921-931 Fulton St. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Flats buildings with stores below
Address: 921-931 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Clinton and Waverly avenues
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: around 1898
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: This set of five buildings is a rare cast iron group here in Clinton Hill. The unknown architect and developer chose to clad all five buildings in sheet metal, enabling them to incorporate a number of classical details at relatively small expense.

This part of Fulton Street — winding its way through Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Bedford — has long been a mixture of residential and commercial buildings. There’s another special cast iron building further down at 375 Fulton.

But as our 1887 Sanborn Insurance map shows, before this group was built, the block was home to a row of two-and-a-half story wood-framed storefronts with apartments above. The storefronts were occupied by a tailor, a plumber, a baker and other neighborhood necessities.

Around 1897 or so, those smaller buildings were torn down and replaced with the four-story iron-fronted buildings we see today. Each of them has a commercial space on the ground floor and three stories of floor-through apartments above.

1173-1179 Bushwick Ave, CB, PS 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1173-1179 Bushwick Avenue
Cross Streets: Cornelia Street and Jefferson Avenue
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1880
Architectural Style: Transitional Italianate/Neo-Grec
Architect: Thomas F. Houghton
Other works by architect: St. Agnes Catholic Church and school, Carroll Gardens; Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Stuyvesant Heights; St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Park Slope. Also row houses and other buildings in Stuyvesant Heights, Crown Heights North, and elsewhere
Landmarked: No

The story: At first glance, these transitional Italianate and Neo-Grec homes are just another group of four modest brownstones. But here, as in all of his work, architect Thomas Houghton created beauty in the details.

These four houses were designed by one of the East Coast’s premiere Catholic Church architects, best known for his churches here in Brooklyn, Manhattan and in Massachusetts.

Houghton learned from the best of the best, Patrick Keely, and became part of the family by marrying the boss’s daughter. (more…)

971-975 Bedford Avenue, EBSB, SSpellen 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally East Brooklyn Savings Bank, now Chase Bank
Address: 971-975 Bedford Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner DeKalb Avenue
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: 1920-1922
Architectural Style: Neo-classical
Architect: Koch & Wagner
Other works by architect: Ralph Bunche House, Kew Gardens; Ridgewood Masonic Temple, Bushwick
Landmarked: No

The story: The East Brooklyn Savings Bank was founded in 1860. Like most local banks of this period, it was started by area businessmen and merchants as a place where they could conveniently park their money, while offering the neighborhood banking services.

Savings banks were always popular in growing neighborhoods, in part because you didn’t have to be rich to have a savings account, just thrifty. And thrift paid off, as savings banks offered interest. The banks grew rapidly.

Soon after the bank incorporated, the first branch opened on the corner of Franklin and Myrtle avenues. It was a small building, and the bank soon moved to a larger building across the street at 643 Myrtle Avenue, where it stayed until 1922.

That building still stands, although the founders of this bank would never recognize it.

As time passed, the East Brooklyn Savings Bank grew, and eventually opened branches in Bay Ridge and other neighborhoods far from its base. It was among Brooklyn’s most successful savings banks. (more…)

820 President Street, KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: The Verona
Address: 820 President Street
Cross Streets: Corner 7th Avenue
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: John G. Glover
Other works by architect: Graham Home for Old Ladies; Van Glahn Brothers’ stables, homes and warehouses, all in Clinton Hill. Row houses and tenement buildings in Park Slope and Clinton Hill, Acme Hall in Park Slope
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed expanded Park Slope Historic District

The story: In an effort to get high-class folk to move into apartment buildings, developers and their architects in the late 19th century had to go all out to avoid elements that would remind people of tenements.

It’s ironic that an educated and amazingly well-traveled American audience would not approve of something so urbane and European as a finely appointed apartment. Wealthy Parisians, Londoners, and Venetians had been living in them for centuries.

The late 1880s gave Brooklyn’s more upscale neighborhoods their first luxury apartment buildings. Joining buildings like the Alhambra, the Arlington and the Montague was this one – the Verona. (more…)

137-149 Lafayette Ave, SB, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Altered row houses
Address: 137-147 Lafayette Avenue
Cross Streets: Cumberland Street and Carlton Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: Original buildings, 1860s; major alterations, 1934
Architectural Style: Originally Italianate, now Colonial Revival
Architect: Unknown; 1934 alterations, Horace B. Mann
Other works by architect: With partner Perry R. McNeille: “Kinko” houses in Crown Heights North and Park Slope, suburban houses in New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester and the Fieldston Historic District in the Bronx
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: How times and fashions change! When the row houses of Fort Greene were built, primarily in the 1860s and ‘70s, a single-family house was seen as the optimal family home. But 80 years later, things had changed.

Apartments were the new homes of choice. But the lack of available land for new buildings, and a paucity of available funds during the middle years of the Great Depression, meant that developers needed to get creative in order to meet that need.

The front page of the Brooklyn Eagle’s real estate section on Sunday, September 23, 1934, featured extensive coverage of a project that was midway to completion on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene. (more…)

293-299 Cumberland St. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Wood-framed row houses
Address: 293-299 Cumberland Street
Cross Streets: Lafayette and Greene avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1853
Architectural Style: Greek Revival, with alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: The Greek Revival style of architecture began to grow in popularity in the United States in the 1820s. By the 1830s and ’40s, the features we most readily associate with the style — the white temple-style buildings, the columns and the pediments — had been blueprinted in architectural style books.

