Name: Originally Tom Johnson Mansion, now Fontbonne Hall Academy Address: 9901 Shore Road Cross Streets: Corner 99th Street Neighborhood: Bay Ridge Year Built: 1890 Architectural Style: Mediterranean /Mission Style Architect: McNally Brothers Landmarked: No
The story: The long shoreline of Brooklyn stretches around from the beaches of Coney Island to well past the Promenade of Brooklyn Heights, but with all of the great views to choose from along the way, one would be hard pressed to do better than the view of New York Harbor as seen from along the Shore Road, in Bay Ridge. It was this view, along with the open land and the cooling sea breezes that made the area a summer retreat for many of the city’s wealthiest citizens during the last decades of the 19th century. Even people who weren’t New Yorkers were drawn here. They built large expansive villas along the Shore Road, and enjoyed the best of seaside living while still being in the city.
One of these swells was a former three-term mayor of Cleveland, Ohio named Tom L. Johnson. He was a wealthy businessman, politician and Democratic social reformer who spent his entire career in the Midwest. He came from Kentucky money, and made a lot more, inventing a toll box for streetcars. He invested that wealth in street car lines in several Midwestern cities and eventually owned the Detroit City Railway. He cashed out, went into politics, and at some point decided to build a vacation home in Bay Ridge. This large Mediterranean villa was built in 1890, and joined the other mansions that stretched along the Shore Road.
It must have been an impulse buy, because Johnson didn’t own the house for very long. Five years later, he sold it to James Buchanan Brady, another railroad tycoon. “Diamond Jim” Brady was a New York legend, a larger than life character in more ways than one. He made his fortune in railroads and on the stock market. It was rumored that he was not above a little cheating and wheeling and dealing in either one. He is said to have been the first person in NYC to buy an automobile. He got his nickname because of his love of diamonds and jewels, which he collected with a passion. His other passions were fine dining and actress Lillian Russell. (more…)
While it’s hard to say that anything’s cheap these days, Bay Ridge real estate can still be had at a significant discount to the residential neighborhoods closer to Downtown Brooklyn. Take this two-bedroom co-op at 7609 4th Avenue (at 77th Street). The 978-square-foot apartment has prewar details and updated kitchen and baths. We’re not in love with some of the renovation choices but for $320,000$350,000, it seems like a solid play to us.
This Saturday, August 17th Forgotten NY and Brownstoner Queens author Kevin Walsh is hosting a tour through Bay Ridge. The tour will stop by several Civil War and Revolutionary War relics, as well as the eclectic and unusual homes in the neighborhood. It begins at 11am at 4th Avenue and 95th Street outside the subway station. For all the tour details, go here.
This cute Bay Ridge house at 7739 Shore Road is up for rent, asking a reasonable $3,450 a month. It’s two stories with four bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. The interior is nothing to write home about, but it is a good amount of space for not a lot of money. The home also looks right out onto the park and the water. What do you think?
This Bay Ridge limestone seems relatively affordable at $829,000 and has some hidden original details such as parquet floors and crown moldings that could be restored, according to the listing. It’s currently set up as two units – a two-bedroom over a one-bedroom — but it’s somewhat narrow and the second bedroom on the top floor can only be accessed via the other bedroom. We think it might work better as a one-family. What do you think of the property and the price? 268 78th Street [Betancourt] GMAPP*Shark
We’re charmed by the well-preserved details in this teens Bay Ridge row house. There are French doors, a paneled dining room, and the house sits on a cobblestone street, according to the listing. It’s a one-family with four bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. They’re asking $795,000. How do you like it? 22 Bay Ridge Place [Temple Morrow] GMAPP*Shark
Although we’re not wild about the kitchen or the bath pictured, this early 20th century Bay Ridge one-family looks like a sweet pad to us. It’s semi detached, so it has a wall of windows in the combined living room-dining room and a garage in the back. It’s also much less expensive than many of the houses featured on here, although at $829,000 with no rental, it’s well out of starter home territory. 362 79th Street [Betancourt] GMAPP*Shark
Here’s a two-bedroom with a convertible third bedroom in the Bay Ridge co-op building 7825 4th Avenue. It’s nice enough but that is a whole lot of carpet. The rent is what tempted us: only $1,795 a month. 7825 4th Avenue [Nest Seekers] GMAPP*Shark
The Crescent Athletic Club was Brooklyn’s most prestigious sports club. From the confines of its swanky clubhouse in Brooklyn Heights, the elite men of Brooklyn gathered to wine and dine, as well as take part in individual and team sports. The club was founded in 1884 by a group of Brooklyn based Yale alumni who wanted to start a football team. From this team grew a large and wealthy club of not only youngish rich athletes, but their fathers, and other older men who had the money to build a club where they could all socialize, take part in sports, play cards, billiards and sit around drinking, smoking and engaging in the most exciting sport of all – deal making. The Crescent Club had an impressive clubhouse on Clinton Street with a large dome, on top of which their club symbol, a large crescent moon, rose quite prominently from the top of the building.
