04/15/14 3:00pm

1301 Grand Street, Google Maps 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Charles J. King Iron and Scrap, formerly Louis Bossert & Son Co.
Address: 1301 Grand Street
Cross Streets: Gardner Avenue and New Town Creek
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: Unknown
Architectural Style: Eclectic factory
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Louis Bossert was a lumber man. He was one of the thousands of German immigrants who came to the United States and settled in Bushwick and Williamsburg in the mid to late 19th century. Bossert was an officer during the Civil War, and began a lumber business after the war. It was a fortuitous move, as Brooklyn had a series of building booms for the next fifty years, and Louis Bossert & Son was there to meet the needs of their customers.

By the end of the 19th century, in the 1890s, if not sooner, Louis Bossert’s lumber company was located here on Grand Street, along the Newtown Creek. The company was huge, with lumberyards, planing mills, warehouses and offices. Having the canal just behind the plant enabled Bossert to move goods by barge, and deliver large amounts of lumber to projects in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn with ease. This building was the headquarters and office of the company.

Lumber yards often had fires, so this may be the reason the Bossert HQ looks like a fireproof fortress. I was not able to find the date it was built, or the architect, and since the design is so eclectic, it’s also hard to date, but I’m going to go with early 20th century, in the ‘teens. By that time, Bossert’s plant was well established, and this building consolidated their operation, and replaced the company’s offices on Union Street. It’s an interesting building, certainly not pretty, but strong in personality. (more…)

19th century steamship, hasselisland.org 1As the cynical and world-weary people we can be today in 2014, it doesn’t really surprise us when those who are entrusted with much, or are held up as paragons, fail spectacularly. Sadly, we see it almost every day. But 100 years ago, life was simpler. Back then, (and now, as well, to be honest), people expected certain criminal activities like thievery and dishonesty from the classes and groups they felt were beneath them. But they held the upper classes to a higher standard, one of dignity and success through hard work and privilege. Therefore, when one of their own was suspected of, or caught doing wrong, the stories fascinated the newspaper reporters and their editors, as well as the general public. The fall of a prominent lawyer, or a banker, was news for days.

We met Benjamin F. Chadsey last time, the scion of an important Albany area family, and an up and coming lawyer here in Brooklyn at the beginning of the 20th century. He lived here in Brooklyn with his wife at 88 Decatur Street, in an upscale apartment building in Stuyvesant Heights. Like another occupant of the same apartment house, J. Edgar Anthony, the topic of our first story from this building, young Chadsey was also an attorney who worked in estates, wills and trusts. Mr. Chadsey had a fine reputation in the law, and was a rising star in the world of Brooklyn Republican politics. Benjamin Chadsey, it was said, could persuade you to vote for anyone, and his silver tongue was put to use at political rallies all across the city. He was soon on a first name basis with some of New York’s most important Republican political figures.

Unfortunately, Chadsey was arrogant enough to think that he knew best in the matters of his clients, as well as the voters, and had been playing loose with some of his client’s money. He had been administering the estate of Daniel M. Collins, a wealthy Brooklyn Heights jeweler. The deceased Mr. Collins’ wife suspected that her brother-in-law and Chadsey had conspired to cheat her out of her inheritance, and that Chadsey had grossly overbilled her for services rendered. The widow retained another lawyer, and filed suit. A judge agreed, and had chastised Mr. Chadsey, and ordered him to pay back about $900 in overcharged fees. That may not seem like much in today’s money, but in 1902 it was around $20,000 worth, certainly enough for most of us to file suit. (more…)

04/14/14 3:00pm

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. (more…)

04/11/14 3:00pm

672-694 President Street, KL, PS 3

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 672-694 President Street
Cross Streets: 5th and 6th avenues
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1886-87
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: J.W. Bailey
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed extended Park Slope HD

The story: Park Slope’s named blocks have wonderful homes on them, but most people seem to pay attention to those only between 7th Avenue and the park. To do that is to really miss out on some treasures on the blocks between 7th and 4th avenues. Virtually all of the houses on these blocks were built in the building boom years between 1875 and 1895, with only a few hiccups every once in a while for recessions and short financial crises. During that time, developers snapped up the land and hired architects and builders; some well-known, others long forgotten, to build speculative housing for the people eager to buy and move into this fashionable neighborhood.

