499 Bedford Ave. Cross Hs, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Marvin Cross house, now apartments
Address: 499 Bedford Avenue
Cross Streets: Clymer and Taylor streets
Neighborhood: Williamsburg
Year Built: 1870s, most likely
Architectural Style: Second Empire
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: The stretch of Bedford Avenue between Division Street and Flushing Avenue was Williamsburg’s best residential street, beginning at the end of the 1870s. The blocks between Division and Keap Streets were especially fine and were the Gold Coast of the neighborhood. Mansions sprang up there until the end of the 19th century, built by the neighborhood’s merchant princes.

Towards the end of the century, when the fashionable areas of town moved elsewhere, some of these large houses became clubhouses for the wealthy and politically connected men of Williamsburg and the Eastern District. Today’s house mirrored that trend, but in reverse. (more…)

305 Livingston St. SB, PS

 

Name: Mixed use retail and residential row house
Address: 305 Livingston Street
Cross Streets: Nevins and Bond streets
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: Before 1880
Architectural Style: Probably Italianate wood frame, now neo-Classical
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Nowhere is Brooklyn changing faster than downtown. The pace is astounding.

Many of the new buildings replace parking lots and banal government buildings that were built in the mid-20th century. But others replace much older building stock. Some of it was pretty ordinary, and some of it is a real loss. This block of Livingston Street is one of the last of the old-time small store blocks on the avenues behind Fulton Street.

Most of Livingston and Schermerhorn streets looked like this block 100 years ago. Both streets began their lives as purely residential, with rows of brownstones and wooden row houses dating mostly from the 1840s to 1860s.

As Brooklyn grew, and this area became part of the Fulton Street shopping and theater district, some of the row houses were converted into mixed-use storefronts with apartments above, and many more were torn down and replaced with commercial buildings.

305 Livingston is a holdout from the very old days. (more…)

46 Sullivan Street, Bethelship, KL, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Bethelship Seamen’s Branch, YMCA. Now apartments.
Address: 47 Sullivan Street
Cross Streets: Corner Richards Street
Neighborhood: Red Hook
Year Built: 1921-1922
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival with some Rundbogenstil details
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Sailors from all over the world stepped onto Brooklyn’s shores along the Red Hook waterfront. Sailors have often lost themselves in more ways than one on the piers of foreign ports, and Brooklyn was as tempting or as frightening a place as anywhere else.

Some of the local churches saw these sailors as a worthy social and religious harvest of souls, and established mission churches and chapels near many different parts of the Brooklyn waterfront. Here in Red Hook, the evangelical zeal was provided by members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Many of the sailors, as well as local workers, were Scandinavian. The Bethelship Norwegian Methodist Church and the Brooklyn and Long Island Church Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church established a mission in a much older church building and rectory at this location in 1911. In 1918, the Bethelship Branch of the YMCA was established here. (more…)

135-137 Jefferson Ave, NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former garages, now church
Address: 135-137 Jefferson Avenue
Cross Streets: Bedford and Nostrand avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: Late 1890s
Architectural Style: Transitional Romanesque – Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: We build nice storage facilities for the things we treasure. From Egyptian tombs to banks, to massive storage facilities with climate control and private viewing booths, our prize possessions can be as pampered as our purses allow. Wealthy Victorians had fabulously luxurious stables built for their prize horses and carriages.

This block has always been a mixture of service and residential buildings, and took a long time to develop. Over the course of the late 19th and early 20th century, row houses replaced wood framed stables and homes. Many of them were replaced by later service buildings and tenements. Some of the land just remained empty.

The map of this block from 1880 shows no buildings on this site. Nothing was here on maps dating from 1886 or 1888, either. It wasn’t until the map of 1904 that a building was placed here, and the rest of the lots going east were filled in. (more…)

155-159 Lafayette Ave, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Flats buildings
Address: 155-159 Lafayette Avenue
Cross Streets: Carlton Avenue and Adelphi Street
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1897
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival with Palladian and Classical details
Architect: Frank Bosworth
Other Buildings by Architect: Was not able to find any
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Green Historic District (1978)

The story: The architect of these two twin flats buildings was an unknown named Frank Bosworth. He would have loved the Internet, because it takes only one real estate ad to create a tsunami of positive hype for oneself that is still rather amazing even in this day of jaded Internet use — as our story will show.

When I looked up Frank Bosworth, to see if he had designed anything else, I got a flood of entries. The only problem was that they were all copies of one listing for one of the larger apartments in the building, first run in 2014.

