194 Columbia Hts, B Eldredge 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row House
Address: 194 Columbia Heights
Cross Streets: Pierrepont and Clark streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1860
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights Historic District (1965)

The story: Brooklyn Heights is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in New York City. A historic row house on Columbia Heights, with rear Promenade and Manhattan views, is quite alluring, so it’s no wonder that a neglected, boarded-up house in that location would be the subject of curiosity and desire.

Unfortunately, this report does not solve that mystery. The property has been owned by Dr. Austin Moore since 1969. For whatever reason, he’s been unable or unwilling to do anything with it, other than emergency repairs. He has also refused to sell. But today’s BOTD is not about that.

Rather, it’s a look at the original owner and his family – a family that had the house built and lived in it for at least 80 years. (more…)

235 Duffield, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 235 Duffield Street
Cross Streets: Fulton and Willoughby Streets
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: Early 20th century
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Like all of Downtown Brooklyn’s side streets, Duffield Street was once mostly residential. It was lined first with wood-framed row houses, and later, brick and mortar row houses and small tenements.

This lot used to have one of those wood-framed row houses on it, part of a group which included the neighboring house. These houses have evidence of use as safe houses and escape routes on the Underground Railroad.

This building replaced one of the frame houses, and was built sometime in the early 20th century. It is first mentioned in the papers in 1906.

It was constructed as the block was rapidly transitioning from mixed use residential to commercial, and was probably built with the two storefronts on the bottom two floors.

This white brick Renaissance Revival building is somewhat a rarity in the neighborhood. Most of the row houses are much earlier, dating from either before or just after the Civil War. They were made of wood or brownstone.

This would have been considered quite a modern building for its day, as innovative as one of the modern glass buildings that are rapidly replacing its neighbors.

This was the building that hair built. In the beginning, it was known as the Gem. (more…)

907 Fulton St. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

When the police raided a gambling den in this building in 1911, patrons escaped by riding down the dumb waiter. Just a few years later, the same space became the clubhouse for one of Brooklyn’s first Colored Boy Scout Troops.

Name: Commercial building
Address: 899-907 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner Clinton Avenue
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: Around 1908
Architectural Style: Renaissance -Romanesque Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

“The Hill” goes from mansions to apartments.
By the end of the 19th century, Clinton Hill was enjoying its status as one of Brooklyn’s wealthiest and most popular neighborhoods. Grand mansions and townhouses lined Clinton and Washington Avenues, and large churches dotted the streetscape.

In addition to the single family houses, elegant hotels and apartment buildings also rose on these same streets, and “The Hill” as it was called, was still growing.

It stands to reason, therefore, that suitable retail establishments would open on Fulton Street, easily accessible to public transportation and pedestrian traffic.

However, commerce didn’t happen all at once. This building was built on a site once part of a large mansion facing Clinton Avenue. That home stood until at least sometime after 1904, as it appears on the Sanborn Insurance map for that year.

The mansion and its neighbor succumbed to development, and a few years later were replaced by three apartment buildings and this group of stores. (more…)

340-344 9th St. KL, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 340-344 9th Street
Cross Streets: 5th and 6th Avenue
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1887
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: C.P.H. Gilbert
Other works by architect: In Brooklyn – David Chauncey House in Bklyn Hts, Adams mansion and fine townhouses on Carroll Street, Montgomery Place, Garfield Place and more in Park Slope.
Landmarked: No

The story: When city planners laid out Brooklyn’s streets, they had a fair idea which ones would become commercial and which ones would remain residential. But there have always been those streets that start out one way, and as development, transportation and other factors intervene, become something else.

This is one of those streets.

In 1883, a young architect named Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert came back to New York from the Wild West. He had been in Arizona and Colorado designing buildings in mining towns. By 1887, he was designing row houses in Brooklyn, at the start of what would be a monumental architectural career in New York City.

This group of four houses was his first Brooklyn commission. (more…)

446 Greene, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 446 Greene Avenue
Cross Streets: Bedford and Nostrand avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: Around 1885
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Unknown, possibly Amzi Hill
Other works by architect: Hill designed the houses on both sides of this one, as well as hundreds of row houses, as well as apartment buildings in Bedford Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant Heights, and Clinton Hill
Landmarked: No, but this block deserves to be landmarked

The story: Until recently, this was one of the great undiscovered blocks of Bedford Stuyvesant. It’s a bit removed from the core of the central Bedford neighborhood near Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street.

