Early 20th Century NYC, Smithsonial Magazine 1

“Professor” Mac Levy, born Max Levy, of Brooklyn, was a self-made man, and one of America’s first fitness entrepreneurs. At the turn of the 20th century, he had made quite a name for himself in New York City and Long Island, and was building his fitness empire, ready to expand to wherever the market led him. As a puny and sickly teenager, he had decided he wouldn’t live that way, and through diet and exercise, especially swimming, calisthenics and weight lifting, he had built himself up into a healthy and strong young man; billed on the vaudeville and speaking circuits as a “young Hercules” and “Brooklyn’s Perfect Man.”

He spent years building up his business by building himself. He was an advocate for healthy living, and coached a curious and eager public through his speaking engagements, vaudeville appearances and through his health clubs. He ran the first gymnasium and health club at the prestigious Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights. He also ran summer health clubs at beach resorts in Babylon, Long Island and at Bath Beach, Brooklyn. Other locations followed, as did books, and a line of fitness equipment.

Chapter One of our story details some of his operations and his early days. Chapter Two continues the story of his career, including the would-be mugging on New Year’s Day, 1897, that propelled him into the limelight as a man who take care of himself, with gusto. But for all of the young Professor’s personal and business successes, none of them could propel his name into the history books like his involvement in one of the most sensational murder cases of the early 20th century. (more…)

39 remsen street brooklyn heights 112014

This new listing at 39 Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights looks like a floor-through of a brownstone but it’s actually only half the width of a larger building. Just a block from the promenade, the location can’t be matched and there are lots of beautiful original details in the front and back rooms.

The middle, where a marble entry and new kitchen have been constructed, is not as compelling to us. In particular, the kitchen detailing (the floor tiles and the style of subway tiles) feel a little out of place.

But if you can afford the asking price of $2,875,000, chances are you can afford to tweak the kitchen to your liking. Otherwise, the scale and historic nature of the place are amazing.

39 Remsen Street, #1ABC [Brown Harris Stevens] GMAP

brooklyn heights cinema

A press release from JMH Development and Madison Estates just landed in our in-box, and it says architect Morris Adjmi will design a “luxury boutique condominium development” at 70 Henry Street, the former home of Brooklyn Heights Cinema. As you may recall, Adjmi also designed the Townhouses of Cobble Hill. We expect he’ll come up with something Landmarks will like in this spot.

“This project will work to both enhance the dynamic neighborhood with unique architecture, while filling the historic district’s inherent demand for new construction,” said a JMH Development exec in the release.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema Coverage [Brownstoner]

brooklyn heights cinema

Developers Madison Estates and JMH Development have paid $7,500,000 for the landmarked brick building at 70 Henry Street that housed Brooklyn Heights Cinema, The Daily News reported. The sale, whose date was not reported, has not hit public records.

Any plans for development would have to be approved by Landmarks, which never approved the previous owner’s plans despite several meetings. Madison wouldn’t comment on its plans, but is likely planning apartments, according to the Daily News. The story said the 1895 building was originally a butcher shop.

The theater closed in late August after more than 44 years in business, as we reported at the time. So far, owner Kenn Lowy has not been able to find a new space.

“For the money these landlords want, I’d have to run a meth lab, not a cinema,” he told the Daily News.

Brooklyn Heights Cinema Sells for $7.5 Million to Local Real Estate Developer [NYDN]
Brooklyn Heights Cinema Coverage [Brownstoner]

Brooklyn Art Assoc. site, composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

In 1857, a group of Brooklyn artists who had previously been organized as the Sketch Club formed the Brooklyn Art Association. The group not only included artists, but their patrons and general lovers of art. The group grew in size and by the late 1860s had enough members and followers of means to have a grand building erected in heart of Brooklyn’s civic and business district on Montague and Court Streets.

At that time, Court Street was becoming the financial hub of Brooklyn. Banks, trusts and insurance companies were leaving the Fulton Ferry and slowly moving up the hill to the City Hall area. Montague Street was becoming a cultural destination. The leaders of the city, including Abiel A. Low, Henry Ward Beecher and Richard Storrs, wanted Brooklyn to have the same cultural venues that other important cities had. They and others spearheaded the building of the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Montague Street, between Court and Clinton. It opened in January of 1861. (more…)

62-66 Pierrepont St. SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: The Woodhull
Address: 62-66 Pierrepont Street
Cross Streets: Hicks and Henry Streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1911
Architectural Style: Renaissance/Colonial Revivals
Architect: George Fred Pelham
Other Work by Architect: Upscale apartment buildings, row houses and hotels, all over Manhattan.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights HD (1965)

The story: In 1841, John Phillip Thurston purchased a small home in Brooklyn as a place from which to conduct business, and for his family. He was from Portland, Maine, one of the many New Englanders who came to Brooklyn to trade in commodities. Sugar was his business, and he ran a successful commissions business trading with plantation owners and sugar brokers in Cuba. The small house on Pierrepont Street was surrounded by fields still, and the garden gate to the Thurston home opened up onto Montague Street, giving the property the full width of a city block. Thurston didn’t live here long, he died soon after moving here, and his business was continued by his son, Frederick. Frederick enlarged the house, and it was a comfortable home for himself and his two unmarried sisters. (more…)

13Pineapple.jpg

The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, our Building of the Day columnist Montrose Morris has been sidelined by computer issues this afternoon, so we are posting this oldie but goodie for you to enjoy.

