951 Prospect Pl, Composite 1

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Most of the Past and Present pieces involve photographs of old buildings that are now either gone, replaced by something else, or transformed into something less than what they were.

Here we have something different. This is a building that was pretty great to begin with, was totally wrecked for a generation, but now is back, better than ever.

Number 951 Prospect Place was built as the standout corner building in a set of four, along Brooklyn Avenue, right across the street from one of Brooklyn’s prettiest small parks, Brower Park.

When developer Louis Meyer had these flats buildings built in 1906, this area was known throughout the city as the St. Marks District. A block away stood the huge, opulent mansions of some of Brooklyn’s wealthiest people. (more…)

1095-1099 Park Place, CDB, LPC 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1095-1099 Park Place
Cross Streets: Kingston Avenue and Hampton Place
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1899
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: August Norberg
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District (2015)

The story: Two-family houses were standard fare for this eastern part of Crown Heights North at the turn of the 20th century. Ninety percent of the row houses in the new Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District are two-families.

But within that broad category are some great examples of diversity and talent. The neighborhood’s streetscape reflects that on every block. These houses are among those examples.

Numbers 1095-1099 Park Place were built in 1899, designed by August Norberg. He was one of those architectural ciphers who pop in, design something that makes you think they could have been quite stellar, and then disappear. (more…)

loft-like one-bedroom in Crown Heights

This one-bedroom at 542 St. Marks Avenue near Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights is a sleek, spare and modern alternative to the surrounding neighborhood’s historic homes.

The living room has a double-height ceiling with a big wall of windows. The floors are made of polished concrete, and the kitchen cabinets are clad in bamboo.

This duplex unit has its own private roof terrace. The building has a fitness center and a courtyard that is designed as a “modern spin on a Zen garden.”

Pets are allowed. What do you think of it for $2,380 per month?

542 St. Marks Avenue, #703 [Aptsandlofts.com] GMAP
Interior photos via aptsandlofts.com, exterior photo by Mike Hernandez for PropertyShark

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225 Eastern Parkway1

This three-bedroom condo at the Traymore at 225 Eastern Parkway, a Crown Heights prewar condo building, is immense. At 2,043 square feet, it has two bathrooms, three bedrooms, an office and large living/dining room.

Many of the rooms feature custom woodwork, including built ins and wainscotting. We are really liking the use of rich, dark colors, especially in a space with so many windows and so much natural light. The building is right across the street from Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum and the Botanic Garden.

The unit was a Condo of the Day back in 2013 when it was asking $1,750,000. Two years later, the ask is $2,195,000 and maintenance is $1,134. Real estate tax is an additional $373 a month. What do you think?

225 Eastern Parkway, #5A [Stribling] GMAP
Condo of the Day: 225 Eastern Parkway [Brownstoner]
Interior photos by Stribling, exterior photos by Mike Hernandez for PropertyShark

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1406-1422 Carroll St. NS, 1418 PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1406-1422 Carroll Street
Cross Streets: Kingston and Albany Avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: 1917
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival with Flemish details
Architect: Cantor & Dorfman
Other works by architect: Similar group of houses at 1-14 Martense Court, as well as apartment buildings, row houses, and other projects throughout southern Brooklyn
Landmarked: No

The story: Everyone is familiar with our traditional brownstones, limestones and brick row houses from the 19th century. They are all iconic elements of Brooklyn’s streetscapes. But housing construction did not end at the beginning of the 20th century, as demand continued in all parts of Brooklyn for single- and two-family houses.

Life in Brooklyn was evolving, however. Most of the older row houses were built with a live-in servant class in mind. But the middle-class homeowners in the 20th century did not typically have live-in help. They no longer needed dumbwaiters, butler’s pantries, maid’s rooms or formal double parlors.

Developers reported that their customers wanted smaller houses that had open spaces, more closets and more than one bathroom. They wanted electrical lights, modern appliances, and the greatest perk of the 20th century – off-street parking in their own garage.