Nonetheless, this block of Greene Avenue became a repository of some of Bedford Stuyvesant’s best row house architecture. Italianate, Neo-Grec, French Neo-Grec and Queen Anne style houses line this block, providing great visual interest and variety.

One house stands out, however, mid-block: a beauty with a large round three-story bay topped with a decorative cast iron balcony and a mansard roof. This house must have been built for someone special. (more…)

194 Butler Street, Google Maps 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Detached wood-frame house
Address: 194 Butler Street
Cross Streets: Bond and Nevins streets
Neighborhood: Gowanus
Year Built: Around 1880
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: This small block, right at the edge of the Gowanus Canal, is a rare surviving example of what Brooklyn housing once looked like.

The Gowanus Canal was more or less finished by 1869, and the development of all kinds of industries sprang up over the next decades. The largest of these needed the canal to transport raw materials and fuels into Brooklyn, and finished products out.

The area grew rapidly as an industrial hub, and that meant jobs and workers. Working within walking distance of home is something well appreciated by everyone throughout history, no matter the job or status.

Builders and developers understood this, and jumped on any available land that was not slated for industry. They knew that most of the work force would be unskilled, lower echelon immigrant workers — a group that needed quantity.

They built fast and they built cheap, constructing small houses, tenements and multi-unit buildings on the side streets leading to and around the Gowanus Canal. (more…)

99 Ocean Ave, PLG,  SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Apartment building
Address: 99 Ocean Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Lincoln Road
Neighborhood: Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Year Built: 1927
Architectural Style: Deco influenced Mediterranean style
Architect: Boris W. Dorfman
Other works by architect: 145 Lincoln Rd apartments, 818 Flatbush, buildings on Maimonides Hospital Complex, 420 Clinton Avenue apartments
Landmarked: No

The story: While the second half of the 19th century was the age of the urban house in Brooklyn, the 1920s and ‘30s were the age of the six-story apartment building.

As more and more people moved out of the crowded areas of Lower Manhattan and Williamsburg, they flocked to the hundreds of six-story apartment buildings going up across upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and parts of Queens.

The architecture of these buildings can typically be classified under one of three stylistic themes. The first was a WASP-y classy Colonial Revival, the second was Art Deco modern swank, and the third was a Mediterranean-exotic-historical-theme-park kind of refined kitsch.

While all three have their beauty and charm, I’m especially fascinated by the creative style of third, the style of 99 Ocean Avenue. (more…)

1-24 Revere Place, CHN, SSpellen 3

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1-24 Revere Place
Cross Streets: Dean and Bergen Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1896-1897
Architectural Style: Mixed Romanesque and Renaissance Revival
Architect: Albert E. White
Other works by architect: Similar row houses on Dean Street, St. Marks Ave., Prospect Place in Crown Heights North, also Park Slope and Stuyvesant Heights
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase III of Crown Heights North Historic District

The story: Brooklyn has quite a few one and two block streets that unexpectedly appear on the street grid, creating semi-private enclaves with their own quiet charm.

Isolated from the street traffic of main thoroughfares, some of these blocks were purposely created to invoke a sense of privacy and exclusivity. Others were simply the practical use of odd-shaped lots, enabling a developer to get the most bang for his buck.

The eastern end of the Crown Heights North Historic District has three such enclaves, but Revere Place was the first. Over the years, this elegantly designed block attracted two notable Brooklyn families. (more…)

974 Bedford Ave, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Flats building
Address: 974 Bedford Avenue
Cross Streets: DeKalb and Willoughby Avenues
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: 1895
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: John Smith
Other works by architect: Row houses on Herkimer Street, Bedford Stuyvesant, other row houses and tenement buildings
Landmarked: No

The story: This magnificent flats building juts majestically above the four-story row houses on this part of Bedford Avenue. One can imagine that it looked exceptionally impressive when it was first built, designed to house respectable upper middle class folk here on the northern border of Bedford.

Investing in real estate was as lucrative in the late 1800’s as it is now, and this building was an investment property for policeman John J. Brennan, the first captain of the 13th Precinct, on Vernon and Tompkins Avenue. The same year he commissioned 974 Bedford, Brennan was promoted to the rank of Inspector in the Brooklyn Police Department.

Brennan was a native of Ireland, and immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was a child. He became a cop in 1862 and rose through the ranks quickly, becoming the first captain of the 16th Precinct in 1885. By the time he gained the rank of Inspector, he had been with the department for 35 years. He lived in Bedford, in a brownstone across the street from the new Boys High School, at 277 Madison Street.

And, as you can see below, he sported a mustache to rival any modern hipster. (more…)

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…)