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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

botd-map-102214

Pratt student and Brownstoner reader Matthew Petric has mapped all the buildings profiled in Brownstoner’s Building of the Day series over the years and has very kindly shared with us the link. His tongue-in-cheek title: “Brooklyn, one (thousand) building(s) at a time.”

The map can be clicked, searched by address and, most interestingly, viewed by date (or a range of dates) of construction.

Thank you, Matt, for making our architectural history columns more accessible and showing them from a new angle. The map was created for Pratt class Spatial Thinking, Data, and Design.

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…)

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…)

1-hanson-place-3-101714

You can’t celebrate Brooklyn or 10 years of Brownstoner without the Williamsburgh Bank building, one of Brooklyn’s greatest structures.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building
Address: 1 Hanson Place, corner of Ashland Place
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1927-29
Architectural Style: Art Deco, with Byzantine and Romanesque influences
Architect: Halsey, McCormack & Helmer
Other buildings by architects: Central Methodist Church, next door, redo of Former Dime SB at Fulton Mall, Former Kings County SB at Nostrand and Eastern Parkway, former Brevoort SB on Fulton Street, Bed Stuy.
Landmarked: Yes. Brooklyn Academy of Music HD,1977. Bank interior, lobby, landmarked in 1996.

The story: Like thousands of Brooklynites who worked or walked in the area, I used this building hundreds of times to check the time. My mother’s dentist was in this building. For many people, this building IS Brooklyn, almost as much as the Brooklyn Bridge is. For many years, Brooklyn’s tallest building, (second now, thanks to the Brooklyner) the Williamsburgh Bank Building is an icon of our borough, as well as one of New York City’s most beautiful skyscrapers.

The firm of Halsey, McCormack and Helmer produced some great bank buildings, not only in Brooklyn, but also the Dollar Savings Bank in the Bronx, and the Greenwich Savings Bank on 57th Street in Manhattan. The firm organized in 1920, with Hayward Halsey, a developer, former banker George H. McCormack, and architect Robert Helmer, who took charge of the design office, and is responsible for actually designing all of their buildings. If you think about it, this partnership was perfect. Banker McCormick was well-connected to the industry, and could get their foot in the door. He also knew intimately what was needed in the design of a proper bank. Helmer designed, and Halsey got it built.
(more…)

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…)

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…)