Address:13 Pineapple Street, between Willow Street and Columbia Heights
Name: Private house
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built:1830
Architectural Style: Federal, with alterations
Architects: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes

Why chosen: Look at this beauty! For many people, this house is the classic Brooklyn Heights house. It’s extra wide, five windows across, with Federal-era six-over-six windows. The Italianate style cornice was added sometime in the late 1800s, and the garage and stoop are 20th century additions. The dark grey paint job, highlighted by bright white trim, gives the house even more street appeal. Even though it is not stylistically pure, it evokes the best of Brooklyn Heights’ early days.

48-hicks-street-103014

A stucco’d and stripped but historic Heights home at 48 Hicks Street will be getting a new and more historically appropriate facade. The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a proposal to replace the building’s mid-20th century facade with wood siding and an old-fashioned storefront, the Brooklyn Heights Blog reported.

The Federal wood frame house was built in 1829. Sometime later in the century a storefront was added to the bottom floor. The renovation proposes Federal style upper floors with wood siding, shutters and window surrounds. The windows on the second and third floors will be enlarged.

The residential entrance to the left of the storefront will also be redone in an early 19th century style with paneling, a four-panel door, and a lantern-style light over the door. The existing metal and glass storefront will be replaced with a late 19th century style wood and glass storefront. The Brooklyn Heights Association and the Historic Districts Council spoke in favor of the renovation, which is being undertaken because the existing stucco is leaking.

Click through to see photos of the presentation by architect Richard Somerby.

Landmarks Commission Approves New Façade for 48 Hicks Street [BHB]
Photo above by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark; photos below by Evan Bindelglass for BHB

(more…)

184 Joralemon Street, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Galen Hall Office Building, now apartments and offices
Address: 184 Joralemon Street
Cross Streets: Court and Clinton Streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1909-1911
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts with Colonial Revival details
Architect: George Keister
Other Buildings by Architect: Apollo Theater, Harlem. Also Belasco and Selwyn Theaters, Theater District. Row houses in the Bronx, tenement buildings, apartment buildings, hotels, churches.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Skyscraper District (2012)

The story: Claudius Galenus, or Galen of Pergamon, was a prominent Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher in the second century Roman Empire. He and the better-known Hippocrates are considered to be the most important contributors to modern Western medicine. (Yes, I had to look that one up.) The use of the name “Galen” was quite popular during Victorian times, especially to name sanatoria and other medical retreat centers. One of the most popular in the New York City area was the Galen Hall in Atlantic City. Their facilities would be considered a health spa today, and they advertised constantly in the Brooklyn Eagle for decades.

So when a twelve floor office tower exclusively for doctors and medical professionals was proposed for Downtown Brooklyn, it was fitting that it should be called Galen Hall, or the Galen Hall Office Building. The tall and narrow building was placed on a 25 foot wide Joralemon Street lot, right next door to the Packer Institute. The building ran tall and deep, with plenty of room for doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals. (more…)

66 montague street brooklyn heights 102014

This two-bedroom co-op at 66 Montague hit the market last week. It’s a charming apartment in a prewar mansion a stone’s throw from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Lots of prewar detail, good windows and ceiling height, and a so-so kitchen. Monthly maintenance for the 1,000-square-foot pad is $1,400 and the asking price is $975,000.

66 Montague Street, #6 [Elliman] GMAP

61 Pierrepont combo

A large prewar apartment in Brooklyn Heights for not much more than $1,000 a square foot is worth a close look. This 2,840-square-foot five-bedroom pad, a result of combining two adjacent apartments, at 61 Pierrepont Street has lots of prewar charm and appears to be in good shape too.

And as a bonus, there’s a private parking spot that comes with the apartment and is included in the maintenance. The ask is $2,950,000 and the monthly maintenance is $3,536. Think this will go fast?

61 Pierrepont Street, #51/52 [Corcoran] GMAP

Henry C. Bowen mansion site, 88-96 Willow St. composite

There was a time in Brooklyn’s history when Mr. Henry C. Bowen was one of Brooklyn’s favorite sons. He was a wealthy man, owner of two newspapers, and his home on the corner of Willow and Clark Streets was described as the Heights’ most beautiful home. Henry C. Bowen was a very devout and religious man, whose strong moral beliefs led him to be involved in the founding of two churches, and made him one of the leaders in Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement. Those strong moral beliefs also would lead to him being one of the most hated men in the city, vilified on the streets, in the pulpit and in newspapers across the country. When he died in 1896, all of that was forgotten, and he is now fondly remembered once again as one of Brooklyn’s leading men. He had an amazing life, and this house was at the center of it all. (more…)