Crown Heights is a wonderful microcosm of early 20th century development. Most of Crown Heights North’s row house stock was built in the last decade of the 19th century through the first decade of the 20th. As development moved south, across Eastern Parkway, the styles reflected the changes of the modern world. (more…)

Murray, 783 St. Marks, postcard,

Inventor and business giant Thomas E. Murray died in 1929, just as the world was about to suffer through the Great Depression. He left his large family over $11 million, and a personal and company portfolio of over 1,100 patents. The story of his life, his family and his businesses can be found in Part One and Part Two of this story.

Following Murray’s death, his eldest son, Thomas Jr., became company president, and the work at the factory at 1250 Atlantic Avenue in Crown Heights went on.

Thomas Jr. was a chip off the old block. He had inherited his father’s generosity and love of invention, and was a skilled inventor himself. He was an excellent businessman as well, even better than his father. In 1928, he was made a trustee of the Brevoort Savings Bank.

He was also a devout son of the Church, who like his father was sworn in as a Knight of St. Gregory, a singular honor bestowed on men of great faith. His home was down the street from Papa Murray’s house, at 800 St. Marks Avenue. For both Murrays, it was only a short walk up the street to get to work.

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1094 Park Place, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Freestanding house
Address: 1094 Park Place
Cross Streets: Kingston and Albany avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1901
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Henry B. Moore
Other works by architect: Row of Kinkos houses on Sterling Place, row houses in Clinton Hill and other brownstone neighborhoods, plus 1305 Albemarle Road in Prospect Park South
Landmarked: Yes, as part of Phase III of Crown Heights North Historic District (2015)

The story: This house has been written about here on Brownstoner several times over the years, so it may come as a surprise that it’s never been a Building of the Day.

Our story begins with George V. Brower, who was Parks Commissioner of Brooklyn twice, the first time between 1889 and 1894. In 1892 the city purchased a four-acre plot of land for a new park, called Bedford Park. It was located between Park and Prospect places and Kingston and Brooklyn avenues.

That just happened to be across the street from George Brower’s home, at the corner of Park Place and Kingston Avenue.

Before becoming Parks Commissioner, Brower had been a very successful lawyer. His home had been built when this part of Bedford was still very suburban, with large houses on large lots. The Brower estate was large enough to have been surrounded by trees, and even had a small pond, where the four Brower children ice skated in winter.

But in the 1880s Bedford began developing very quickly, so the new park was soon surrounded by fine upper-middle-class housing. The area also gained a new name: the St. Marks District. (more…)

221 kingston avenue

Brownstoner’s own award-winning columnist Suzanne Spellen will be leading a tour of Crown Heights on Saturday, May 9. Spellen, who writes as Montrose Morris, and preservationist and real estate agent Morgan Munsey, will guide participants through the northeastern portion of the neighborhood, including many blocks in the recently designated Crown Heights North III Historic District.

The area is home to late 19th and early 20th century row houses, historic churches and the oldest standing house in Crown Heights North. The pair will also take participants to see the historic Kinko Houses and two “Superblocks” — attempts at urban renewal designed by I.M. Pei. (more…)

Murray, 1250 Atlantic Ave, R. Baird Remba 2

Brooklynite Thomas E. Murray was one of America’s greatest inventors. A colleague of Thomas Edison and the holder of 462 patents, Murray was responsible for developing much of the electrical technology we enjoy today. Electric signs? T.E. Murray. The dimmer switch? T.E. Murray. The designs for the power plants that bring us the power we take for granted? Yes, those were Murray, too. His base of operations was in Crown Heights, where he had his factory and his home. Part One of our story tells of his early days, his family, and his business ventures.

In the spring of 1920, Murray was given an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Villanova University in Pennsylvania. He must have been thrilled, since he’d been a working man supporting his family since the age of 10, and had never had the opportunity to attend high school, let along college. His success was a testament to hard work, self-improvement, and genius.

By this time, Murray was at the height of his success. His businesses were thriving, he was living in a mansion among fellow millionaires on the best block of St. Marks Avenue, and his many children were getting the educational opportunities he’d never had.

