04/17/14 3:00pm

207A-209 18th St. KL, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 207A-209 18th Street
Cross Streets: 4th and 5th Avenues
Neighborhood: Greenwood Heights
Year Built: Before 1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No, but these blocks should be

The story: In 1844, the city of Brooklyn voted to extend open up 18th Street from 9th Avenue, now Prospect Park West, and the Gowanus Bay. For the next 40 years, the neighborhood remained undeveloped and was a dumping ground for all kinds of things, including bodies. The body of a baby was found here in 1846, seen abandoned by a couple who drove away in a wagon. But it would not be an undeveloped scrub land for long. Industry was growing at the waterway, and after the Civil War, the blocks began to be with row houses, most of them wood framed. The blocks were relatively close to Green-Wood Cemetery, a popular tourist attraction as well as burial place; so traffic here on 18th and on the other Green-Wood Heights blocks was busier than one might think.

These two buildings were built sometime after the Civil War, but before 1888. Stylistically, I’d put them in the mid-1880s. They, and the rest of the row going towards 5th Avenue, are in place when the maps for 1888 were published. There was a wood framed house or building on the large lot to the left of 207A that is now the buff colored Renaissance Revival flats building. There was also a greenhouse complex on this side of the street, closer to 5th. Wood framed row houses dominated both sides of the block, at this point, and a large Methodist Church was in place across the street from here, up a bit towards 5th. That church is now gone Today it’s a Greek Orthodox Church.

On first glance, one might think these two buildings are an odd pair. 207A is a four story house and 209 is only three. The windows are not even lined up with each other. But they do share many similar features, and were obviously built at the same time, by the same builder. I hope to find the architect and builder one of these days. This neighborhood is not well documented. Stylistically, the house shares elements of the Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Neo-Grec styles, with a bit of terra cotta thrown in, making it a Queen Anne catch-all confection. (more…)

03/25/14 2:00pm

The Associated Supermarket that was burned out in a fire four years ago will be returning to the corner of 5th Avenue and 17th Street in Greenwood Heights. We found this rendering on the fence at 617 5th Avenue, beneath a big green banner announcing “Marketplace ‘Coming Soon’” (though we’re unsure why there are quotes around “coming soon”).

Construction will finish this spring, according to the sign on the fence. Owner Clarista Realty Group is also repairing the building’s 10 apartments, according to permits.

South Slope News was the first to report that Associated would return. Click through the jump to see a picture of the building.

Demolition Under Way at 5th Avenue Fire Site [Brownstoner] GMAP

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A baseball expert and Green-Wood’s resident historian will lead fans around the sprawling cemetery to the graves of baseball greats next Saturday.

Tom Gilbert of the Society for Baseball Research, along with historian Jeff Richman, will discuss the lives and monuments of Henry Chadwick, who invented the game’s scoring system; Charles Ebbets, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers; and Charlie Smith, a well-known hitter who played for the Mets and the Yankees.

The tour will last from 1 to 3 pm on Saturday, March 29. Tickets are available on Green-Wood’s website.

Image via Ballparks of Baseball

If you’d like to learn more about some of New York’s most famous black figures, take the Black History Tour at Green-Wood Cemetery, where a historian will explain the backstory behind each grave on the tour. Highlights on the trolley tour will include artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, pictured above; Susan Smith McKinney, New York State’s first black doctor (also pictured); Jeremiah Hamilton, the city’s first black millionaire; and some of the city’s black Civil War heroes.

Cemetery historian Jeff Richman will discuss their lives and the contributions they made to New York City’s cultural heritage. Tickets cost $15 for Green-Wood members and $20 for non-members. The tour will take place this Saturday between 1 and 3:30 pm at Green-Wood Cemetery at 500 25th Street in Brooklyn.

Image via Green-Wood Cemetery

01/29/14 3:15pm

283 Prospect Ave,St Johns Lutheran NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Built as The Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Congregation of Brooklyn, now St. John – St. Matthew– Emanuel Lutheran Church
Address: 283 Prospect Avenue
Cross Streets: Fifth and Sixth Avenues
Neighborhood: Greenwood Heights
Year Built: 1898-1899
Architectural Style: Rundbogenstil Gothic Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: I’ve been observing and reading about architecture for a while now, and have learned a great deal about style and period. Church architecture is a fascinating subject to me, and I’ve seen enough churches and styles to be pretty good at telling you the denomination of a church without seeing the name on the sideboard out front. Catholic architecture is very different from Methodist, which is different from Episcopalian or Lutheran. Each denomination, each ethnic group that made up the denomination had its own unique style. This particular church couldn’t be more German Lutheran if Martin Luther himself were standing outside.

Many of Brooklyn’s German American architects were trained in the old country, or were trained by architects and builders from Germany who had immigrated to the United States. They brought with them specific Germanic building and stylistic traditions, one of which we know as Rundbogenstil architecture. The word means “round arch” and is a specifically Germanic version of Romanesque Revival architecture established in the late 1830s. The German architects of the day, specifically Heinrich Hübsch, who is regarded as the father of Rundbogenstil, were seeking to find a national German style, and looked to a simple and elegant architecture based on Roman design principals.

