We’re coming up on Labor Day weekend, when people are generally more interested in savoring the last moments of summer than working Sundays and eyeballing real estate. So when it comes to open houses, this is not an action-packed weekend.

We’ve found a few, though — three in total. They’re all in brand-new condition: Two, in Bushwick, are gut renovations; one, in Crown Heights, is brand new construction.

The Bushwick houses are on the same block, as it happens: Eldert Street between Knickerbocker and Wilson avenues, a few blocks from the L train station at Halsey Street.

At No. 249 we’ve got an aluminum-sided number offering double duplexes, each 1,800 square feet, including an owner’s duplex with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and a deck with stairs down to the backyard.

Up the block at No. 275 is a three-story brick townhouse  with a two-bedroom apartment on top and a two-bedroom duplex below, with a large “recreation room” in the basement and access to a fenced-in garden. It’s got a bit of a rustic vibe, with beamed ceilings, exposed brick and skylights made from reclaimed wood.

Last up, on St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights, we’ve got a newly built home with a double duplex plus a finished basement. Each duplex has three bedrooms and an outdoor space — the bottom unit has the garden, the upper one has a roof deck.

275-eldert-street

275 Eldert Street in Bushwick
Broker: Corcoran
Price: $1,250,000
Sunday 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Photo by Corcoran

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324A-340 NY Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Rapid development in the first decades of the 20th century gave us some of the last one-family row houses in this area. These homes are unique in the neighborhood; the product of one of the large development companies working at this time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 324A-340 New York Avenue
Cross Streets: Union and President Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: 1909
Architectural Style: Medieval Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

“American Basement Houses” in an Eclectic Medieval Style

These nine houses were built as single family row houses. They are deceptively narrow, just inches shy of 17 feet wide, although they don’t appear that narrow in the streetscape.

They were designed in an inventive and rather eclectic style reminiscent of medieval buildings, no doubt influenced by the new American infatuation with historic European styles. Tudor Revival, Medieval Revival, and other romantic storybook influences were making great headway in residential design, especially in America’s new prosperous suburbs.

The Brooklyn Eagle notes that these houses were called “American Basement Houses,” what we generally call English basement, ie – no stoop, no underground cellar, with mechanicals on the garden level floor. The parlor floor was above, with bedrooms on the top floor.

The large windows on the ground floor brought in lots of light, and were originally diamond-paned leaded glass windows, as were other windows in the front of the house. You can see that a few of them remain in various houses in the group.

The front room would have been the formal dining room, with the mechanical room and the kitchen behind it.

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marker-coffee-081015

Marker Coffee opened for business about a month ago at 241 Rogers Avenue in Crown Heights. The husband-and-wife-owned coffee shop is also a bakery, making all its pastries fresh every morning.

The business offers six flavors of tea, two iced teas, cold brew, a full espresso bar, and coffee, of course. There are biscuits with raspberry jam, cheddar scallion scones, cranberry lime scones, croissants, cookies and croissants.
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Steven-Weinberg-mural-header

Artist Steven Weinberg recently painted a fanciful 25-foot mural of Brooklyn brownstones inside a newly renovated Crown Heights home. Weinberg — who moved from Brooklyn last year to open a Catskills inn — popped downstate to complete the entire mural in a single summer day. In a blog post detailing his work, Weinberg writes:

“It’s great working with the source material of my former hometown, Brooklyn. I love drawing mountains and trees now, but it’s something totally different taking in all of the amazing details of Brooklyn’s architecture.”

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369th, 15th NY, WWI, Wikipedia

Rufus L. Perry, Jr. was one of Brooklyn’s best known attorneys in the early 20th century. He represented a varied group of clients in both criminal and civil court. He was a true son of his father, a respected clergyman living in what is now Crown Heights North. The fact that the Perrys were African American is just part of this forgotten history. We met the father in Chapter One. The son’s early accomplishments were chronicled in Chapter Two. Our story continues:

Rufus Perry, Jr. spent his entire life rising above the expectations of the white world around him.

