landscape engineering. He had been the Chief Engineer of the Central Park project until Olmsted and Vaux came up with a better design and replaced him. (more…)

07/24/14 3:00pm

530 Eastern Parkway, former Kameo Theater, SSpellen

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Throwback Thursday: An old post revisited, with an update

Name: Philadelphian Sabbath Church, formerly Kameo Theater, formerly Cameo Theater
Address: 530 Eastern Parkway
Cross Streets: Corner Nostrand Avenue
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: 1924
Architectural Style: Egyptian influenced Art Deco
Architect: Harrison Wiseman
Other Buildings by Architect: Our Lady of Vilnius Church, Yiddish Theater, 2nd Avenue, Manhattan. Also Albemarle, Alpine, Rolland, Pavilion and Loew’s Oriental Theaters in Brooklyn
Landmarked: No

The story: Way back in the early 1980s, before I moved to Brooklyn, I sang with a choir that made a guest appearance at this church. I remember I didn’t know where I was, as I didn’t know Brooklyn at all, but that the church, obviously a former theater, was very cool. When I moved to Bed Stuy and wandered over here one day, what a pleasant surprise. There it was. It turns out that the place has quite a history, too. (more…)

07/24/14 10:45am

LIAC, Union St. 1909, NY Daily Trib 1

After nine years in five other locations, the Long Island Automobile Club finally got their headquarters near “The Gateway of Long Island;” Grand Army Plaza. As Brooklyn’s first, and most elite automobile club, with members of such social standing as William “Willy” Vanderbilt, they were now located in a building that was worthy of their wealth and prestige. Yes, it was another garage, but what a garage!

This building was something out of Europe, with a façade reminiscent of the Austrian Art Nouveau Movement, called the Vienna Secession. It was a four story building built in 1904 as the Plaza Garage. Art Nouveau architecture is very rare in New York City, and rarer still in Brooklyn, but this garage definitely qualified, with sinuous arches over the main entrance and flanking windows, and some rather overdone Germanic –style Roman eagles at the top. It was designed by an architect named Oscar Lowinson. (Thank you, Christopher Gray.) (more…)

07/23/14 3:00pm

1987 Flatbush Avenue, Midwood Trust, BATC 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Midwood Trust Company, now Chase Bank
Address: 1984 Flatbush Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Flatlands Avenue
Neighborhood: Flatlands
Year Built: 1926
Architectural Style: Flemish Renaissance Revival
Architect: Slee & Bryson
Other Buildings by Architect: Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival homes and apartment buildings in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Crown Heights North and South, Park Slope and various parts of Flatbush, including Prospect Park South, Albemarle and Kenmore Terraces, and Ditmas Park.
Landmarked: No, but should be

The story: Our city’s Dutch ancestry is most often represented by the streets and neighborhoods now bearing the surnames of the many Dutch families who settled throughout Brooklyn. Now and again, we also see buildings that draw on the famous Dutch gabled farmhouses that managed to survive over the centuries. And then we have these wonderful examples of Flemish-inspired architecture that are so quintessentially Brooklyn and Dutch. They come from Flanders, that part of the Low Countries that was part of France, and is now part of Belgium, yet culturally still part of the Netherlands.

Lots of late 19th century architects were inspired by the distinctive ziggurat shaped stepped gables of the Flemish Renaissance period. These simple but elegant facades graced the townhouses, guild halls and commercial buildings of the Netherlands for centuries. When the Dutch came to New Netherlands, they brought their architecture with them, and these shapes turn up throughout the Hudson Valley and in and around New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. (more…)

07/22/14 3:00pm

1020 Hancock St. CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Semi-detached wood framed house
Address: 1020 Hancock Street
Cross Streets: Broadway and Bushwick Avenue
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1885
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Theobald Engelhardt
Other Buildings by Architect: Row houses, free standing mansions, churches, flats buildings, factories, breweries, warehouses and other buildings in Bushwick, Bedford Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, predominantly.
Landmarked: No

The story: This house was not owned by anyone famous, and nothing newsworthy happened here. No scandals, no murders, no wayward children or horrible tragedies. There were no big weddings here, or parties, and no one who lived here made more than the average contribution to their communities or country. It’s a completely ordinary house on an ordinary block in Bushwick. And that’s why it’s so beautiful. (more…)

07/22/14 10:45am

LIAC Cumberland Ave Clubhs, interior, BE,1904

You might think that any invention as wonderful as the automobile would be embraced by everyone. Anything that could be done to improve motoring in Brooklyn, Long Island and the general New York City area would immediately be approved, and the car would take its rightful place at the head of the transportation table. Well, if you were an early 20th century autoist; one of the first people to own an automobile, you would probably feel that way. If you were everyone else, it was going to be a much tougher sell.

