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…)

10/21/14 10:45am

Dean Street roofscape, Crown Hts North, S.Spellen

Back in 2004 or so, a periodical called, most appropriately, “Brooklyn Magazine” began appearing on the newsstands. The monthly magazine was of a high quality, with photographs and articles about neighborhoods, history, and culture, as well as articles about the new things coming into Brooklyn every day. I think Brooklyn author Jonathan Lethem may have penned an article or two for it. Brooklyn Magazine had its offices on Atlantic Avenue, in the antiques district, very prominently on the block between Hoyt and Bond, where the Hope Vet Clinic is today. This was back when there was an antiques district on Atlantic Avenue.

I liked the magazine, and subscribed to it. One of the topics in an article in 2005 was about the new thing in communication called blogging and the mag published a list of Brooklyn blogs. That was how I discovered Brownstoner. The blog was in its second year by then. I was working in a job with a lot of down time, and I had plenty of opportunity to immerse myself in the site. I was immediately hooked. (more…)

10/20/14 3:00pm

199 Ryerson Walk, Memorial Hall, Pratt, SSpellen 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Memorial Hall, Pratt Institute
Address: 199 Ryerson Walk
Cross Streets: Willoughby and DeKalb Avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: 1926-27
Architectural Style: Art Deco
Architect: John Mead Howells
Other Buildings by Architect: On Pratt Campus – Engineering Quadrangle, Willoughby Hall. Also with partner William Hood -Daily News Building, Manhattan, Tribune Tower, Chicago.
Landmarked: No, but on the National Register of Historic Places

The story: John Mead Howells was the son of 19th century author and editor William Dean Howells. He spent his undergraduate days at Harvard, before going on to graduate school there for architecture. In the mid-1890s, he went to Paris and attended the prestigious L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he completed his architectural education. When he came back to New York, he opened up a firm with fellow Paris student, Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, the eldest son of millionaire Anson Phelps Stokes.

While partners, Stokes designed St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, while Howell designed Stormfield, a vacation home for Samuel Clemens, who was a close friend of Howell’s father. Both the chapel and the home were very different from the work both would do later in their careers, but showed that they had a mastery of traditional form, and a knack for tweaking that form to a present-day, and very modern result. (more…)

1750 Bedford Ave, Firestone, composite

In recognition of 10 years of Brownstoner, here’s one of my favorite Past and Presents. It showcases a rare example of an interesting slice of life and culture that is still standing and has its original use.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Bedford Avenue is the longest street in Brooklyn, stretching from Greenpoint to Sheepshead Bay. Because it was such an important north/south corridor, it was a natural location for the development of the automobile industry, in the early 20th century. Much of the street between Bedford and Flatbush was undeveloped, so what better place than a street that cuts through so many neighborhoods, to place automobile showrooms, garages, service stations and other related businesses? The fact that Bedford and Flatbush were affluent neighborhoods didn’t hurt, either.

By 1912, there were already twenty-five auto establishments on this section of Bedford, between Fulton and Empire Blvd, called Malbone Street until 1918. By 1929, the traffic along Bedford was so thick that the police had to erect a traffic station at Grant Square to control it all. (more…)

10/16/14 3:00pm

1940 E. 36 St. Lotthouse. Stu-Joe 1

We could do a month of important buildings in Brooklyn and not cover them all. But this one has to go on the list. We all come from somewhere, and Brooklyn began with houses like this. Our 10th anniversary tribute continues.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Hendrick I. Lott House
Address: 1940 East 36th Street
Cross Streets: Fillmore Avenue and Avenue S
Neighborhood: Marine Park
Year Built: Oldest part 1719, main house 1800
Architectural Style: Vernacular Dutch Colonial
Architect/Builder: Henrick I. Lott, building upon earlier Johannes Lott house
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1989) and National Register of Historic Places.

The story: We don’t often stray far beyond brownstone Brooklyn and Victorian Flatbush, but it’s time some attention was paid to some of the oldest houses in the borough. There aren’t many left. The Dutch settlers who came here in the early and mid-1600s gave us the towns that would make up Kings County, and their names, many of which are quite familiar to us as street and neighborhood names. Lefferts, Remsen, Lott, Schermerhorn, Vanderbilt, Wyckoff, Van Nostrand, Suydam, Van Siclen, Schenck, Van Brunt, and many more.