He was the Valedictorian of his NYU Law School class and spoke at commencement in 1891. He could speak and write fluently in five languages. None of his classmates could claim that ability. He wrote his bar exams in Latin, probably sending more than one professor back to his dictionary.

He opened his law practice after passing the bar, representing black clients, which was expected, but he had a full roster of white clients as well, both male and female.

In 1910, at the age of 26, Rufus married 24 year old Lillian Sylvia Buchacher. Unfortunately, no other information is available about her. All we know from census records is that she and her parents were all born in New York City.

Interracial marriages were few and far between back then, and were not looked at favorably at all. Two years later, Rufus converted to Judaism, taking the Hebrew name “Raphael.”

He was black, Jewish, with a white wife, and with way too much smarts for the son of a former slave. When he decided to go into Brooklyn politics, his friends and enemies lined up accordingly. But first, a little background: (more…)

Bedford Rest composite 2

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

The Bedford Rest was established as a destination and rest stop in the late 1890s for the hundreds of cyclists enjoying Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway. As the years passed, and the cycling fad waned, the Rest maintained its reputation as a fine restaurant and event space near the excitement of Ebbets Field and Automobile Row. All was well, until Prohibition.

When we think of Prohibition today, it’s remembered as a time when the nation disastrously toyed with a powerful experiment in social engineering. Banning alcoholic beverages seems ridiculous today. No doubt people thought so then, too, and were shocked when it actually happened.

Between 1920 and 1933, alcohol was illegal in the United States. The effects were devastating not only to consumers, but to businesses.

Across the country, breweries, distilleries, wine and spirits merchants, restaurants, saloons and bars went out of business by the thousands.Organized crime, based on bootlegging, grew and flourished.

The country went dry on January 17, 1920. By November of that year, the Bedford Rest was finished. Although the Rest had been running out of steam for years, Prohibition was the final nail in its coffin. (more…)

1513-1519 Pacific St. ChrisDBrazee for LPC 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

It’s human nature to get tired of the same thing – even in architecture. By the mid-1880s, the new Queen Anne style was beginning to change Brooklyn’s streetscape. In Crown Heights North, these were some of the first.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1513-1519 Pacific Street
Cross Streets: Kingston and Albany avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1886
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: William H. Burhans
Other works by architect: 354-356 Stuyvesant Heights, as well as other wood-frame and masonry houses in Brownstone Brooklyn.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District (2015)

The growth of a new architectural style

American Queen Anne style architecture has nothing to do with the reign of England’s Queen Anne (1702-1714). British architect Richard Norman Shaw introduced “Old English” flair to his contemporary buildings in Victorian England, and the style was adapted by American architect Henry H. Richardson.

Everyone else learned from Richardson and took it from there. Queen Anne design became a very distinctive and wholly American style. It is characterized by a massing of shapes, textures and materials, varied rooflines, and a free borrowing of past styles used in previously unheard-of combinations.

Here, in the earliest group of Queen Anne style houses in Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District, architect William H. Burhans uses elements of the earlier Italianate and Neo-Grec styles, and mixes them with other classical details. (more…)

Rufus L. Perry, Composite

During the latter part of the 19th century, Rufus L. Perry Sr. was one of Brooklyn’s most prominent ministers. Like most of Brooklyn’s leading Protestant clergymen, he had a doctorate, was widely published, and his sermons were quoted in the religion pages of the Brooklyn Eagle. The fact that he was African American, and had been a slave in childhood, was seen as remarkable. Chapter One of our story recounts his life.

But as remarkable as Rev. Perry’s life story and accomplishments were, the world hadn’t seen anything yet. His eldest son, Rufus L. Perry Jr., was about to break the mold.

Rufus Jr. began his life on May 26, 1868, born here in Brooklyn to Rev. Perry and his wife Charlotte. The family lived in a home in what is now Crown Heights North, on St. Marks Avenue, between Albany and Schenectady avenues.

Life for black folks in late 19th century Brooklyn was not easy. The law prohibited many overt forms of discrimination, but the reality was that most black people in Brooklyn lived on the fringe of society.

