10/30/14 3:00pm

384-406 9th St. NS, PS 4

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Double duplex row houses
Address: 384-406 9th Street
Cross Streets: 6th and 7th Avenues
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1910
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Architect: J. Constantine Schubert
Other Buildings by Architect: Standalone, row, and semi-detached houses in Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, Gravesend and other southern Brooklyn neighborhoods
Landmarked: No

The story: When I daydream about having a Brooklyn pied-a-terre, I’ve gone through the list of all of the kinds of houses I would ideally want. What style, what era would be best? An entire house, or just an apartment? A loft, maybe, or a studio apartment? Since anything is possible in fantasyland, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ideal house for me would be one of these kinds of homes; the double duplex. They were built as two family homes, and lost nothing in conversion, as far as layout and detail. They each have two floors, and private garden space. One could live in one unit, rent out the other, and have the luxury of someone there while you are not, but the privacy of your own entrance. It would be perfect. It’s a great way to live full time, too, and that’s what the developer of these houses thought, when he and others began building double duplexes in the early part of the 20th century. (more…)

10/30/14 10:45am

Cresco Realty Co. BE, 1907 2

Developer Walter L. Johnson was a powerhouse. When he began building his Dyker Heights suburban community, he went with the best of the best. First of all, he had one of the best locations in Brooklyn to work with. His father had purchased the old DeRussy estate back in 1888 with the idea to develop it into an upscale suburban community. The estate was on high ground, with magnificent views of the New York harbor. You could see from the Narrows all the way out to Sandy Hook and beyond. The air was clean and cooling, and living here would be the best of both worlds; a seaside house with easy access to the big city. (more…)

10/29/14 3:00pm

141 Java Street, GS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Semi-detached wood framed row house
Address: 141 Java Street
Cross Streets: Franklin and Manhattan Avenues
Neighborhood: Greenpoint
Year Built: 1855-1860
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: This absolutely charming little house has had a great history. It is also a Greenpoint classic, one of this neighborhood’s many wood framed houses built for a middle class Greenpoint family, before the Civil War. Unlike most of Brooklyn’s brownstone neighborhoods, Greenpoint housing stock was built primarily for those who worked in Greenpoint, not those who commuted to downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan. This was a neighborhood of workers; people involved with one of the many different industries that thrived on the docks and in the industrial areas of the neighborhood.

The house was probably built sometime between 1855 and 1860 by one of the many anonymous builders who plied their trade in this neighborhood. Considering that many of the carpenters and builders here in Greenpoint worked on the docks in the ship building industry, it’s not surprising that they also built their homes, or supplemented their income by building homes. Most of them designed from plan books or just experience. (more…)

10/28/14 3:00pm

184 Joralemon Street, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Galen Hall Office Building, now apartments and offices
Address: 184 Joralemon Street
Cross Streets: Court and Clinton Streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1909-1911
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts with Colonial Revival details
Architect: George Keister
Other Buildings by Architect: Apollo Theater, Harlem. Also Belasco and Selwyn Theaters, Theater District. Row houses in the Bronx, tenement buildings, apartment buildings, hotels, churches.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Skyscraper District (2012)

The story: Claudius Galenus, or Galen of Pergamon, was a prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the second century Roman Empire. He and the better-known Hippocrates are considered to be the most important contributors to modern Western medicine. (Yes, I had to look that one up.) The use of the name “Galen” was quite popular during Victorian times, especially to name sanatoria and other medical retreat centers. One of the most popular in the New York City area was the Galen Hall in Atlantic City. Their facilities would be considered a health spa today, and they advertised constantly in the Brooklyn Eagle for decades.

So when a twelve floor office tower exclusively for doctors and medical professionals was proposed for Downtown Brooklyn, it was fitting that it should be called Galen Hall, or the Galen Hall Office Building. The tall and narrow building was placed on a 25 foot wide Joralemon Street lot, right next door to the Packer Institute. The building ran tall and deep, with plenty of room for doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals. (more…)

10/28/14 10:45am

Dyker Heights, Constantine Schubert house, Wiki. 1

Dyker Heights, one of the southernmost sections of Brooklyn, was developed as an upscale suburb. It was the vision of one family, the Johnson family. Patriarch Frederick Johnson bought the land that would become Dyker Heights in 1888. This was the DeRussy estate, established by Brigadier General René Edward DeRussy of the United States Army. He was a military engineer, responsible for the building of many fortifications and fortresses during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. DeRussy’s estate overlooked Fort Hamilton, which had been built to his specifications.