His eldest son, Thomas E. Murray Jr., graduated from Yale, and was also a mechanical wizard. He was being groomed to take over the companies after his father’s retirement or death. Another son, Joseph, also had the gift, and worked with his father. His daughters were doing well in marriage and family; the other boys were successful in school and work. He and his wife were on the boards of several charities, and gave generously of their time and money. (more…)

1395 Dean St. NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Semi-detached row house
Address: 1395 Dean Street
Cross Streets: Brooklyn and Kingston avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1901
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Architect: Wade & Cranford
Other works by architect: Houses in Ditmas Park. Daniel E. Waid – institutional buildings for Long Island Hospital, Monmouth College, Ill.; co-designed Metropolitan Life Insurance Company North Building, Manhattan.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase I of Crown Heights North Historic District (2007)

The story: Crown Heights North does not have very many Colonial Revival style buildings. This one has an unusual and surprising history, and came close to meeting the wrecking ball. Fortunately, Crown Heights North doesn’t have a lot of empty lots, either. Here’s the story:

This block is an interesting combination of row houses, stand alone and semi-detached large homes, and small flats buildings. The block includes the oldest house in Crown Heights North as well as apartment buildings from the 1930s.

With only a few exceptions, the row houses were built as speculative housing. This is one of the exceptions. The 1901 Colonial Revival was built on this extra wide double lot as a legal three family house. The original owners wanted to house themselves in splendor and have private spacious apartments for extended family.

You really wouldn’t realize the amount of space looking at the front of the house, but it extends back 80 feet, with an attic above, and has 4,580 square feet of living space. There was room in the back for a garage, although none stands today. (more…)

Murray, with Edison, temurray.com 1

As you travel east on Atlantic Avenue sometime, take a minute to notice the factory buildings on the south side of the street, between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues. They are a bit hard to see, as one’s attention is distracted on the left by the rising elevation of the Long Island Railroad tracks as they come up out of the ground near Bedford Avenue.

Back in the 20th century, these buildings belonged to one of the greatest inventors in Brooklyn, a man named Thomas E. Murray.

Murray has the distinction of being the second most prolific holder of patents in the United States, surpassed only by Thomas Alva Edison, his friend and colleague. Yet most people have never heard of Murray, and fewer still know that these long factory buildings with rows of windows stretching along Atlantic Avenue were the headquarters for the Metropolitan Engineering Company, Murray’s company.

If you are a follower of the Southampton, Long Island, crowd, and the history of the rich and famous who have summered there for over a century, the Murray name may ring a bell. Murray’s extended family was part of the “Golden Clan,” wealthy Irish Catholics who helped build Southampton into THE posh summer village of the rich. That seems as far away from a gritty Brooklyn factory as one could get. We’ll get to that part of the story later. (more…)

1044-4046 Sterling Place, SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1044-1046 Sterling Place
Cross Streets: Brooklyn and Kingston avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1892-1900
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: King & Symonds
Other buildings by architect: Many railroad buildings such as train depots, round houses, pumping stations for Adirondack & St. Lawrence Railroad, as well as stables, houses and other projects in Manhattan and Brooklyn
Landmarked: Yes, part of new Phase III, Crown Heights North Historic District

The story: This unique pair of houses has long been a mystery. Tucked quietly away on Sterling Place, these two houses are unlike any others nearby. That’s saying something in an area with such diverse architecture as Crown Heights North.

Like the majority of the row houses in this neighborhood, they are two-family houses, built for a middle class clientele that wanted generous space for themselves as well as an upper apartment for income. Like most of these two family houses, they were built to look like one family homes, keeping the architectural integrity of the neighborhood intact.

The houses are in a unique Queen Anne style. They stand out on the street because of their curved corners, highly stylized Greek Key trim, and Ionic columns between the windows on the top floor.

The arched ground floor windows, one of which curves around the corner, are unusual for houses of this type. So are the decorative quoins, now painted to emphasize the patterns they make against the rest of the façade.

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