The schools and everyday life were segregated, and most African Americans were laborers or relegated to service jobs, while a small black middle and upper-middle class struggled to find acceptance and equality in the workplace and society.

The Perry family was part of this emerging black upper-middle class, which consisted of clergy, doctors, lawyers, undertakers, business owners and teachers.

Rev. Perry and his wife raised their children to believe that they were the equals of anyone. They were encouraged to aim high, and become whatever they wanted to become in the world. They should not allow other people’s prejudices to hinder their progress. Young Rufus took that to heart. He was also really, really smart. (more…)

225-eastern-parkway-1-073015

This is a large apartment with a fairly large price tag. Located at 255 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, in the Woodrow Wilson, it’s a classic six that measures 1,440 square feet, renting for $5,000 a month.

As you’d ask from a prewar classic six, it’s nicely laid out, with a generous living room, dining room and master bedroom. There’s quite a large foyer as well, which a resourceful tenant may find a way to utilize; at the least it makes for a stately entrance.

The kitchen is a bit narrow, but it opens up into the dining room, which helps.

There are three bedrooms, the smallest roughly 7 feet by 12 feet. There are two baths, a lot of closets, and a washer-dryer.

It’s on the top floor, which means good light, no neighbors tromping overhead, and likely some nice views of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden across the street. On the subject of light: Each bedroom has only a single window, and the one in the pictured master bedroom is modest in size. (more…)

Coney Island Bike race, 1890s, theroadswerenotbuiltforcars.com 1

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Last time we visited the Bedford Rest, a unique restaurant/café/rest stop developed primarily for the thousands of people from all walks of life enjoying the cycling craze of the 1890s. A place like that would be equally popular today. The owners wanted to expand with the new century. But how far could they go?

The Bedford Rest was Brooklyn’s most popular restaurant/café/event space of its day. Opening in the last years of the 19th century on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway, it catered to the young men and women of the new leisure class.

Eastern Parkway was still primarily a beautiful road through undeveloped fields at this point. The Rest stood alone, a large tented structure on the northwestern side of Bedford and the parkway. It was a convenient rest stop for the many cyclists taking a break here at the top of the hill.

Bicycles were enormously popular at that time. Cycle technology had advanced the bike so that it resembled and rode like the single-gear bikes of today.

Unlike most sports, bicycling was equally popular with men and women, and it was one of the few sports a couple or a family could do together.

The streets of Brooklyn were filled with cyclists, and on weekends they rode up and down Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway by the hundreds, even thousands.

Bedford Avenue was part of a popular route to both Long Island and Coney Island. Professional and amateur racing clubs and excursionists used the Bedford Rest as a starting and ending place for their trips. (more…)

taco-domo-733-franklin-avenue-2-072715

Domo Taco just opened today at its new location at 733 Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, according to a post on the company’s Facebook page. When we stopped by a few days ago, it looked close to opening.

Domo started as a taco truck. This is its first permanent location.

A liquor license is coming, according to a sign posted in the window. The menu is by no means straight-up Mexican but includes an asian twist, with items such as fish tempura, five spice pork, lemongrass chicken and teriyaki steak. (more…)

Rufus Perry, Sr. Weeksville houses, BPL

I often write about the movers and shakers of the 19th and early 20th century Brooklyn — they could be fascinating, and in their own ways, thoroughly modern people. Some of their names grace our streets, our schools, businesses and other buildings.

Most, however, are gone and forgotten, in spite of glowing like torches during their own times.

Rufus Lewis Perry, Senior and his son, also Rufus L. Perry, were quite newsworthy in their day. Between the two of them, their names appeared often in the Brooklyn papers between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression.

During those years, they were the topics of pride, envy, derision, scorn and grudging admiration. Why? Their accomplishments were impressive and many.

But for too many Brooklynites, this proud father and son were too smart for their own good, too uppity, and too grandiose; not exhibiting the proper humility expected from two sons of Africa. But that never stopped them. (more…)