Some developers were able to buy entire sides of blocks, while others could only get two or three plots. The result is a delightful mishmash of architectural styles and quality of design. While the better known and better paid architects certainly delivered great designs, sometimes a total unknown came up with a masterful group of houses, and then disappeared from view. This group is a fine example of that.

James C. Jewett was the developer of the row of twelve houses on north side of President Street, numbers 672-694, between 5th and 6th avenues. He hired J. W. Bailey to be the architect. I couldn’t find any other examples of Bailey’s work, or find out anything else about him. Mr. Bailey may not have been flashy, but he delivered a nice group of houses, which add tremendously to the Park Slope streetscape. (more…)

Fulton Terminal,composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Today’s Past and Present is a rare look at a Brooklyn none of us will see again. This is the Montague Street Slip, on the East River, below Brooklyn Heights. The photograph was taken in 1915, and shows a part of Brooklyn that is forever gone. This is part of the world of Brooklyn’s working waterfront, which once stretched from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge.

This area was the heart of Fulton Terminal, one of three dock terminals operated by the New York Dock Railway. The other two were the Baltic Terminal at the base of Baltic Street and the Atlantic Terminal, at the base of Commerce Street. Between all three terminals, the NY Dock owned the waterfront from Brooklyn Heights to the end of Red Hook. In addition to the piers, the company also owned the storehouses the stretched along the waterfront, a distance of two and a half miles. These were all brick storehouses with arched openings, similar to the Empire Stores and the Tobacco Warehouse on Water Street.

These stores and the piers had originally been owned by the Pierrepont, Clinton, Woodruff, McCormick, Robert, Prentis and other families whose names now grace our streets and institutions. These were the New England merchants who built Brooklyn in the early 19th century, making fortunes on the import and export of produce, grain, tobacco, sugar, coffee, leather, rubber and other commodities. For much of the 19th century, they operated as the Brooklyn Wharf and Warehouse Company. NY Dock bought the entire site in the largest bankruptcy sale in Brooklyn history, up to that point, in 1901, and began operation.

The Fulton Terminal was a floating dock terminal. It had a large wooden pier that held four tracks. These were used mostly as storage of railway cars. On both sides of the pier were the floating bridges. These piers floated on pontoons, although later the wooden piers were replaced by girder float bridges. These piers received the float cars that were pushed by tugboats.

The float cars were barges holding a railway car on a track. The cars came from New Jersey and the Bronx, and were floated across the water and eased between the floating bridges, where the cars would be lifted from the barges and placed on the pier’s railroad tracks, and on to nearby warehouses for loading or unloading. The railway cars then made the land trip to their other destinations across the country. It was a very efficient system; a rail car could be loaded and unloaded in a short amount of time.

By the teens, subway tunnels were being built underneath the East River from Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights, and construction of those tunnels necessitated a rebuilding of some of the NY Docks piers, specifically the Montague Street Slip, the pier located near the Montague Street to Wall Street ferry terminal. One of the subway tunnels was right under it. Our period photograph shows the pier under reconstruction. (more…)

04/10/14 3:30pm

Editor’s note: In honor of the 50-year anniversary of the Pratt Area Community Council, we are pleased to feature historic buildings PACC has redeveloped as our Building of the Day for four consecutive days. PACC is a community development corporation that preserves and develops affordable housing in central Brooklyn. Brownstoner is a proud media sponsor of PACC’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which takes place April 23.

218 Gates Ave,Gibb Mansion,  sspellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: John Gibb Mansion
Address: 218 Gates Avenue
Cross Streets: Franklin and Classon Avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: late 1860s
Architectural Style: Second Empire
Architect: Unknown. 2003 Exterior restoration – Kaitsen Woo. Additional housing and interior architecture by Beth Cooper Lawrence Architect PC.
Landmarked: No

The story: The Gibb Mansion is one of the great storied houses of Brooklyn. Built for a millionaire merchant, it remained in the news long after its original owners had died or family members moved elsewhere. The house went from fine mansion to hot pillow hotel over the course of its 150 plus year history, and could have met the wrecking ball a couple of times, but survived and is now thriving. Much of its history has involved helping those in need, so it’s fitting that its current incarnation is continuing this grand tradition. Here’s the story:

Scottish-born John Gibb was a very successful lace merchant, by 1865, a partner in the firm Wells & Gibb, in Manhattan. They were the largest importers and wholesalers of lace goods in New York, with a large warehouse on the corner of Broadway and Grand, in what is now Soho. Today that building now holds the International (formerly French) Culinary Institute of America, among other tenants. It’s a huge building, giving one an idea of the size and success of Gibb’s company.