The real estate broker had described the building as being built by “famed architect Frank Bosworth.” Because that description was repeated by all the sites that rerun the listings, “famed architect Frank Bosworth” finally got his 15 minutes of, well…fame. An entire page of Frank Bosworth mentions. Unfortunately for us architect geeks, that was it.

Mr. Bosworth remains a cypher, an unknown in the pantheon of Brooklyn architects. (more…)

38 Garden Pl. SB, PS

Name: Row house
Address: 38 Garden Place
Cross Streets: Joralemon and State Streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: Around 1848, perhaps as early as 1846
Architectural Style: Greek Revival with later alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights Historic District (1965)

Garden Place, a one block enclave of row houses and small apartment buildings between Hicks and Henry Street was originally called Garden Street.

Philip Livingston – a merchant, a gentleman farmer, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence – owned most of the land making up Brooklyn Heights, and Garden Street was where his large formal garden could be found.

As the 19th century progressed, Livingston’s heirs sold off their land and the garden gave way to the streets and buildings we have today, including this one. Parts of the stone wall that separated the garden from the adjacent orchards still form the back fence of some of the houses on the street.

(more…)

530-554 President Street, NS, PS 1

Name: Former Hildebrand Baking Company

Address: 530-554 President Street
Cross Streets: 3rd and 4th avenues
Neighborhood: Gowanus
Year Built: 1890-1902
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Charles Werner
Other Buildings by Architect: St. Francis Xavier Academy in Park Slope, row houses and apartment buildings in Park Slope, Stuyvesant Heights, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, O. Wissner Piano factory, Atlantic Avenue (demolished)
Landmarked: No, but part of proposed National Register and NYC Landmark Historic Districts

 

The Hildebrand Baking Company was founded by three brothers; John, Harry and Fred Hildebrand. The brothers built the first of the buildings in this complex around 1890, and added to it until completed in 1902. The first buildings were the two story bakery buildings, followed by the three story buildings at the turn of the 20th century. All of them appear to have been designed by Charles Werner.

Charles Werner was one of those competent, but low-key architects who helped build Brooklyn, but one whose name is generally overlooked. He had a long career, and was pretty prolific. He set up his offices in 1876, at 82-86 Schermerhorn Street, and later moved to larger offices in what became the architect’s building of choice; the Garfield Building, on Court Street. He was also quartermaster of the 13th Regiment, and his name appears on the records when their new armory in Bedford was being constructed in the 1890s. (more…)

352-386 Parkside Ave, SSPellen 4Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Two family duplex row houses
Address: 352-386, and 377-409 Parkside Avenue
Cross Streets: Flatbush and Bedford Avenues
Neighborhood: Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Year Built: Around 1910
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival-Colonial Revival mixture
Architect: Unknown, but perhaps Benjamin Dreisler
Other Buildings by Architect: If by Dreisler, many buildings in PLG, Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, and other parts of Flatbush
Landmarked: No, although should be

The story: Many years ago, when I first started reading Brownstoner, I became embroiled in online “discussions” about Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I had only been there once, a short trip to one block of the neighborhood to look at a house with my mother. I don’t know where we were, since I did not know the neighborhood. In retrospect, it may have been Maple Street. At any rate, I empathized with the PLG people who were defending their neighborhood’s quality of life and architectural beauty. One day, someone offered to drive me around PLG, and as much as I liked all parts of the neighborhood, I really loved this block.

At the time, this was considered a “sketchy” block (not fond of that word), but it was undeniable that the architecture was superb. I always wondered why this block was not included in the PLG landmark district, as the buildings on this block are more than worthy. Perhaps it’s because of the apartment buildings, or perhaps because it was down market from the other blocks in Lefferts Manor, proper, but it was a huge oversight, in my opinion. (more…)

213-235 Clermont Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 213-235 Clermont Avenue
Cross Streets: DeKalb and Willoughby Avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1868-1871
Architectural Style: French Second Empire
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: My introduction to Brooklyn came from my BFF, who was a student at Pratt Institute during the late 1970s, through early 80s. When she graduated, she stayed in the neighborhood for many years afterward. I was living in the Bronx at that time, but used to visit often, and because she moved around a lot, I saw a lot of apartments in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. Most of them were pretty awful student housing hovels, back in the day when you could rent almost anything to a starving art student. But after she had a decent job, her apartment choices got better, and her last apartment in Brooklyn was in this group of houses.

