03/11/14 3:00pm

218 Arlington Ave,CB, PS, 2009

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Private house
Address: 218 Arlington Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Ashford Street
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: Around 1900
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Cypress Hills has a fine collection of housing stock that brings a smile to the face of most old house lovers. This part of Brooklyn has often been forgotten by the rest of Brooklyn, except for those who grew up here and remember the streets and homes with nostalgia and great pride. One of those residents, Ricardo Gomes, began a website devoted to the history, architecture and reminiscences of the neighborhood, and today, the East New York Project is always my go-to source for photographs and information about buildings in Cypress Hills, Highland Park and East New York proper.

Cypress Hills was planned as a late 19th, early 20th century suburban neighborhood, and has an interesting mixture of row houses and blocks of detached and semi-detached suburban style housing. In very many ways, it’s quite similar to parts of Flatbush, which, ironically, it used to be part of, way back in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The “New Lots” of East New York were new lots for the Flatbush settlers who originally moved here. There’s a lot of history here.

The streets of Cypress Hills were developed for upper middle and middle class folk, many of whom came from the German American communities of Bushwick, not all that far from here. As many of them had houses built, or moved into speculative housing, they left their businesses behind in Bushwick and commuted to work. In time, many of those businesses also came to East New York, making the area, called the 26th Ward, quite prosperous. The houses on some of the blocks, and the churches and civic buildings built for the new neighborhood, reflect that prosperity. (more…)

01/07/14 3:00pm

28 Danforth St. NS, PS 2007

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally half of Shaw’s Hotel, now private house
Address: 28 Danforth Street
Cross Streets: Corner Hemlock Street
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: 1838
Architectural Style: Dutch Colonial
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Hidden behind aluminum siding and in pretty sad shape is half of the second oldest building in Cypress Hills. This was Shaw’s Hotel, and there is quite a story here, tucked away on a side street in this neighborhood that doesn’t often get under the popular Brooklyn radar. Back when this area was still New Lots, a Dutch town that was established as an off-shoot of Flatbush, the town that would become Cypress Hills was centered around the most important building in the village – a tavern, of course.

The John R. Snediker Roadhouse was on the Jamaica Plank Road, the main highway stretching from Queens through to the Village of Brooklyn. Its placement was generally along where Fulton Street now lies. The roadhouse was a popular stop for travelers and stagecoaches in the early 1830s, and was quite successful, so successful that Jerome Snediker built his own roadhouse directly across the street from his brother John. Jerome’s establishment burned down, and was replaced in 1838 by a new roadhouse called Shaw’s Hotel, owned and operated by William Shaw.

Shaw’s Hotel was a large two story and an attic frame house in the Dutch Colonial style. It had a central hallway that ran from front to back, with rooms and a stairway on both sides. The sloping front roofline ended with a large front porch that ran the width of the house, and faced Jamaica Plank Road. Around the yard were tall elm trees, shading the hotel. The inn was run by William Shaw, who came to Brooklyn from Virginia, and later by another family member, Ephraim Shaw. (more…)

12/11/13 3:00pm

68 Pennsylvania Ave, ENY, KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally Tyrian Masonic Lodge, then Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, now Atlantic Senior Center
Address: 68 Pennsylvania Avenue
Cross Streets: Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: 1906-1907
Architectural Style: Neo-Classical
Architect: Harde & Short
Other buildings by architect: Kismet Temple in Bedford Stuyvesant, Bushwick Hospital, Maurice T. Lewis house in Sunset Park, several Brooklyn theaters, as well as Alywn Court and other apartment buildings in Manhattan
Landmarked: No

The story: Pennsylvania Avenue, which runs through Cypress Hills and East New York, was one of the 26th Ward’s premier avenues. In fact, it was THE premier avenue for the waning years of the 19th century, on into the 20th. Along its length were fine homes, as well as important institutions such as banks, churches, police stations, post offices and clubs. This building was home to one of the more influential local clubs.

Freemasonry has a long history, both in Europe and here in the United States. Throughout its history, the well-connected as well as the humble have been initiated into its ranks. There are many branches of Masons; the Tyrian Masons trace their history back to the ancient Biblical city of Tyre, and the time of Solomon’s Temple. They eventually made their way to England and Ireland, and then here.

