Montrose is taking a much needed vacation this week. We hope you enjoy some of these older posts, beginning with an icon of summers past.
Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Parachute Jump Address: Boardwalk at 16th Street Cross Streets: In between Surf Avenue, Riegelmann Boardwalk, and 16th and 17th streets Neighborhood: Coney Island Year Built: 1939 Architectural Style: N/A Architect: Invented by Commander James E. Strong, Architects for placement at CI – Michael Mario, Edwin W. Kleinert : Engineered by Elwyn E. Seelye & Co. Landmarked: Yes, Individually landmarked in 1989
The story: When I first started collecting books about Brooklyn, it used to annoy me no end that much of my reading and research seemed to take the position that you got off the Brooklyn Bridge and there was the Coney Island of the Past. There seemed to be the implication that aside from the bridge, Coney Island and the Dodgers, there really wasn’t all that much else to write about. I had to go to Coney Island a couple of times, and really get into the history, as well as present day state of the place, to grow to appreciate the meeting of real estate, history, society and nostalgia that is Coney Island. And you can’t go there without seeing the Parachute Jump towering over the boardwalk. (more…)
Name: Freestanding house Address: 984 Bushwick Avenue Cross Streets: Grove Street and Greene Avenue Neighborhood: Bushwick Year Built: Unknown Architectural Style: Italianate Architect: Unknown Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed Bushwick Historic District
The story: Bushwick Avenue began being developed in the 1850s. Formerly farmland, mostly owned by Dutch farmers, Bushwick saw its first significant residential development coinciding with the large numbers of German immigrants who came here, beginning in 1848. They were fleeing the political upheavals tearing the country up as the city-states of Germany, Austria and Hungary tried to sort themselves out. The industrial center of Bushwick Avenue was north of Myrtle, and on the southern side, individuals and developers began building homes and churches. (more…)
There was a time in Brooklyn’s history when Mr. Henry C. Bowen was one of Brooklyn’s favorite sons. He was a wealthy man, owner of two newspapers, and his home on the corner of Willow and Clark Streets was described as the Heights’ most beautiful home. Henry C. Bowen was a very devout and religious man, whose strong moral beliefs led him to be involved in the founding of two churches, and made him one of the leaders in Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement. Those strong moral beliefs also would lead to him being one of the most hated men in the city, vilified on the streets, in the pulpit and in newspapers across the country. When he died in 1896, all of that was forgotten, and he is now fondly remembered once again as one of Brooklyn’s leading men. He had an amazing life, and this house was at the center of it all. (more…)
Name: Public School 46, the Edward C. Blum School Address: 100 Clermont Avenue Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park Avenues Neighborhood: Fort Greene Year Built: 1957-59 Architectural Style: Modern Architect: Katz, Waisman, Blumenkranz, Stein, Weber Architects Other Buildings by Architect: Coney Island Hospital, Wm Grady HS, Brooklyn; Castle Hill Houses, Bronx; “New Building” for Bellevue Hospital, among others Landmarked: No
The story: After World War II, the Board of Education of the City of New York was as eager as anyone else to build new cutting edge buildings for this growing city. Under the leadership of Erik Kebbon, who was superintendent of school building from 1938-1952, and his successor, Michael Radoslovich, who had the position until 1969, the New York City School system ventured into the age of Modernism in its school, auditorium and athletic facility buildings. Many of the buildings built during this time were designed in-house, but especially under Radoslovich, outside architectural firms were encouraged to reinvent the modern public school. The days of Collegiate Gothic and Colonial Revival style schools were over. (more…)
The first Police Chief of Greater New York City was John McCullagh. The job was not something that most people, even most career policemen, would want. He was tasked with overseeing law enforcement in the largest city in the country; the now-sprawling metropolis created by the union of the five boroughs in 1898. On top of the logistical problems inherent in making one police department out of many smaller departments, he had to play politics. He was not only a stranger to Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens; he was a Republican in a Democratic administration. Worse than that, he was an honest man among a den of thieves. (more…)
Name: Former Simons Motor Sales Co. Address: 1590 Bedford Avenue Cross Streets: Union and President Streets Neighborhood: Crown Heights South Year Built: 1926 Architectural Style: Vaguely Colonial Revival with Medieval details Architect: Unknown Landmarked: No, although an Automobile Row historic district would be great.
