Cresco Realty Co. BE, 1907 2

Developer Walter L. Johnson was a powerhouse. When he began building his Dyker Heights suburban community, he went with the best of the best. First of all, he had one of the best locations in Brooklyn to work with. His father had purchased the old DeRussy estate back in 1888 with the idea to develop it into an upscale suburban community. The estate was on high ground, with magnificent views of the New York harbor. You could see from the Narrows all the way out to Sandy Hook and beyond. The air was clean and cooling, and living here would be the best of both worlds; a seaside house with easy access to the big city. (more…)

Dyker Heights, Constantine Schubert house, Wiki. 1

Dyker Heights, one of the southernmost sections of Brooklyn, was developed as an upscale suburb. It was the vision of one family, the Johnson family. Patriarch Frederick Johnson bought the land that would become Dyker Heights in 1888. This was the DeRussy estate, established by Brigadier General René Edward DeRussy of the United States Army. He was a military engineer, responsible for the building of many fortifications and fortresses during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. DeRussy’s estate overlooked Fort Hamilton, which had been built to his specifications.

Frederick Johnson realized that this bucolic location, with its hills overlooking the harbor, the clean, cooling ocean breezes, and the vast amount of land, was ripe for development. By 1888, Brooklyn’s population was already moving further and further out from its central core downtown. Johnson knew it was only a matter of time, and he was sitting on a potential goldmine. His estate was part of the greater town of New Utrecht, one of the six founding towns that make up Kings County. He petitioned hard to have New Utrecht annexed to the City of Brooklyn, but died in 1892, two years before that happened. It would be up to his son Walter to take up the challenge. (more…)

meryl meisler bushwick burning

The Brooklyn Historical Society is hosting a panel on Bushwick’s 1970s arson wave, when the FDNY battled 100 fires a month, moderated by Jonathan Mahler, a New York Times reporter and author of “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning.” The panel, called “Brooklyn’s on Fire: Bushwick Is Burning,” will feature photographer Meryl Meisler, a tenant lawyer, an FDNY fire marshal, a community board manager and a displaced resident, who will recount their memories of a neighborhood scarred by fire, bankruptcy and urban neglect.

Meisler, who taught in Bushwick during the ’80s, recently published a book with photos of the ‘hood from the late ’70s and early ’80s. The panel will take place at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Monday, November 17 at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $5 or free for members.

Meisler will also discuss her book, “A Tale of Two Cities, Disco Era Bushwick,” at the Brooklyn Central Library on Grand Army Plaza from 7 to 8 pm this Wednesday, October 29.

Photo by Meryl Meisler

Dyker Heights 1897 BE Ad

As most people know by now, the city of Brooklyn developed from the six original towns settled by the Dutch, or in the case of Gravesend, the English, in the mid-1600s. Using their English names, they were Brooklyn, Bushwick, New Utrecht, Flatbush, Gravesend and Flatlands. England took over the whole thing soon afterward, calling the territory Kings County. Over the course of the next two hundred years, those towns grew to encompass smaller villages, adjacent cities like Williamsburg and Ridgewood, and stretched and moved around to become the boundaries of Brooklyn that we know today.

As the city grew, those separate towns, which once had space between them, grew closer and closer to each other, as farms and estates became streets and plots. The city spread out in all directions out from the Brooklyn Heights shoreline, as roads and public transportation made it easier and easier for people in the outlying areas to be connected to Brooklyn’s piers, and on to jobs and markets in Manhattan. (more…)

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The John C. Kelley House, site of a Sharon Stone film shoot and a visit from President Cleveland, is now officially on the market for $6,000,000 and photos went up on the listing Friday afternoon.

As we reported in July, the longtime owner, a retired advertising executive, bought it when it was an illegal SRO and meticulously restored it. The double-wide house at 247 Hancock Street is 41 feet wide by 60 feet deep, according to the listing, and sits on an even bigger 81-by-100 square foot lot. The Neo-Renaissance house with Romanesque Revival features was designed in the 1880s by architect Montrose Morris, who lived across the street. The block, between Marcy and Tompkins, is one of the most architecturally distinguished in Bed Stuy, but is not yet landmarked.

It’s set up as a rental apartment over a grand owner’s triplex, complete with bar and ballroom in the basement. It also has an extensive landscaped garden with koi pond and roses. It is Bed Stuy’s most expensive listing and will set a record when it sells.

Click through for more photos and a floor plan. What do you think of the price?

247 Hancock Street Listing [Halstead] GMAP
Bed Stuy Mansion to Ask $6 Million [Brownstoner]
Photos by Halstead (more…)

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The striking and prominent house at 1020 Bushwick Avenue sold last year and is now being renovated. We noticed a few weeks ago that it is empty inside, and when we stopped by this past weekend, it looked like work had started.

We’re guessing the new owner intends to live there and is restoring the interior, based on what we can discern from looking at public records. The house was previously occupied by a member of the family who owned it for many years, and his extensive vinyl record collection was visible through the parlor floor windows at night.