Their names remain, but their homes, by and large, are long gone. We here in New York City are always growing so fast, we think nothing of plowing under the past, and replacing it as soon as possible with the new, only to see that disappear in time. This is not a 21st century conceit; it’s been going on for centuries. Consequently, most of the early homes of the 17th and 18th centuries are gone. Those precious few that remain have survived mostly because the families that built them have held on to them, literally, for centuries. The location helps, too. The further away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, the better, when it comes to a house beating the odds of survival. The Lott house is one of those lucky few that is still with us. (more…)

321A Jefferson Ave, CB, PS

Brooklyn in 1983 was certainly not the Brooklyn of today. That’s a mixed blessing, if you ask me. My mother and I found a one family brownstone for rent in Bedford Stuyvesant through the Amsterdam News. We ran out from the Bronx to see it, and impressed the landlady and got the place. The house had only been purchased by the owner a few months before, and had belonged to the last little old white lady on the block.

We loved the house. It was a three and a half story Neo-Grec brownstone. Our house was one of a group of five smaller houses amidst larger four story buildings. The house was an old house lover’s dream come true – an untouched one family house, complete with just all of the original features. About the only thing that had been done to the house since it was built had been the installation of electricity and central heat. Even that was pretty old. Some of the wiring was still cloth covered cording, and the pan and glass fixtures from the early 20th century were all either on pull chains or operated with push button switches. There were only two outlets in each room. (more…)

10/15/14 3:00pm

121 NY Ave, NYMethChurch, SSPellen 4

Here is the second in my celebration of important Brooklyn buildings covered over the years in Brownstoner. Happy 10th anniversary.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally New York Avenue Methodist Church, now Union United Methodist
Address: 121 New York Avenue
Cross Streets: Dean and Bergen Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1891
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Josiah Cleveland Cady
Other Buildings by Architect: Manhattan: Old Metropolitan Opera House (demolished) 77th St. southern wing of the Museum of Natural History. In Brooklyn – 1290 Pacific Street in Crown Heights North, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Williamsburg.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase I of Crown Heights North HD (2007)

The story: This church is the embodiment of the hymn “A mighty fortress is our God.” It’s a massive brick masterpiece of seven connected masses stretching the entire block, consisting of the entrance porch, vestibule, auditorium, tower, Sunday school, parlor and rectory. Depending on which way you approach the building, it’s a visual treat, and a marvel of design, materials and construction. (more…)

10/14/14 3:00pm

Prospect Park Boathouse, SSpellen 1

This week we are celebrating Brownstoner’s 10th anniversary. I’ve picked four favorites from past columns to celebrate. Here’s the first:

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Audubon Center at the Boathouse, aka Prospect Park Boathouse
Address: 101 East Drive (offical address)
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1905
Architectural Style: Italian Renaissance Revival
Architect: Helmle & Huberty, 1999 restoration — Ralph Carmosino
Other buildings by architect: Tennis House in Prospect Park. St. Barbara’s Church, Bushwick. St. Gregory’s Church, Crown Heights North. Bossert Hotel, Brooklyn Heights. Park Shelter, McGolrick Park, Greenpoint
Landmarked: Yes

The story: If I could ever decide on a definitive list of the 10 best buildings in Brooklyn, I’d have to find room for this one. It’s simply, and in the best sense of the word simply, magnificent. It also has a great history, and we are very lucky that it’s still here.

When Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed this great park, they built manmade structures to enhance the natural beauty of the park, and provide places to congregate for events, or sit and enjoy the natural preserve. The first boathouse, built in 1876, sat on piers, and faced south. In 1905, this Classically inspired, terra-cotta encased building was designed to replace it. It faces west, by the way, purposefully to catch the sunsets over the water. (more…)

10/14/14 10:45am

Gilbertsville, NY 1

This week is a celebration of Brownstoner’s 10th anniversary. Ten years! How time does fly! Instead of a story about a historic Brooklyn place or person, this week’s two Walkabouts are about old houses, brownstones, fixer-uppers and my Brownstoner journey.

I grew up in an old house. I spent 17 years in an old Italianate farmhouse in a small town in upstate New York called Gilbertsville, population 400. The house was built in the 1850s or 1860s, a vernacular Victorian farmhouse with a wraparound porch overlooking a beautiful valley. We moved upstate from Queens when I was six, and I can still remember the first time we walked into the house. My parents had bought the property, which came with 254 acres, pretty much sight unseen, on the recommendation of my paternal grandmother, who for some never explained reason, had moved up there from Harlem some years before. They paid $10,000 for it. On a mortgage, of course. (more…)