The story: It must have been quite exciting to have been around at the dawn of the automobile age. Like today’s personal computer and cell phone age, as soon as a couple of pioneers established the basics of the product, dozens of other people immediately saw ways to improve it, and came up with their own makes and models. Today, there are only a few American car companies still in existence, but back in the first half of the 20th century, there were dozens.
Most are unfamiliar, except to auto aficionados, but some names that are still familiar, like Ford, Chrysler and Dodge, belonged to real people back then – automobile manufacturers who were trying to get their cars produced and distributed across the country. Not everyone can invent, but some people are born salesmen, and these men helped make the automobile industry grow. Guy O. Simons was one of the great automobile salesmen, and this building was at the heart of his empire. (more…)
Name: Originally Colony House Settlement, now Colony South Brooklyn Houses, Inc. Address: 297 Dean Street Cross Streets: Nevins Street and 3rd Avenue Neighborhood: Boerum Hill Year Built: 1928-1929 Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Architect: Unknown Landmarked: No
The story: The settlement movement in New York City began in the late 19th century in the slums and immigrant communities of the Lower East Side. Settlement houses, like the Henry Street Settlement, founded in 1893, had a leadership role in social reform in the city. They were private charitable houses established to aid primarily women and children with such basics as food and shelter, and later acted as community centers where children were organized for play activities and when they got older, job training.
By middle of the first decade of the 20th century, there were settlement houses all over the city, including several in Brooklyn. Their mission was to work with the poor, and most of their activities revolved around the immigrant communities they were located in. They were non-sectarian, and had the support of Christian and Jewish leaders.
The Colony House Settlement was founded in 1916 by members of the Brooklyn Chapter of New England Women, an upper-class women’s club. Mrs. John Lansing Swan was the founder of Colony House, along with other prominent club members. They rented four rooms at 555 Atlantic Avenue with the idea that they would be helping factory girls by providing a refuge for them. (more…)
The first months of 1898 were rough on all of New York City. New Year’s Day heralded in the birth of Greater New York, with five boroughs, all operating from the central control of Manhattan. This new arrangement was hard on all the new city agencies, but nowhere was it felt more than in the departments of the police and fire services, two important agencies that were charged with keeping the city safe.
When Greater New York was created, the Bronx and Manhattan had already consolidated their civic infrastructure under one roof. Staten Island was too remote and isolated to really worry about right away, and Queens was a collection of towns, some of which were also pretty remote. The towns closest to Manhattan, like Long Island City, could be worked with, but Brooklyn was the biggest challenge for the new administration.
Brooklyn had been an independent city, with well-established civil institutions, including police and fire services that had their own headquarters, own uniforms, own equipment and own personnel, officers and procedures. All of that would now be under the control of central departments in Manhattan. This was not going to be easy. (more…)
Name: Semi-detached row houses, with garages Address: 122-134 Brooklyn Avenue Cross Streets: Bergen Street and St. Marks Avenue Neighborhood: Crown Heights North Year Built: 1918 Architectural Style: Colonial Revival Architect: Eric O. Holmgren Other Buildings by Architect: Evening Star Baptist Church (former LDS Chapel), Gates Ave, Bedford Stuyvesant; 189 Ocean Avenue, PLG; theaters in Williamsburg; Alku Toinen Cooperative Apartments, Sunset Park. Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase I of Crown Heights North HD. (2007) both landmarked CHN historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places (2013)
The story: These are among the last single family houses built in Phase I of the Crown Heights North historic district. They were built right at America’s entrance into World War I, a watershed moment in the country’s national psyche. By the time the war was over, New York City had lived through not only war, but also an influenza pandemic, the worst subway disaster in the city’s history, and the rise of a growing middle class, dancing its way to the Roaring Twenties. Much of that middle class was settling in Brooklyn.