In 1902, the club built a much larger and more impressive building at the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton, a limestone clubhouse designed by Frank Freeman, one of Brooklyn’s finest architects. This was the culmination of the club’s size, wealth, and success, and gave them room for a swimming pool, club, dining and gaming rooms, as well as much more, but it wasn’t the only facility they had. Team sports need fields and facilities to play in, and in the Crescent’s early days, they played football, hockey, baseball, and other team sports in rented arenas and fields, but they wanted their own athletic complex. In 1889, they merged with the Nereid Rowing Club and acquired their large boathouse on the shores of Bay Ridge’s Gold Coast, the Shore Road. (more…)
This 1920 home in Bay Ridge that has been abandoned for decades is slated for demolition. We wrote about this house in 2010 when neighbors contacted us after starting a Facebook page to pressure the city to do something. Even then, they said the house had, “standing water, holes in the roof, a second floor that has collapsed into the ground, raccoons that inhabit this house, and bulging walls that show this house is ready fall at any moment.” According to The Daily News, the house was deserted in the 1980s after the owner, Frank Landy, and his wife divorced. The home is scheduled to meet the wrecking ball any day and residents are glad that the breeding ground for rats and racoons will finally be gone. The tax photo of the once-attractive home is after the jump.
One of the best known houses in Brooklyn, Bay Ridge’s Gingerbread House, is on the market, and the inside is just as spectacular as the exterior. We were expecting a run-of-the-mill Craftsman interior, but the inside is an elaborate, custom, fairy-tale-like early 20th century interpretation of a medieval cottage. There are Burmese mahogany floors, coffered and painted ceilings, heavily leaded stained glass depicting medieval lute players, Tudor-inspired oak panelling, fanciful brass door hardware, and plaster wall ornaments. The house was designed by architect J. Sarsfield Kennedy in 1916, and you can read all about it in this Walkabout. There is also a 17 foot-long butler’s pantry, a pond, a fountain, five walk-in closets, a wine cellar, and two garages. The current owners bought the house in 1985 and put it on the market in 2010 for $12,000,000 but it did not sell, according to PropertyShark. What do you think of the house — and the $11,000,000 ask? 8200 Narrows Avenue [Douglas Elliman] GMAPP*Shark
The Fort Hamilton section of Bay Ridge is a “naturally occurring retirement community,” according to a profile of the area in The New York Times. We’re not sure that’s a compliment, but the neighborhood is also leafy, stable and relatively affordable, according to the paper. “The area’s low-slung character and leafy environs have had extra protection since a 2005 rezoning,” the story said. Prices for row houses start at $600,000, and three-bedroom rentals start at $1,600. That may be partly because it’s some distance from Manhattan and the R train is packed during commute hours. Many residents use the express buses to commute into Manhattan, which take 50 minutes to an hour. What do you think of the area as a place to live? Living in Fort Hamilton: a NORC, up Close and Personal [NY Times] Photo by Google Maps