The Tyrian Lodge Number 618 was founded in 1867, and had rooms on Atlantic Avenue by at least 1873. From their activities as chronicled in the newspapers, the lodge was primarily made up of men with Anglo-Saxon surnames. There were very few German members, which is interesting, as the 26th Ward had a very large number of German residents. The Germans did have their own Masonic lodge, not Tyrians, who often met in concert with Lodge #618. (more…)

09/26/13 4:00pm

Two Brooklyn Public Library branches in Cypress Hills and Dyker Heights have received large grants from the city to repair and renovate their aging buildings, according to press releases. The Arlington Library in Cypress Hills, pictured above, has gotten $1,000,000 in city funding to replace its boiler and install new piping, concrete padding, and damaged partitions. The work will be done while the library is open and not in need of heating, unless it has to close because of noise disruptions. Also, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilman Vincent Gentile have devoted $750,000 for replacing the badly damaged roof of the Dyker Heights library branch. Roof repair will involve demolishing and removing the current roof and installing a new one, as well as potential drain and paver additions. The roof replacement project will most likely be completed by 2016.

Image by Utopian Branch Library

08/29/13 3:00pm

109-111 Bradford St. NLTH, NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Built as New Lots Town Hall, then 71st Precinct, then Bradford Street Hospital, now apartments
Address: 109-111 Bradford Street
Cross Streets: Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: 1873
Architectural Style: Greek Revival/Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: In 1860, a group of men gathered in the town of New Lots to form a volunteer fire department. By 1866, they were pretty much established and were able to build a tall, octagonal wood framed bell tower on this site which was manned 24/7 to watch for fires in this small town of less than 100 families. In 1873, the Town of New Lots had grown to the extent that they needed to have some more formal civic structure, and the lot near the fire tower was the perfect place for building the New Lots Town Hall. This sturdy two-story plus basement brick building housed the town offices on the ground floor, and the fire department on the upper floor, which was a large open room.

In 1878, a new law required towns to house a police force, and the town hall was called into duty again. Everyone was shuffled around and squeezed into the building. Downstairs became the town meeting room and Clerk’s Office, the fire headquarters office, and the police receiving desk and muster room. Upstairs was made into a barracks, while the basement held four cells, plus two rooms for emergency lodging. The town morgue was placed in the fire tower, and it was the busiest place of all, as there seemed to be a lot of fatalities in New Lots due to the LIRR surface railroad, which according to the Brooklyn Eagle, supplied a wealth of mangled bodies. (more…)

08/05/13 3:30pm

78 NorwoodAve,NS, PS, 2012

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Private house
Address: 78 Norwood Avenue
Cross Streets: Ridgewood Avenue and Etna Street
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: Late 1880s, early 1890s
Architectural Style: Italianate frame
Architect: Unknown, perhaps Henry Meyer
Landmarked: No

The story: Norwood Street, in Cypress Hills/East New York, was once part of the Rapalje homestead, one of the many local farms belonging to Dutch settlers who called this area, then all part of New Lots, home, in the 17th and early 18th century. This Dutch presence is known today only by street names and one or two precious architectural remainders, buried underneath modern facades and “renovations.” As the 19th century progressed, the great grandchildren of those Dutch farmers realized their land was worth much more with houses sitting on it, than crops, and one by one, they sold to developers, and the city grid was carved out, block by block. East New York, the new 26th Ward, was now on the maps.

Even though the neighborhood was now laid out in a grid, with streets and lots, it still took time for the neighborhood to get built up. It was remote out there, but not completely unknown. In 1858, the City of Brooklyn began building the Ridgewood Reservoir to provide water to a thirsty city that was outgrowing the Mount Prospect Reservoir in Prospect Heights. The Ridgewood Reservoir, located in what is now Highland Park, had to pump its water to a processing station, down below the reservoir in New Lots, which was accomplished by forcing the water through a series of large underground pipes called “force tubes.” This pipe way cuts through the street grid directly to the site of the old pumping station. Force Tube Avenue was laid above the pipes, and it just missed cutting through the backyard of 78 Norwood Avenue. (more…)

