137-149 Lafayette Ave, SB, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Altered row houses
Address: 137-147 Lafayette Avenue
Cross Streets: Cumberland Street and Carlton Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: Original buildings, 1860s; major alterations, 1934
Architectural Style: Originally Italianate, now Colonial Revival
Architect: Unknown; 1934 alterations, Horace B. Mann
Other works by architect: With partner Perry R. McNeille: “Kinko” houses in Crown Heights North and Park Slope, suburban houses in New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester and the Fieldston Historic District in the Bronx
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: How times and fashions change! When the row houses of Fort Greene were built, primarily in the 1860s and ‘70s, a single-family house was seen as the optimal family home. But 80 years later, things had changed.

Apartments were the new homes of choice. But the lack of available land for new buildings, and a paucity of available funds during the middle years of the Great Depression, meant that developers needed to get creative in order to meet that need.

The front page of the Brooklyn Eagle’s real estate section on Sunday, September 23, 1934, featured extensive coverage of a project that was midway to completion on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene. (more…)

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Developers are moving to transform a lowly Fort Greene lot. Just as their first Brooklyn building begins to rise at 250 Ashland Place, the father-son duo running Gotham Organization snapped up a coveted parking lot a mere two blocks away. For $5,500,000.

Located at 130 St Felix Street, the lot is steps from Atlantic Terminal, wedged between a BAM theater and the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower. Naturally, we’re predicting condos.

The seller was the sponsor of the condo building next door at 1 Hanson Place, Canyon Johnson Urban Funds. The sponsor and the condo association of 1 Hanson Place negotiated an easement on the lot, used for parking, more than a year ago, according to public records.

A building with 75,114 square feet is permitted, according to PropertyShark. However, there may be trouble in developer paradise. (more…)

293-299 Cumberland St. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Wood-framed row houses
Address: 293-299 Cumberland Street
Cross Streets: Lafayette and Greene avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1853
Architectural Style: Greek Revival, with alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: The Greek Revival style of architecture began to grow in popularity in the United States in the 1820s. By the 1830s and ’40s, the features we most readily associate with the style — the white temple-style buildings, the columns and the pediments — had been blueprinted in architectural style books.

These books became the guides that thousands of American builders, both known and unknown, used as the basis for their own designs. Greek Revival vernacular buildings became common from the Ohio Valley to New England, throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, and throughout the South.

This particular group nestled here on Cumberland Street is actually two pairs of attached row houses. Their presence is quite wonderful and unexpected in a neighborhood predominated by brownstone row houses. (more…)

54 Greene Ave, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 54 Greene Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Adelphi Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1868
Architectural Style: Italianate (once)
Architect: Thomas Skelly (builder)
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: Most of Fort Greene was developed in the busy years just after the Civil War. Brooklyn’s population soared due to manufacturing and business growth. The population began to spread eastward from Brooklyn Heights, aided by better roads and public transportation.

Small developer/builders such as Thomas Skelly bought as many lots as they could in Fort Greene, and built hundreds of row houses, most in some variation of the popular Italianate style.

Skelly built all ten houses on this side of the block, between Adelphi and Clermont. He built them in two groups; numbers 54-66 were built in 1868. Their stoops and doorways were built on the left. Numbers 68-72 were built in 1869, and their stoops and doorways are on the right.

All of the houses in this group survived the century and a half pretty much intact, except today’s house, number 54. (more…)

WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design or renovation project, written and produced by Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11.

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WHERE MOST PEOPLE SEE A WRECK, architects see glorious opportunity. So said Elizabeth Roberts, founding principal of Gowanus-based Ensemble Architecture, of this four-story brick row house whose new owners are a young family late of SoHo.

“The house was in really bad shape,” said Roberts of the neglected 20-by-36-foot structure, into which the architects managed to fit four bedrooms, a study, three full baths and two half baths.  “It had been vacant, water had been leaking for a few years, and the rear wall was falling down. The opportunity was there for opening it up a lot, and putting on a two-story addition.”

That 13-foot-deep addition was the project’s boldest stroke. Now, the new garden-level kitchen, as well as the back parlor on the floor above, open into a two-story volume containing a high-ceilinged dining space. (more…)

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Dixon is renovating a landmarked mid-19th-century wood frame house at 266 Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene and is restoring the outside per the LPC requirements, as we saw when we happened by recently. When it is done, it will look similar to the twin house next door.

Dixon is restoring the two full-length windows on the parlor floor and putting in a new front door. It will also add back a missing cornice, according to the rendering posted on the construction fence, and install new two-over-two windows. (more…)

205 DeKalb Ave, NS, PS 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 205 Dekalb Avenue
Cross Streets: Carlton Avenue and Adelphi Street
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1860s
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: Some of our architecture is notable for its beauty, some for its ugliness. Sometimes we’re drawn by the genius of a building’s designers and craftsmen, its functionality, or just the sheer awesomeness of it. And sometimes, we note a building because of who lived there.