The Long Island Automobile Club was founded in Brooklyn in 1900 by four wealthy men who wanted a place where they could indulge in their new hobby of racing, tinkering with, and talking about automobiles. In a few short years, they grew in membership to several hundred car enthusiasts; all well-to-do men who could afford a custom vehicle that cost as much as many a working man’s entire yearly salary. Like the bicycle clubs many had belonged to only a couple of years before, the LIAC sponsored races, enjoyed outings and social events, and advocated for paved roads throughout the city and out on Long Island. (more…)

07/21/14 3:00pm

396-398 Washington Ave, SB, PS 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 396-398 Washington Avenue
Cross Streets: Lafayette and Greene avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1887
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Adam E. Fischer
Other Buildings by Architect: Row and standalone houses in Brooklyn, German Hospital in Bushwick, apartment hotels, summer homes in Manhattan and Long Island
Landmarked: Yes, part of Clinton Hill HD (1981)

The story: Adam E. Fischer was a successful architect with offices on Fulton Street, in Brooklyn. He lived in Bushwick. By the late 1880’s he was a member of the Architects Department of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and was in the company of contemporaries such as George L. Morse, Frank Freeman, Rudolf Daus, Theobald Engelhardt and more. In 1894 he managed to beat out his fellow German-American architects Engelhardt and Daus for the design of the German Hospital in on Stockholm Street in Bushwick.

He was one of the founding members of the New York Society of Architects, a Brooklyn architectural organization, and was the First Vice President of the NYSA between 1918 and 1921. In 1931, Fischer was front page news for the Brooklyn Eagle, as he, Charles Infanger and William Debus, all familiar names to this column, were given medals to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Society. Fischer was also celebrating the 50th year of his practice. Not bad for a man about whom we know little more. (more…)

07/18/14 3:00pm

531-545 Lexington Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row Houses
Address: 531-545 Lexington Avenue
Cross Streets: Throop Avenue and Marcus Garvey Boulevard
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: between 1885 and 1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: This row was once a group of twelve houses. They were built sometime between 1885 and 1888, and by 1888, made up the longest row on the block. For that matter, at the time; they were just about the only houses on this side of the block. They are an attractive and unique group, and were built as single family homes. Remarkably, most of them still are.

In 1885, the elevated train came to this part of Lexington Avenue. It was part of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, and ran from Washington Street near the Brooklyn Bridge, to Broadway and Gates Avenue, where it connected to other lines. The elevated train line here helped spur development of this area, part of the newly established 25th Ward. (more…)

07/18/14 10:45am

A. Schrader's Son, 470 vandy, composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

They used to make things in Brooklyn. Everything you could possibly imagine was made here, at one time or another, in one place or another. Before we became the catchword for hip and happening, Brooklyn was known throughout most of the 20th century as a blue collar city. Its busy factory districts were humming with activity, and it was possible for a man or a woman to go from high school to a good factory job that enabled them to make a living. Many people grew up, like John Travolta’s character in “Saturday Night Fever” never even going across the bridge to Manhattan. There was no need, everything, including your job, was right here.

In addition to the larger factory districts such as Wallabout, Dumbo, Bush Terminal, the Navy Yard and Gowanus, there were factories all over the place, in just about every neighborhood. Proximity to public transportation was key to any successful industrial venture and downtown and Fort Greene, with great transportation, had a fair amount of factory buildings along major thoroughfares like Atlantic Avenue. Today, many of those buildings are gone, some, like the Ex-Lax building, are now housing, and some still stand making one wonder “What did they used to do here?” (more…)

07/17/14 3:00pm

999 Jamaica Ave, FJLHS, FJL.com 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Franklin K. Lane High School
Address: 999 Jamaica Avenue
Cross Streets: Dexter Court
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: 1936-37
Architectural Style: Neo-Colonial
Architect: Walter C. Martin, Superintendent of Buildings for the NYC Board of Education, and staff
Other Buildings by Architect: NYC schools built between 1928 and 1938
Landmarked: No

The story: Franklin J. Lane High School started out in a much smaller building on nearby Evergreen Avenue. It was housed in the old PS 85 building. By the end of the 1920s, this school, as well as many other high schools throughout the city, was bursting at the seams with students. Local politicians and school officials begged the Board of Ed to at least build an extension, and ground was obtained, but they dithered until at last it was decided that a new high school was needed instead. That was in 1931. (more…)