07/19/13 3:13pm

303 Highland Blvd, 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Private House
Address: 303 Highland Boulevard
Cross Streets: Corner Barberry Court
Neighborhood: Highland Park/Cypress Hills
Year Built: 1906
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Henry E. Haugaard
Other works by architect: similar large suburban houses in Queens and Brooklyn
Landmarked: No

The story: If you’ve ever seen the huge scrap yards near Lowe’s in Gowanus, you can imagine that there’s money to be made in scrap metals. A man named Andrew Watson knew this to be true, and made a tidy fortune on the metal leavings of other people and their industry. At the beginning of the 20th century, Watson operated a large scrap dealership called Watson & Sons, Inc. on Withers Street, near Lorimar Street, in Williamsburg. This Scottish-born entrepreneur was very successful, and in 1906 was able to commission Queens based architect Henry E. Haugaard to design and build a large expansive Queen Anne house for the family. The Watson’s had five children, and needed the room a big 40×45 foot house would give them. (more…)

04/26/13 3:10pm

107 Pine St. CB, PS, 2008

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Private house
Address: 107 Pine Street
Cross Streets: Fulton Avenue and Ridgewood Street
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: Unknown, likely between 1886 and 1893
Architectural Style: Now it’s a Colonial Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story:
Look at this place! A Colonial Revival temple in the heart of East New York. What an unusual house, in an unusual place. You’ve got to wonder – was this house built with the oversized columns, or were they added later? Who lived here, and what were they thinking? You know there is a story behind these doors, and many questions still remain, but I was able to find out some interesting answers.

From looking at maps, it appears that 107 Pine Street was built somewhere between 1886 and 1893, those being the dates the maps we have were printed. That coincides with the development of Cypress Hills/East New York, a neighborhood that came into its own when the 26th Ward, once the Flatbush town of New Lots, was annexed into the city of Brooklyn in 1886. Several developers, including Edward Linton, who was the topic of this month’s Walkabouts, built blocks of homes for the people who were flocking out here from more crowded parts of the city. But this house was a one of a kind, a small cottage on a large lot. More than likely, the columns were not there. Stylistically, they definitely wouldn’t have been there at that period of time. (more…)

04/04/13 10:30am

Linton, Eastern Park, 1890 opening day, Wikimedia

If you live in Brooklyn today, you know that the borough is sports crazy. Having a Brooklyn team means all kinds of city cred to many people, including some of the borough’s biggest and most well-known movers and shakers. That has been true not only recently with the Brooklyn Nets, but for the last century and a half with the Brooklyn Dodgers and, before them, the earliest of Brooklyn’s sports teams. Brooklyn baseball started in the 1850s. The first league club convention of early baseball teams had 16 participating clubs. Brooklyn sent eight of them. Brooklyn’s Eckford, Excelsior and Atlantic clubs dominated baseball for most of the 1860s, and Brooklyn led the way for establishing the first enclosed playing fields, and the first admission fees. But up until the 1870s, baseball was still balancing between being an amateur and a professional sport.

But professionalism eventually won out, especially when it was possible for teams and their owners to actually make money having fun like this, and professional baseball was born. I’m glossing over a lot of history here, because this story is not really about the history of baseball, it’s about the history of one of Brooklyn’s league owners, Edward F. Linton. As we saw in Chapter One, Linton was a wealthy and powerful landowner in the 26th Ward, the new Brooklyn neighborhood called East New York. He actually owned half of it, and was a force in the community when it came to politics, land use, and anything that had to do with his domain. He also liked baseball and other sports, so when professional baseball emerged, it was a gift from heaven, because who is more popular and influential than the guy who owns a baseball team? (more…)

04/02/13 10:30am

ENY, BPL 1

East New York. For many who read these pages, or live in more affluent parts of Brooklyn, the neighborhood of East New York is terra incognita, the land not explored, or rather, the neighborhood passed through as fast as possible in the cab to the airport; that vast stretch of Atlantic Avenue between Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and the Conduit. If you take the subway a lot, you may have changed trains at the massive hub now called “Broadway Junction,” one of the few stations where three different lines of trains cross over each other, with the LIRR station not too far away, as well.