What resulted was an elegant style with arched windows and doors, usually with “eyebrow” lintel windows, and inverted arched crenellation under the eaves. In churches and synagogues, the style also resulted in very angular towers, and the arched windows and entryways are often pointed in a more Gothic style. The inverted arched cornices, the most noticeable feature in the style, is well articulated in brick, and can be found in breweries, factories, churches and homes designed by Theobald Englehardt and many of the other German American architects of the late 1800s. He may have designed this church, but I could not find any record of the architect at all. (more…)

Green-Wood Cemetery is hosting a fascinating tour next month exploring the history of Brooklyn’s distilleries, beginning with the Pierrepont family and ending with a whiskey tasting. Visitors will start at the Pierrepont family memorial (pictured), home to the remains of developer and distiller Hezekiah Beers Pierrepont. Hezekiah not only built Brooklyn Heights into a city suburb but also ran a distillery in downtown Brooklyn during the early 19th century.

After learning about Brooklyn’s historical whiskey connections, tour participants will head to the Kings County Distillery at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. They’ll get a peek inside how Kings County makes its gin and whiskey as well as a tasting. Tickets for the February 8 event are $30 for Green-Wood members and $35 for non-members.

Photo by Eric Hunt

01/16/14 12:15pm

This one-bedroom in Greenwood Heights seems cozy and quiet. The bed is shown in an alcove off the living room, but we’re guessing the floor-through apartment has three rooms in all, including a middle room set up as an office. The kitchen is in good shape and can fit a small dining room table. And the bathroom has a skylight and some cheery yellow walls. It’s located half a block from Green-Wood Cemetery and four blocks from the R train. What’s your opinion of it for $1,750 a month?

203A 29th Street, #2 [Corcoran] GMAP

11/12/13 3:00pm

213 17th St. Pitbladdo house 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Thomas Pitbladdo house
Address: 213 17th Street
Cross Streets: 4th and 5th Avenues
Neighborhood: South Slope/Greenwood Heights
Year Built: Before 1886
Architectural Style: Italianate, maybe
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No, but deserves some kind of recognition

The story: This one was a great journey into Brooklyn history. Ever since I’ve strolled around this area the summer before last, I’ve been curious about the history of this part of the neighborhood. There is very little information available about this part of town, and it must be gleaned like needles in a haystack. This house especially intrigued me, because not only was it an anomaly, in terms of style, it was also a survivor. The ramp to the Prospect Parkway runs right next door, and the fact that the house survived the construction and the placement of the road is just remarkable. Was that an accident of geography, or the influence of a prominent owner? Who lived here, and what was their story? I was lucky enough to find out more than I expected.

I thought the house was clapboard under the aluminum siding, the curse of the South Slope, but a look on several maps proved me wrong. This house is masonry under here, perhaps brick or stucco. From the style of the dormers and the front door, I’d say it was an Italianate, built in the 1870s. It was probably one of the earliest masonry houses on the block. Maps from 1887 show several wood framed houses here, as well, along with row houses. Several of the free standing frame houses were where the access road is today.

The house belonged to Thomas Pitbladdo. There were several spellings of his name, complicating research, but I was able to find an entry in the Brooklyn Eagle in 1891, where Mr. Pitbladdo got a permit to change his flat roof to a peaked one. It was going to cost him $200. That was the starting point, and researching Thomas Pitbladdo’s name became an adventure in Brooklyn history. (more…)

11/05/13 3:00pm

224 17th St, S.Slope. 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 224 17th Street
Cross Streets: 4th and 5th Avenues
Neighborhood: Greenwood Heights/South Slope
Year Built: 1884
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Unknown, slight chance it could be George P. Chappell
Landmarked: No

The story: It’s rather amazing how we know so much about some parts of Brooklyn, and so little about others, even though they were developed about the same time, with many of the same people often involved. Through a lot of careful research by residents, historical societies, professionals, and architecture junkies such as myself, we know quite a bit about Park Slope. We know who designed, built and owned a majority of the housing stock, and because many of them were prominent in 19th century Brooklyn, we know a fair amount about the earliest residents, as well. There were people who only appear when they marry, or when they die, and those whose lives were fodder for the 19th century equivalent of Page Six.

But over and up a few blocks, the story is different. The South Slope was much more low key. The housing there was, by and large, not built for the rich and important, but built for those who worked for them; in their offices, businesses and factories. These were mostly homes for the middle class, the mid-management people, the teachers and small business owners. Most of the row houses are smaller, only two stories plus a basement, and some were built as two family homes, while others housed extended families, and others offered rooms for rent. There are a lot of great blocks of houses here, enough to keep a BOTD going for a while. (more…)

10/24/13 12:15pm

This large two-bedroom in Greenwood Heights has a lot of prewar features and original details. The parquet floors, rounded archways, and little cut-outs over the kitchen stove and sink all show the apartment’s history, as does the yellow bathroom with the art deco shower. The 1,200-square-foot apartment has an eat-in kitchen (picture No. 2 in the listing), separate living room with a fireplace, and 1.5 baths. And it’s only four blocks from the D train at 36th Street. What do you think of it for $2,300?

180 31st Street [Betancourt & Associates] GMAP

10/08/13 11:00am

Green-Wood Cemetery opened the mausoleums of some of its most famous and wealthy residents last weekend. Visitors could walk inside, and guides and actors dressed in period costume — mostly mid to late 19th century — recounted the mausoleum’s history.

The first stop on the tour was the tomb of John Anderson, a wealthy tobacconist who owned a shop in the Financial District in the 1840s and 1850s. He hired a pretty girl named Mary Rogers to help sell cigars outside his shop. She became famous in her own right as the “Beautiful Cigar Girl,” because she was featured in advertising and regular customers got to know her. But one day, she was found floating in the Hudson River, and no one knows exactly how she died (or if she was murdered, and by whom). Anderson was married, but the guides speculate the two could have had an affair, or the tobacco girl could have been murdered by a jealous lover. (more…)