Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Row houses
Address: 175-183 6th Avenue
Cross Streets: Lincoln and Berkeley places
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1889
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Frederick B. Langston
Other work by architect: Row houses on Hancock Street, Bedford Stuyvesant. With frequent partner Magnus Dahlander – row houses, flats buildings in Crown Heights North, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Bedford Stuyvesant and Stuyvesant Heights.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Park Slope HD (1973)
The story: As we should all know by now, the vast majority of Brooklyn’s row house stock was built as speculative housing. A developer, usually a small local operator, would buy several plots of land and build houses, which were then sold to eager customers. In the final quarter of the 19th century, neighborhoods like Park Slope, Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights took off, growing as fast as buildings could be built, with only a few economic hiccups slowing it down to reality every once in a while. Between 1875 and 1900, the air in the Brooklyn was filled with the sounds of shovels, hammers and saws, and the shouts of men as they built.
I find walking our blocks fascinating because of the mixture of periods and styles. As fast as the building activity was, it did not progress street by street. Developers could only buy land that was available for sale at the time. So we see blocks of Italianate brownstones from the early 1870s, groups of Neo-Grecs from ten years later, houses of the Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne styles, and Renaissance Revival and Colonial Revival often all appearing in close proximity. You could have 35 years of urban row housing on the same block or two. That’s what makes Brooklyn so beautiful and so much fun to walk around.
This group is a fine example. The houses in the middle of the block, numbers 185 to 191 are Italianates, built in 1874-75. This group of houses, which make up the rest of the block, is in the Romanesque Revival style, designed by Frederick B. Langston, and built for developer James A. Bills in 1889, fifteen years later. They are quite different in style, as you can see. F.B. Langston was quite a busy man. He was designing houses on his own, and in 1891, went into a one year partnership with Swedish architect Magnus Dahlander.
On his own, or with Dahlander, Langston was building some of Brooklyn’s finest housing stock. Their row of houses on Bainbridge Street, between Lewis and Stuyvesant, in Stuyvesant Heights, is one of the very best in the city, and Langston’s large row houses on Hancock Street, between Nostrand and Marcy, in Bedford, are equally as magnificent. Langston doesn’t often make the architectural pantheon because he wasn’t a full-time architect, but if this is what he could do in his spare time, just think what he could have accomplished if this was his only interest. (more…)