From the elevated station, one can see across to Jamaica Bay and Kennedy Airport. In the other direction, you can see the Victorian-era cottages and homes that make up the neighborhoods of Cypress Hills and Highland Park. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of Highland Park itself, one of Brooklyn’s larger neighborhood parks. What you may not realize is that practically everything I’ve mentioned was influenced in some way by a man named Edward F. Linton, an East New Yorker who was instrumental in turning much of the old town of New Lots into one of late 19th century Brooklyn’s nicest neighborhoods. This is his story. (more…)

03/29/13 3:00pm

495 Jamaica Ave, 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Originally the Wilhelmus Stoothoff House, now two-family private house
Address: 494 Jamaica Avenue
Cross Streets: Elton and Linwood Streets
Neighborhood: Cypress Hills
Year Built: Original house, before 1800, heavy alterations in 1889, remuddling later in 20th century
Architectural Style: New Netherlands Dutch, with Victorian alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: When you walk by this house, you can tell it’s much older than it looks today. First of all, there’s its position. It’s off the street grid, skewed at bit sideways, usually an indication that it predates the laying out of present day Jamaica Avenue. Secondly, if you look beyond the enclosed porch and the vinyl siding, there is an old Dutch overshot roof, and all of those dormers, front and back. What’s up with this house? Many times, these houses are so mucked up the records are totally gone, but I was surprised to find some real information.

This was originally the Wilhelmus Stoothoff house, built sometime before 1800, when this was still Dutch farm country in New Lots. Up until the middle of the 1900s, several other Dutch colonial houses still stood in the area, the most important being the Isaac Cornell Schenck house, which stood across the street in what would become Highland Park. Early records show that Jan Berents Bloom owned the land and the house, and sold it to Wilhelmus Stoothoff somewhere around the turn of the 19th century. A barn was erected for Stoothoff in 1800, and the house is mentioned in 1814, in the diary of John Baxter, in which he refers to Stoothoff as “Bill.”

Bill Stoothoff died in 1837. Before he died, he sold the property to John R. Pitkin, of Connecticut, who was planning East New York’s development. But the Panic of 1837 caused Pitkin to lose the property, and it went back to the Stoothoff family. After the Civil War, William Stoothoff, Bill’s son, sold the house and forty acres to Edward F. Linton. Edward F. Linton would have a great impact on both the house and the neighborhood. (more…)

03/08/13 3:00pm

278 Highland Blvd 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Private house
Address: 278 Highland Boulevard
Cross Streets: Miller Avenue and Barbey Street
Neighborhood: Highland Park
Year Built: Early 20th century, before 1915
Architectural Style: Arts and Crafts
Architect: Unknown, perhaps Adam Wischerth
Landmarked: No, but entire block should be

The story:
Highland Boulevard was the Gold Coast of the Highland Park/Cypress Hills neighborhood. This broad street is lined with some impressive mansions, as well as smaller, but no less interesting turn of the 20th century one family houses. Almost all of the houses on this block date from this time period, when fortunes were being made by the mostly German-American households who lived here. The largest monuments in nearby Cypress Hills and Evergreen Cemeteries all bear witness to the success of those people, and the general community.

One of those successful people was Adam Wischerth (often spelled Wischert, as well). Both variations of his name appear in the papers and building trade magazines, identifying him as a successful local developer and builder and sometimes architect. His name was connected to Adolf Gobel, the “Sausage King of Brooklyn,” who lived just across the street, and Wischerth is on record as the architect and builder of Gobel’s factories in Bushwick. He also built or designed many other small industrial and commercial buildings in the areas of Bushwick, East New York and Ridgewood, Queens.

Researching Mr. Wischerth can be confusing. Between the variations on his name and some confusion as to where he lived, which at times is here, and other times is at the Gobel mansion address, he seemed to be all over this block. Perhaps he was, but the preponderance of evidence seems to be that this house, number 278, was his actual home. There are mentions of his wife entertaining here, which appear in the Eagle and other local papers. It’s an interesting house with a large parcel of land around it, giving it a wonderful isolation within a city block. The land also allows the house to present itself with great panache. (more…)