Twin houses 205 and 207 Dekalb Avenue were part of the residential building boom of the 1860s, when Fort Greene seemed to spring up almost overnight.

A robust post-Civil War economy spurred the expansion of Brooklyn, creating homes for a new middle class of merchants and small business owners, white-collar workers and others eager to live in this fast-growing city.

Like most of the houses built at this time, these were in the Italianate style; they were classic brownstones with heavily carved window and door hoods, tall stoops, overhanging wooden cornices and substantial entryways with carved brackets flanking tall, elegant wooden doors. (more…)

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Mayor de Blasio intends to lease unused land at public housing projects to private developers to build towers with 50-50 market rate and subsidized rentals, he announced Tuesday. Van Dyke and Ingersoll Houses as well as one complex in the Bronx will be the first in the project, which aims to raise $200,000,000 in fees from developers over 10 years as well as create 10,000 affordable units, The New York Times reported.

The money will go toward maintaining existing NYCHA housing, to make up for losing more than $1 billion in federal subsidies since 2001. Separately, an advocacy group for the elderly today recommended in a report that 39 parking lots at low-income senior housing be transformed into housing for seniors, The Wall Street Journal reported. (more…)

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Actress Christina Ricci is moving to Fort Greene. She and her husband, James Heerdegen, bought a townhouse at 67 Adelphi Street, The New York Post reported. The sale has not yet closed, so we don’t know the amount, but it was most recently asking $1,995,000.

The house is a wood frame and is 25 feet wide and semi-detached. It likely dates from the mid-19th century, but in other respects doesn’t seem especially distinguished inside or out. (more…)

59 S. Elliott Pl. CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Wood-frame house
Address: 59 South Elliott Place
Cross Streets: DeKalb and Lafayette Avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: before 1879
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: This is a house that takes you by surprise when walking or driving down the street. There it stands, a wood-frame amidst a row of brownstone row houses. It’s infill housing at its most eclectic, and it took place over 135 years ago.

There’s quite a story to this house. Its secrets were first revealed by the estimable Christopher Gray in his Streetscapes column in the New York Times, back in 1995.

Prior to 1879, this 25 foot wide lot was taken up by a one story frame structure, nestled in between a pair of houses that had been built in 1864 and other group built in 1885.

In 1879, a lawyer named Anthony Barrett bought the lot, and lived here. He immediately enlarged the structure considerably, adding floors, and creating a more traditional house. It was still, however a wood-frame. (more…)

29 Fort Green Pl. Bklyn Tech,SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Brooklyn Technical High School
Address: 29 Fort Greene Place
Cross Streets: Between DeKalb and Lafayette Avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1930-33
Architectural Style: Collegiate Gothic meets Deco skyscraper
Architect: Walter C. Martin
Other Buildings by Architect: Franklin K. Lane HS, Bklyn; Samuel Gompers Vocational HS, Bronx; Andrew Jackson HS, Jamaica HS, Queens; George Washington HS, Manhattan, and more
Landmarked: No

The story: Architect Walter C. Martin, the Superintendent of Buildings for the New York City Board of Education had his hands full building Brooklyn Tech. The massive school building was constructed during the first three years of the 1930s, when the country was reeling under the effects of the Great Depression.

Thanks to Federal money, the school continued to rise above the brownstone streets of Fort Greene, overlooking Fort Greene Park. Brooklyn Tech was conceived as a specialized school, open to boys only. Part One of this history appears here.

It would offer a curriculum that was heavy in mathematics, science, engineering and related subjects, preparing them for higher education or a good job in the industrial sector.

The school was the brainchild of Dr. Albert Colston, once the head of the Mathematics department at Brooklyn’s Manual Training School in Park Slope. He would become the new school’s first principal. (more…)

29 Fort Green Pl. Bklyn Tech. JimHenderson for Wiki 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Brooklyn Technical High School
Address: 29 Fort Greene Place
Cross Streets: Between DeKalb and Lafayette Avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1930-33
Architectural Style: Collegiate Gothic meets Deco skyscraper
Architect: Walter C. Martin
Other Buildings by Architect: Franklin K. Lane HS, Bklyn; Samuel Gompers Vocational HS, Bronx; Andrew Jackson HS, Jamaica HS, Queens; George Washington HS, Manhattan, and more
Landmarked: No

The story: After World War I, educators began to realize that the world was rapidly changing, with technology becoming more and more important to everyday life, as well as in employment. The technologies made real for war were moving into the marketplace.

It was very similar to today, in that respect.

At the end of the 19th century, educators had introduced “manual training” into the high school curriculum. Girls were directed into the “domestic arts,” but boys were taught skills in carpentry, metalworking, engineering, drafting, building skills and the like, preparing some of them for higher education, and most of them for the job market.

Dr. Albert Colston was the head of the Mathematics Departmment at Brooklyn’s Manual Training School, later called John Jay High School, in Park Slope. He had a vision of a new technical high school that would train boys in the new technologies of the 20th century. (more…)