Frederick Johnson realized that this bucolic location, with its hills overlooking the harbor, the clean, cooling ocean breezes, and the vast amount of land, was ripe for development. By 1888, Brooklyn’s population was already moving further and further out from its central core downtown. Johnson knew it was only a matter of time, and he was sitting on a potential goldmine. His estate was part of the greater town of New Utrecht, one of the six founding towns that make up Kings County. He petitioned hard to have New Utrecht annexed to the City of Brooklyn, but died in 1892, two years before that happened. It would be up to his son Walter to take up the challenge. (more…)

10/27/14 3:00pm

1678 Park Place, Cong Men of Justice, GS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Congregation Men of Justice (Anshe Zedek), now Bright Light Baptist Church
Address: 1678 Park Place
Cross Streets: Ralph and Howard Avenues
Neighborhood: Brownsville
Year Built: 1913
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival with Moorish details
Architect: Faber & Murick
Other Buildings by Architect: None found
Landmarked: No

The story: The Congregation Men of Justice was organized in November of 1909 by ten Brownsville men, just enough to form a minyan, the minimum number of men necessary in Jewish tradition to conduct public worship. That number soon grew as the Jewish population of Brownsville soared in the early 20th century. By 1913, there were 300 people in the congregation, and the space they were renting on Ralph Avenue was not big enough. It was time for the congregation to build their own synagogue. The name of their congregation in Hebrew was Anshe Zedek.

This plot of land on the Crown Heights/Brownsville border was purchased, and the architectural firm of Faber & Murick was chosen to design the building. On August 17, 1913, a grand parade was held in the neighborhood, and the congregation marched from Ralph Avenue down to the new site, where the cornerstone of the synagogue was laid with great pomp and ceremony. The stone had the date and inscription in both English and Hebrew. (more…)

10/24/14 3:00pm

251 12th Street, 12th St. Reformed Church, KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Built as the Twelfth Street Reformed Church, now the Park Slope Community Church (Baptist)
Address: 251 12th Street
Cross Streets: 4th and 5th Avenues
Neighborhood: South Slope
Year Built: 1869
Architectural Style: Rundbogenstil Romanesque Revival
Architect: Gamaliel King
Other buildings by architect: Brooklyn City (now Borough) Hall, St. Paul’s Church in Cobble Hill, Kings County Savings Bank, Williamsburg (with Wm H. Willcox). Demolished – Kings County Courthouse
Landmarked: No

The story: In 1840, members of the South Reformed Dutch Church, located in Gowanus, at 43rd and 3rd, met to discuss dividing the church into two different churches, with a new church in the northern part of what was then called South Brooklyn. Among those advocating starting the new church were members of the Bergen and Van Nostrand families. There would be 40 new members splitting off, in all, in an amicable division. They called the new congregation The North Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Gowanus. They bought a plot of land on 3rd Avenue, between 20th and 21st Streets, and built a church. For several years, both shared the same pastor, the Rev. S. M. Woodbridge.

In 1851, the hierarchy of the Reformed Church formally separated the two churches and North Reformed got their own minister. A few years later, in 1856, a yellow fever epidemic struck Brooklyn and decimated the population of the older South Church. Many of them joined North Reformed. They needed a new building. Funds were raised, and the congregation purchased another plot of land, this one on 12th Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenues. (more…)

10/24/14 10:45am

Seney Hospital, NY Methodist Hosp. composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Park Slope’s New York Methodist Hospital is much in the news nowadays due to its plans to demolish the row houses and apartment buildings it owns in order to expand its hospital and clinic facilities. But how did Methodist end up being in Park Slope in the first place? Well, there is quite a difference between today’s modern hospital and the buildings that made up the original complex. There is even a difference in the name; Methodist Hospital was built as the Seney Hospital. It was founded by a man of great philanthropy and generosity named George Ingraham Seney.