These books became the guides that thousands of American builders, both known and unknown, used as the basis for their own designs. Greek Revival vernacular buildings became common from the Ohio Valley to New England, throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, and throughout the South.

This particular group nestled here on Cumberland Street is actually two pairs of attached row houses. Their presence is quite wonderful and unexpected in a neighborhood predominated by brownstone row houses. (more…)

457 Rugby Rd, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Detached single-family wood-framed house
Address: 457 Rugby Road
Cross Streets: Dorchester and Ditmas Avenues
Neighborhood: Ditmas Park West
Year Built: 1910-11
Architectural Style: Queen Anne with a hint of Arts and Crafts
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No, but filed with LPC for consideration, and should be.

The story: Developer Louis H. Pounds, through his Manor Realty Company, purchased the land that currently makes up Ditmas Park and Ditmas Park West in 1902 from the Ditmarsen family, which had farmed here since the late 1600s.

Flatbush was Brooklyn’s new suburbia at this time, with several important developers overseeing the transition as old farmlands became lots with fine homes for Brooklyn’s wealthier set, who wanted to be within reach of the city, but not in it.

Many of these developers, including Pounds, were looking at the model set forth by Dean Alvord, the master developer of posh Prospect Park South, only blocks from here.

Alvord’s development of PPS had begun in 1898, and by the time Pounds began working on Ditmas Park, Alvord was well on his way, with wide streets filling up with grand, enormous houses. (more…)

54 Greene Ave, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 54 Greene Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Adelphi Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1868
Architectural Style: Italianate (once)
Architect: Thomas Skelly (builder)
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: Most of Fort Greene was developed in the busy years just after the Civil War. Brooklyn’s population soared due to manufacturing and business growth. The population began to spread eastward from Brooklyn Heights, aided by better roads and public transportation.

Small developer/builders such as Thomas Skelly bought as many lots as they could in Fort Greene, and built hundreds of row houses, most in some variation of the popular Italianate style.

Skelly built all ten houses on this side of the block, between Adelphi and Clermont. He built them in two groups; numbers 54-66 were built in 1868. Their stoops and doorways were built on the left. Numbers 68-72 were built in 1869, and their stoops and doorways are on the right.

All of the houses in this group survived the century and a half pretty much intact, except today’s house, number 54. (more…)

554 Washington Ave, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Semi-detached house
Address: 554 Washington Avenue
Cross Streets: Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: Around 1872
Architectural Style: Italianate with Second Empire details
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No, but part of Clinton Hill South Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places (1986)

The story: Because it’s on the far side of Fulton Street, between Fulton and Atlantic Avenue, the architecture over here sometimes gets overlooked. Fulton Street, one of the busiest in the city, can be a great divider, if only psychologically.

But there is actually a lot going on over here, with several buildings worth a second look. This home is certainly one of them. It’s a wonderful Italianate/Second Empire villa, with great eyebrow dormers, tucked away in the middle of the block. (more…)

204 Livingston St. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Mixed-use commercial and residential building
Address: 204 Livingston Street
Cross Streets: Smith and Hoyt streets
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1909
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Clarence R. Van Buskirk
Other works by architect: Ebbetts Field baseball stadium
Landmarked: No

The story: Before this building was constructed this address was taken up by a four-story row house, one of many built in the 1860s on this once-residential street.

Over the years following, most of these houses went from one-family homes to multi-family rooming houses. Many of them also lost their ground and parlor floors to storefronts.

Number 204 Livingston ceased being a one-family residence, but maintained its original configuration on the parlor level. In 1893, a charitable group called the Women’s Health Protective Association took over the floor as their headquarters. (more…)

1095-1099 Park Place, CDB, LPC 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1095-1099 Park Place
Cross Streets: Kingston Avenue and Hampton Place
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1899
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: August Norberg
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District (2015)

The story: Two-family houses were standard fare for this eastern part of Crown Heights North at the turn of the 20th century. Ninety percent of the row houses in the new Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District are two-families.

But within that broad category are some great examples of diversity and talent. The neighborhood’s streetscape reflects that on every block. These houses are among those examples.

Numbers 1095-1099 Park Place were built in 1899, designed by August Norberg. He was one of those architectural ciphers who pop in, design something that makes you think they could have been quite stellar, and then disappear. (more…)

205 DeKalb Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 205 Dekalb Avenue
Cross Streets: Carlton Avenue and Adelphi Street
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1860s
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: Some of our architecture is notable for its beauty, some for its ugliness. Sometimes we’re drawn by the genius of a building’s designers and craftsmen, its functionality, or just the sheer awesomeness of it. And sometimes, we note a building because of who lived there.

Twin houses 205 and 207 Dekalb Avenue were part of the residential building boom of the 1860s, when Fort Greene seemed to spring up almost overnight.

A robust post-Civil War economy spurred the expansion of Brooklyn, creating homes for a new middle class of merchants and small business owners, white-collar workers and others eager to live in this fast-growing city.

Like most of the houses built at this time, these were in the Italianate style; they were classic brownstones with heavily carved window and door hoods, tall stoops, overhanging wooden cornices and substantial entryways with carved brackets flanking tall, elegant wooden doors. (more…)