Like many wealthy merchants, John Gibb lived in Brooklyn, away from the hustle and bustle of commerce, first living in Fort Greene, and then moving to a home he had commissioned, sometime after 1865. Gibb bought a great deal of land in Bedford, near the growing Clinton Hill neighborhood, and had his house built right in the middle of it. For many years after the house was built, there were no buildings between the mansion and Classon Avenue. John Gibb did not want to be crowded. Or bothered, but that comes later.

The Gibb mansion is a very large Second Empire brick house, with a mansard roof and a grand front porch. The house has several bays and rear extensions, and in his day had a grand parlor and receiving rooms, a large dining room in the rear extension, two bathrooms, and plenty of bedrooms. The Gibb family needed all the room they could get, as John and his first wife Harriet had eleven children. Harriet died in 1878, her funeral taking place in the house. Four years later, John Gibb remarried, and his second wife, Sarah bore him two more children. (more…)

04/10/14 10:45am

Benjamin Chadsey, NY herald, 1902

88 Decatur Street, in Stuyvesant Heights, was one of a group of four small upscale apartment buildings making up a complex called the Lindsley Apartments. Advertised as a luxury alternative to row house living, the apartments were home to many respectable professionals and their wives and families. Over the years a host of people lived here, their names and activities making the newspapers when they married, attended social functions, or died. This is normal for any apartment building, but 88 Decatur coincidentally, was home to three individuals who, in their day, managed to sell newspapers for different reasons.

Three of the tenants here were independently, and at different times, charged with crimes that made reporters glad to get up in the morning. One day these upscale citizens and respected professionals’ names were in the paper for their successes, the next, for their sins. Greed and the love of money were the downfall of them all. Part One and Two of this series was about a lawyer named D. Edgar Anthony. He lived here at 88 Decatur with his wife and child in the mid-1890s, before moving on by the beginning of the 20th century. Seven years later, another lawyer was living in this building with his wife. His name was Benjamin F. Chadsey, and his tale is next.

One could joke that there must have been something in the water at 88 Decatur to drive a lawyer to crime, but that would be unfair to the house. If there was anything in the water, it flowed upstate. Like D. Edgar Anthony, Benjamin F. Chadsey also came from upstate New York. Anthony was from the Utica area, but Chadsey hailed from Clifton Park, outside of Albany. His family was quite prominent in the area, and he grew up and was educated there. He got married, passed the bar, and was working in Brooklyn. This did not go well with family life or with his wife. In 1896, she successfully filed for divorce, and stayed in Troy.

Now single and free, Chadsey was living in Brooklyn, and becoming very well known in Brooklyn’s legal and political life. He was one of the shining stars of local Republican politics, and was known as a smooth tongued orator who could convince you to vote for anyone or anything. He was also getting a reputation as a slick lawyer, and was rising in the world of Brooklyn law. Chadsey was apparently slick in other ways as well. He was a fancy dresser and a dandy, and became well known for his love of diamond jewelry. (more…)

04/09/14 3:00pm

Editor’s note: In honor of the 50-year anniversary of the Pratt Area Community Council, we are pleased to feature historic buildings PACC has redeveloped as our Building of the Day for four consecutive days. PACC is a community development corporation that preserves and develops affordable housing in central Brooklyn. Brownstoner is a proud media sponsor of PACC’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which takes place April 23.

Fire HQ, 365 Jay St. pacc.org. 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Brooklyn Fire Department Headquarters, now affordable housing
Address: 365 Jay Street
Cross Streets: Willoughby Street and Metrotech Roadway
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1892
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Frank Freeman. 2013 Rehab architect: Nomad Architecture. Historic Preservation Architect: Thomas A. Fenniman.
Other work by architect: F. Freeman – Eagle Warehouse in Dumbo, Herman Behr mansion on Pierrepont Street, in Brooklyn Heights, among others. Nomad – Reno of Actor’s Temple, Manhattan, as well as many other nonprofit, commercial and residential projects nationwide and globally. T. Fenniman – Historic restorations in New York City, including St. Francis Xavier Church, Manhattan
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1966) National Register of Historic Places (1972)