George Seney was the son of a Methodist preacher. He began his professional career as a bank teller at the Metropolitan National Bank of New York. In 1855 he was promoted to cashier, a management position, and by 1877, he was president of the bank. He was also an astute stock investor, and actually made the bulk of his considerable fortune by investing in railroads. When one of his companies, the lucrative New York-Chicago-St. Louis Railroad was sold to the Vanderbilts, he had more money than most people could imagine. (more…)

10/23/14 3:00pm

537 Sackett St, KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Majestic Quality Products Company Factory and Warehouse
Address: 537 Sackett Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Nevins Street
Neighborhood: Gowanus
Year Built: around 1950
Architectural Style: Industrial Moderne
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No, but part of proposed National Register of Historic Places Gowanus Industrial District.

The story: We get so many products from all over the world now, especially from China, so it’s hard to imagine where the things we put in our homes are made. If we were living in the 1950s, and we wanted lighting fixtures for our homes, we might have purchased them from a company like Majestic Quality Products, which had its factory right here in Brooklyn, at 537 Sackett Street, in Gowanus. (more…)

10/23/14 10:45am

Dyker Heights 1897 BE Ad

As most people know by now, the city of Brooklyn developed from the six original towns settled by the Dutch, or in the case of Gravesend, the English, in the mid-1600s. Using their English names, they were Brooklyn, Bushwick, New Utrecht, Flatbush, Gravesend and Flatlands. England took over the whole thing soon afterward, calling the territory Kings County. Over the course of the next two hundred years, those towns grew to encompass smaller villages, adjacent cities like Williamsburg and Ridgewood, and stretched and moved around to become the boundaries of Brooklyn that we know today.

As the city grew, those separate towns, which once had space between them, grew closer and closer to each other, as farms and estates became streets and plots. The city spread out in all directions out from the Brooklyn Heights shoreline, as roads and public transportation made it easier and easier for people in the outlying areas to be connected to Brooklyn’s piers, and on to jobs and markets in Manhattan. (more…)

10/22/14 3:00pm

413 Degraw Street, NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former stable/carriage house
Address: 413 Degraw Street
Cross Streets: Hoyt and Bond streets
Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens
Year Built: 1892, maybe
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival, possibly with later alterations
Architect: J. J. Gallagher, mason
Landmarked: No

The story: In December of 1892, James Lumas applied for and received a permit to build a two story stable here at 413 Degraw Street. Mr. Lumas must have been local, but his name never appears in the Brooklyn papers again. No. 413 is listed as his address on the permit. Whoever he was, and wherever he lived, he paid for a really nice stable and carriage house. The mason used on the job is also listed on the permit: J. J. Gallagher. We’ll probably never know if Gallagher designed the stable, or used a plan from a book, but wherever the design came from, it’s a nice piece of work. The stable has an apartment above it.

The building is a Romanesque Revival style building, with Colonial Revival details. It has the arched Romanesque windows and door, but the brick cornice and other brick trim make it much more Colonial Revival looking. According to the permit the building was to be constructed with a wooden cornice, but that is either gone, or never happened. It looks like the entire building got a Colonial Revival facelift in the first third of the 20th century, and lost the cornice to decorative brickwork, which also surrounds the arched windows and door. But then again, this could all be original. Because this building’s construction date is a mystery. (more…)

10/21/14 3:00pm

284-290 Stuyvesant Ave, CD Brazee for LPC 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 284-290 Stuyvesant Avenue
Cross Streets: Jefferson and Hancock streets
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Year Built: 1880-81
Architectural Style: Neo-Grec
Architect: Builder James P. Miller
Landmarked: Yes, part of Stuyvesant Heights Expansion HD (2013)

The story: Stuyvesant Heights was first developed just before the Civil War as a suburban retreat for the wealthy brewers and businessmen who were making their fortunes in Bushwick. They, in turn, attracted other wealthy men from downtown and elsewhere who wanted to live in splendid isolation on large lots with garden space, but still easily commutable to their businesses in Manhattan or on Brooklyn’s piers. That ease of commute was provided by the excellent facilities that ran along Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue. By the 1870s, developers began dividing up the remaining Stuyvesant Heights plots. In the space of 30 years, the mansions and villas were surrounded by, or replaced by, row houses. The big city had reached Stuyvesant Heights. (more…)