This particular row of houses consists of two pairs of semi-detached houses, and a single house at the end of the row, this one in the middle of the block between Bergen Street and St. Marks Avenue. They were designed for developer Harry Hanson by Eric O. Holmgren, a Swedish-American architect who enjoyed a long career here in Brooklyn. (more…)
Name: Semi-detached private house Address: 68 Macon Street Cross Streets: Nostrand and Verona Place Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant Year Built: 1886 Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival/Queen Anne Architect: Montrose W. Morris Other Buildings by Architect: Alhambra, Renaissance, Clinton Apartments, Kelley mansion, plus row houses on Hancock Street and Jefferson Avenue, all Bed Stuy. Also Imperial, Bedfordshire Apts and rowhouses in Crown Heights, plus buildings in Clinton Hill, Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights Landmarked: No, but calendared to be landmarked as the Bedford Historic District. (2012) Waiting for vote by LPC and City Council. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
The story: Everyone who loves houses has “their” house. The ones you walk or drive by every day, the ones you wonder what they look like inside, and the ones you can picture yourself in. Everyone has those houses, and for many years, this was mine. I used to walk past this house just about every day for 17 years. Over those years, I saw the house go from a rooming house with shady tenants, to an empty building, to the home of the current owner. All during that time, I would walk past, look at it longingly, touch the brick wall, and send a prayer skyward: “Mine.” Well, the universe didn’t think so, but no matter, it’s still a special piece of property, and one of my favorite houses in Bedford Stuyvesant. (more…)
Here’s another look at one of the great buildings we’ve lost to “progress.”
A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
While this may look to be the fanciest Traffic Court in the world, this fine building started out with a much more sacred calling 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 was established in 1869, a place of worship and community for Brooklyn’s German Jewish residents. They held their first services in the old YMCA, located downtown, at Fulton St. and Galatin Place. In 1872, they purchased their own building, a now landmarked church, on Greene Avenue where the community grew until they needed to move, once again. By this time, many members of this German Jewish community were doing quite well, their membership included wealthy merchants such as Abraham Abraham, one of the founders of Abraham & Straus, and the congregation was able to commission one of the best architectural firms in the city to design a new temple. (more…)
Name: Originally Rogers Memorial Building for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), now Retrofret Vintage Guitars, and musical instruments repair shops Address: 233-237 Butler Street Cross Streets: Nevins and Bond Streets Neighborhood: Gowanus Year Built: 1913 Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival Architect: Renwick, Aspinwall & Tucker Other Buildings by Architect: American Express Building at 65 Bway, Grace Church Neighborhood House, 4th Ave, Provident Loan Building, 25th St., all Manhattan. Landmarked: No
The story: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in Manhattan in 1866. It was established by Henry Bergh, and is the oldest animal protection society in the Western Hemisphere. Bergh believed that animals were entitled to respectful and kind treatment at the hands of people, and had to be protected under the law from those who acted differently. His initial efforts were in protecting horses from abuse, as well as trying to reform slaughterhouses and stop cock fighting. His cause was soon taken up by many. Only nine days after officially announcing his organization, Bergh was able to get the first anti-cruelty laws passed by the City.
The laws enabled the ASPCA to enforce those anti-cruelty laws, and with only a staff of three, the organization set out to do so, concentrating at first on those who abused horses and livestock. In 1867, they had special ambulance wagons for aiding and rescuing horses on the city streets, and also for rescuing cats, dogs and pigeons. By the time Henry Bergh died in 1888, 37 of the 38 states in the Union had ASPCA chapters and anti-cruelty laws on the books. (more…)