The story: A great city has great civic buildings, and Brooklyn, near the end of the 19th century, was well on its way to making its mark with a collection of excellent municipal buildings. The Fire Headquarters was one of them, along with fine schools, courthouses, houses of worship and clubs, a monument to the power and pride of a great city. It was designed by the great Brooklyn architect Frank Freeman, who was responsible for many of the late 19th century’s most important buildings. The beautiful Behr mansion on Pierrepont and Henry Street is his design, as is the massive Eagle Warehouse in Dumbo. He also designed banks and other commercial and civic buildings in the Downtown and Brooklyn Heights area, but unfortunately, most of them did not survive.

Fire fighting in Brooklyn had become a professional affair, and a large headquarters was needed to consolidate the various offices and divisions, as well as to provide this part of downtown with a firehouse. But what a headquarters! The Romanesque Revival style of architecture was considered to be the highest form of architecture, especially for civic buildings at the time, and so it’s no wonder some of the best civic buildings were built in that style. The massing of shapes, with bays, turrets, dormers, varying rooflines, the voluminous arches, the use of florid terra-cotta ornament, and the contrasting use of texture in building materials — all of those elements of the style are here.

The building opened with great ceremony in 1892. The sight of fire vehicles and men rushing out of that magnificent archway was inspiring to all. Little did they know that only six years later, there would be no Brooklyn Fire Department. In 1898, the consolidation of New York City made the BFD redundant, and it was absorbed into FDNY. All of the Brooklyn fire houses were re-numbered, and this headquarters was no longer needed. It remained an active firehouse, however, and thereby was one of the largest and finest in the city. (more…)

04/09/14 11:30am
Screenshot of Brooklyn Public Library's new Brooklyn Eagle archives

Screenshot of Brooklyn Public Library’s new Brooklyn Eagle archives

Two important online research resources for historic buildings in Brooklyn have drastically changed in the last few weeks. The Brooklyn Public Library has digitized the complete morgue of the the Brooklyn Eagle, adding 1903 to 1955, when the paper stopped publishing. Previously they had digitized the archive from 1841 to 1902, but never got around to finishing the digitization. It was always frustrating, and forced a search from other sources.

The library has partnered with Newspapers.com to provide researchers with a new way to access the Eagle. It went up last week. I’m not up to snuff with all of the tools it offers, and it’s going to take me a while to get used to it, and I’m going to miss the quirks and foibles of the old system. But if the search function is improved, that will be worth the learning curve. Above is a screen shot of the new format.

Over at the New York Public Library, they are beta testing their new online format for their visual collections, including their maps collection. (more…)

04/08/14 3:30pm

Editor’s note: In honor of the 50-year anniversary of the Pratt Area Community Council, we are pleased to feature historic buildings PACC has redeveloped as our Building of the Day for four consecutive days. PACC is a community development corporation that preserves and develops affordable housing in central Brooklyn. Brownstoner is a proud media sponsor of PACC’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which takes place April 23.

15 Quincy St. NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Apartment building called “Quincy 15”
Address: 15 Quincy Street
Cross Streets: Downing Street and Classon Avenue
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 2007-2008
Architectural Style: Brick apartment building
Architect: ND Architecture & Design P.C.
Other work by architect: Modern and adaptive use projects throughout Brooklyn
Landmarked: No

The story: Today’s BOTD is another of the Pratt Area Community Council’s affordable housing buildings. PACC has been at this for 50 years, with many of their projects being rehabs of existing historic buildings. This is one of their new-builds; a 48-unit building providing affordable housing in the form of nine studio apartments and 41 one-bedroom apartments for low-income residents, some of them formerly homeless people.

The building is on the same block as last Friday’s BOTD, the former Frederick Loeser & Co. stables and warehouse building, and occupies the space once taken up by another important Brooklyn business. This was one of the locations of the Borden Milk Company, which had a block wide plant here, with its main entrance on Lexington Avenue.

