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.
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.
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?
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…)
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…)
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?
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…)
This weekend, Green-Wood Cemetery is offering tours of its beautiful grounds and opening the doors to many of its most popular mausoleums and catacombs. The 478-acre cemetery was founded in 1838 and is home to thousands of famous New Yorkers, including abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, Brooklyn Dodgers owner and Ebbets Field namesake Charles Ebbets, Samuel F.B. Morse, and piano maker Henry Steinway. The Battle of Long Island was fought on its grounds in 1776, and hundreds of heroes from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars were laid to rest among its historic architecture and statuary.
A trolley will provide “hop on, hop off” service between 12 and 4 pm this Saturday and Sunday. Guides and actors in period costume will offer insights into the lives of the people who rest in the mausoleums. Single-day tickets are $20 for the public and $15 for members of Green-Wood Cemetery or Brooklyn Historical Society, and weekend passes are $30 and $25. Get all the information and buy tickets on Green-Wood’s website.
Name: The Historic Chapel in Green-Wood Cemetery Address: Green-Wood Cemetery Cross Streets: Entrance is on 5th Ave. at 25th Street Neighborhood: Greenwood Heights/South Slope Year Built: 1911 Architectural Style: Gothic Architect: Warren & Wetmore Other works by architect: Grand Central Station, Yale Club, NY Yacht Club, Helmsley Building, and other Beaux-Arts buildings in Manhattan and elsewhere Landmarked: No. Entire cemetery is a National Historic Landmark (2006)
The story: I love this chapel. It is a beautiful building, inside and out. Coming up upon it, and seeing it in its full glory, while walking in Green-Wood is always a pleasant surprise. The chapel is a relatively late comer to the cemetery, which was established in 1838. Warren and Wetmore are major architects of the Beaux-Arts period, and are responsible for the designs of Grand Central Station, their masterpiece, as well as the Helmsley Building, smaller works such as Steinway Hall on 57th St, the NY Yacht Club, and the Yale Club. They were extremely well-connected, with an advantage in that the main designer, Whitney Warren, was a Vanderbilt cousin. (more…)
In a world where condos in Williamsburg are selling for $1,500 a foot, can $700-a-foot in Greenwood Heights be considered a good deal? The fate of this second-floor condo at 219 17th Street will answer that question. The two-bedroom apartment has 1,020 square feet and is asking $695,000. That’s an increase of more than 30 percent over the price it sold for in 2006 and almost 60 percent higher than what it went for in 2005. Although it’s a six-story, 12-unit building, this apartment is laid out more like the floor of a townhouse, with a living room in front and two bedrooms in back. Do you think they’ll get their price?
A gigantic industrial lot on the waterfront in Greenwood Heights has sold for a whopping $91,500,000, The Real Deal reported. The parcel at 75 20th Street is 690,000 square feet and includes 32 commercial units. Seems like this industrial area between Sunset Park and Red Hook could be getting hot as areas nearby take off. Earlier this week we reported on a demo of a power plant here, and the waterfront area just below in Sunset Park, which contains Industry City as well as city land, is poised for redevelopment, including a public park. A kitchen supply center at 75 19th Street, on the same block, sold for $19,000,000 this month, the story noted. Rents in Gowanus, also nearby, have increased 15 to 20 percent since Whole Foods said they were moving in. This parcel could be converted to offices, but is very unlikely to be rezoned for residential, according to the Real Deal.