I was still living in a 1930s apartment in the Bronx, which was a totally different aesthetic than a floor-through in an 1868 row house. I loved her apartment, which was on the third floor of one of these houses. I’ll never forget it had two beautiful intricately carved marble fireplaces, one in the front and one in the back rooms. One had the bust of a woman in the center, and both had the patina of age. Thank goodness, they had never been covered in paint. (more…)

58 7th Ave, BCM, Jim Henderson for Wiki

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally William M. Brasher home, now Brooklyn Conservatory of Music
Address: 58 7th Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Lincoln Place
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1881
Architectural Style: Victorian Gothic/Queen Anne
Architect: S. F. Evelette
Other Buildings by Architect: 312 Clinton Avenue, Clinton Hill
Landmarked: Yes, part of Park Slope Historic District (1973)

The story: William M. Brasher was a major manufacturer of oilcloths during the mid to late-19th century. He operated a factory on 7th Avenue at 20th Street for many years. He did quite well with these alternatives to rugs and carpets, enough so that he could afford to build a fine mansion on the corner of 7th Avenue and Lincoln Place, in Park Slope. The large house was designed in the popular Victorian High Gothic style of the day. The house also has strong elements of Queen Anne styling, as evidenced in the massing of the different parts of the house, the mixture of materials used, and how they were assembled on the façade and interior.

The architect of this project was a little-known architect named S. F. Evelette, who had his offices on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Not finding his first name, the only other building I could find for him is 312 Clinton Avenue, a four story brownstone in the Queen Anne style. The house was built at a time when the creation of Prospect Park and the neighborhood’s convenience to Flatbush Avenue and public transportation was causing it to grow rapidly. The blocks closest to the Park were already becoming home to some of Brooklyn’s wealthiest people. (more…)

2301 Neptune Ave, CI pumping station, Jim Henderson for Wiki

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Coney Island Pumping Station
Address: 2301 Neptune Avenue
Cross Streets: West 23rd Street and Bayview Avenue
Neighborhood: Coney Island
Year Built: 1938-39
Architectural Style: Moderne
Architect: Irwin S. Chanin
Other Buildings by Architect: Chanin Building, Century and Majestic apartment buildings, as well as Broadway theaters and Garment Center buildings, all Manhattan
Landmarked: No, but on National Register of Historic Places (1981)

The story: Way out on the northern side of Coney Island, the City of New York built a Pumping Station building for the Fire Department. The year was 1938, and the city was still awarding prominent city buildings to some of its most important architects of the day. The pumping station was necessary to maintain water pressure on this side of Coney Island, rather ironic considering that right behind it was the beginning of the inlet known as Coney Island Creek, part of the mighty Gravesend Bay.

The station is a one-story oblong building designed in the Moderne style of architecture, the beginnings of the American version of the sleek and modern International Style. This style was quite popular with Depression-era public buildings here in New York, and was hailed as an example of the new clean style of building that was replacing our dated reliance on Colonial Revival and other classical forms of public architecture. This was one of many government PWA (Public Works Projects) buildings constructed during the Great Depression. (more…)

1677 St. Marks Ave, Presentation, CC 4

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Our Lady of the Presentation-Loreto Roman Catholic Church
Address: 1677 St. Marks Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Rockaway Boulevard
Neighborhood: Ocean Hill
Year Built: 1910-1911
Architectural Style: Byzantine Revival
Architect: Frank J. Helmle
Other Buildings by Architect: St. Barbara’s Catholic Church in Bushwick, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Crown Heights North, plus Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn Heights, Boat House in Prospect Park, Park shelters in Fulton and McGolrick parks, Greenpoint Savings Bank and Williamsburg Trust bank, and many, many more
Landmarked: No

The story: The more I find out about Frank Helmle’s work, the more I have to move him up in the pantheon of Brooklyn’s great architects. The man had incredible talent and versatility. He had an uncanny and valuable ability to take the architecture of other times, places and cultures and translate it into something modern for his time and place. He used this talent often and well, but it is perhaps most clearly shown in his church architecture.

This parish started out a long way from a corner lot at the joining of several important streets in Ocean Hill. Our Lady of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was started in 1887 in the South Brooklyn home of the Reverend Hugh Hand. The first real mass was celebrated in Luhr’s Hall, on East New York Avenue and Osborne Street with 30 people in attendance. The congregation purchased this corner plot and had a wood-framed church built within the next year or so. That wooden church was soon too small, and it was enlarged in 1896. When the church was built, so too was the brick rectory building next door.

Rev. Hand remained the pastor here until his death in 1909. That year, Rev. James F. Flynn was made the pastor. He was in charge when the wooden church burned down in 1910. The church rallied, held mass in a large tent erected on site, and began raising money to build a new church. Rev. Flynn had a reputation for appreciating good architecture and knowing his architects, so he must have been quite happy to have Frank J. Helmle on board to design the new church. He may have even suggested him. (more…)