That plant had been there since at least 1904, and held a number of industries over the years. In 1911, it was home to a bakery called Mills Homemade Bread. By 1922, it was W. M. Evans Dairy, and by 1926, belonged to Borden’s, which used the entire building to pasteurize and bottle milk shipped in from New Jersey. The milk, which actually came in daily from upstate New York, was loaded into special glass lined refrigerated train cars, shipped to Hoboken, and then trucked over in special glass lined refrigerated trucks to Brooklyn. (more…)

04/08/14 10:45am

88-94 Decatur st. D.Edgar at trial, 1897, NY Herald

David Edgar Anthony was in college at Syracuse University when he decided he wanted to be known as “D. Edgar Anthony.” He was a local boy, his parents had moved to Syracuse from New York City, where David Anthony Senior had been a successful and prosperous dealer in hats and furs. D. Edgar’s announcement to his fellow students came as no surprise to those who knew him, and it didn’t endear him to them any more than the rest of his personality did. D. Edgar was not well liked. “That man Anthony was one of the cheekiest fellows I ever knew,” one of his former classmates would tell the Syracuse Daily Standard. “There was brass enough in his makeup to make a Krupps cannon. He was just the man to get on in the world, for nothing would dismay him and he was as cold blooded as a lizard.”

The former student was talking about D. Edgar’s decision to dump his wife of many years, and the mother of his only child, and take up with a much younger and wealthier heiress. Last time we read about the Anthony family, and how the married D. Edgar had fallen in love with an heiress who had a back story like a Dickens novel. Young and beautiful Jeanette Ballou was the daughter of millionaire Wells Ballou. She was born as a result of a secret marriage between Wells and one of his servants. The story can be found in Part One, here. The background helps explain what came later.

To make a long story short, our lovebirds are successful in both getting Miss Ballou out of jail, getting a separation and divorce from Ida Anthony, and marrying in their own secret ceremony. The new Jeanette Ballou Anthony was pregnant, and also fighting for an inheritance from her grandfather, one the Ballou family did not want her to have. She needed a good lawyer, so she called upon D. Edgar Anthony. He was the relentless lawyer Jeanette needed to handle the family. He won the case.

The new family moved to 88 Decatur Street, a fine apartment in the upscale neighborhood of Stuyvesant Heights. But D. Edgar soon had his own problems. He was working as a receiver for the National Mutual Insurance Company. His expertise was in wills, estates and trusts. It was his job to move money into client’s accounts, and manage trusts. Unfortunately, he got creative, and when asked to move several amounts of money around in 1894, managed to skim some off the top and deposit the funds into a separate account, writing personal checks from that account. He got caught a year later, and ended up in the notorious Tombs prison in lower Manhattan. (more…)

04/07/14 3:00pm

Editor’s note: In honor of the 50-year anniversary of the Pratt Area Community Council, we are pleased to feature historic buildings PACC has redeveloped as our Building of the Day for four consecutive days. PACC is a community development corporation that preserves and develops affordable housing in central Brooklyn. Brownstoner is a proud media sponsor of PACC’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which takes place April 23.

418-422 Classon Ave, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses, now called “The Hawthorne”
Address: 418-422 Classon Avenue
Cross Streets: Gates Avenue and Quincy Street
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: Early 1890s
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Langston & Dahlander. Rehab by Feder & Stia Architects, LLP
Other work by architect: L&D – numerous row houses and flats buildings in Bedford, Stuyvesant Heights, Crown Heights, Park Slope. F&S – 272 Gates Ave for PACC
Landmarked: No

The story: This is one of those great examples of rehabilitation that shows that even the worst looking group of buildings can be brought back from the dead, if you have a vision, good architects and a reason to do so. Of course, it always helps to have something great to work with in the first place.

This group of three houses was designed by Frederick B. Langston and Magnus Dahlander in the early 1890s. The two men, both talented architects on their own, were partners for a couple of years, during which time they designed some of Brooklyn’s most interesting row houses and flats buildings. They specialized in the Romanesque Revival/Queen Anne style, characterized by massing of shapes and forms, a combination of building materials, such as smooth and rough-cut brownstone, brick and terra cotta, along with ornamental stained glass and decorative pressed metal.

The use of Romanesque style arches was a big feature of these styles, and here, Langston & Dahlander used them with great skill and even daring, as in stretching the arch all the way across the building, and incorporating the door into the arch. The partners used this building-wide arch only four times, and their buildings are the only houses with this feature in Brooklyn. The other houses are on Herkimer Street and Jefferson Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant and on Garfield Street in Park Slope. (more…)