The house sped to contract in less than one month and sold for $1,210,000 one year ago, $321,000 above the asking price of $889,000. Interior photos can still be viewed at the Douglas Elliman website.

The Queen Anne style house was built in 1888 and designed by architect Frank Keith Irving. It is part of a Linden Street row with unusual and exotic ornamentation. There is a face on the dormer facing Linden Street and terra cotta dragons under the cornice. It was a Building of the Day in 2011. More details can be seen on Montrose Morris’ Flickr page.

There may be more interior detail left than the photos show. The listing says the house has “multiple wood burning fireplaces, crown molding, a tin ceiling and ceiling medallions.”

1020 Bushwick Avenue Listing [Douglas Elliman]
Building of the Day: 1020 Bushwick Avenue [Brownstoner] (more…)

Stauch's Restaurant, Coney Island, westland.org 1

David MacFayden was a song and dance man. Matthew MacFadyen played Mr. Darcy. They are not even remotely the same man, but a certain search engine has a hard time making the distinction. That has nothing really to do with this story other than to mention Mr. Darcy, who no doubt, would never otherwise come up in a story about Brooklyn. This story is about David MacFayden, his wife, and their adventures crossing the great continent of North America in a wagon, for love and a song. (more…)

Hampton Place, SSpellen 1

Here’s another tale from the Montrose archives:

A developer, eager to capitalize on a building boom, a robust economy, and a hot neighborhood, takes a chance to build what he feels will be hugely successful and lucrative housing. But while everything seems to be in his favor, something happens, and the bottom falls out and bankruptcy looms. Will he succeed? Will the housing be built? More importantly, will it sell? What happens? Here on Brownstoner, we read about these situations every day, it seems. But this tale is not about Williamsburg or Park Slope in 2014. It’s about the St. Marks District, now called Crown Heights North, and the year is 1898.

At the end of the 19th century, the St. Marks District was one of the most fashionable areas of Brooklyn. As the mansions of the rich were going up on St. Marks Avenue, and adjacent streets, new blocks of more modest housing was going up all around the area. Most of this was speculative housing, and the developers of yesterday were doing much of what today’s developers are doing – trying to build in a popular neighborhood for those who could afford it. Sometimes this involved taking an innovative approach with a marketing hook. In this case, developing an exclusive enclave of two short blocks tucked in between two popular streets, and in between two busy avenues, all a block or two from a beautiful new park. (more…)

forgotten new york tour flatbush

See the oldest Brooklyn subway station house, gravestones in Dutch and the original Ebinger’s Bakery plus, of course, historic neighborhoods and houses on a tour of Ditmas Park and Flatbush tomorrow led by Kevin Walsh, who blogs at Forgotten New York and Brownstoner Queens.

The tour starts at noon at Avenue H station house for the Q train (on the Manhattan-bound side of the station), located at Avenue H and East 16th Street. Tickets are $20 or $15 for members of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, which helps fund the tour. More details here or RSVP by emailing info@astorialic.org. 

Image by Forgotten New York

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Another grotesque conglomeration of the old and new is planned for 533 Leonard Street in Greenpoint. A rendering on the construction fence shows an attractive red brick 19th century school building apparently being eaten alive by a “dark ‘n’ boxy Transformer” (Curbed’s words) clinging to its backside. The “Transformer,” aka the new addition, will house 13 apartments and be 50 feet tall.

Philip Toscano is the architect, according to Curbed, which was the first to publish the rendering. Click through for a close-up. At least they’re not demo’ing the old building, is all we can say.

New Greenpoint Building Looks Like a Transformer Ate It [Curbed]
Photos by Curbed (more…)

PH Precint, SSpellen 1

The first Police Chief of Greater New York City was John McCullagh. The job was not something that most people, even most career policemen, would want. He was tasked with overseeing law enforcement in the largest city in the country; the now-sprawling metropolis created by the union of the five boroughs in 1898. On top of the logistical problems inherent in making one police department out of many smaller departments, he had to play politics. He was not only a stranger to Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens; he was a Republican in a Democratic administration. Worse than that, he was an honest man among a den of thieves. (more…)

Bergen Precinct, SSpellen 1

The first months of 1898 were rough on all of New York City. New Year’s Day heralded in the birth of Greater New York, with five boroughs, all operating from the central control of Manhattan. This new arrangement was hard on all the new city agencies, but nowhere was it felt more than in the departments of the police and fire services, two important agencies that were charged with keeping the city safe.

When Greater New York was created, the Bronx and Manhattan had already consolidated their civic infrastructure under one roof. Staten Island was too remote and isolated to really worry about right away, and Queens was a collection of towns, some of which were also pretty remote. The towns closest to Manhattan, like Long Island City, could be worked with, but Brooklyn was the biggest challenge for the new administration.

Brooklyn had been an independent city, with well-established civil institutions, including police and fire services that had their own headquarters, own uniforms, own equipment and own personnel, officers and procedures. All of that would now be under the control of central departments in Manhattan. This was not going to be easy. (more…)