38-42 Washington Avenue, SSPellen 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Mixed use retail and residential buildings
Address: 38-44 Washington Avenue, aka 200 Flushing Avenue
Cross Streets: Flushing and Park Avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1907
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival with Romanesque and classical details
Architect: Benjamin Finkensieper
Other Buildings by Architect: Knox Hat Factory building in Crown Heights, and many other factories, warehouses, churches and tenement buildings throughout Brooklyn.
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed LPC Wallabout Industrial Historic District, and a National Register nomination for the same.

The story: At the turn of the 20th century, the factories and warehouses of Wallabout and the activities within the Brooklyn Navy Yard were at an all-time high. Only the World War II years would surpass it. This group of buildings was built for Henry Waldeck, a very successful builder and developer who did a lot of work in both industrial and residential areas. A large fire on this, and surrounding blocks in 1907 damaged or destroyed the wood framed buildings that were on this site, giving Waldeck, who had owned many of them already, the perfect excuse to rebuild, and build better. (more…)

ted and honey cafe navy yard 82014

Ted & Honey Cafe at the Navy Yard’s BLDG 92 is closing this Friday, according to an email from Navy Yard reps. When we stopped by, the worker behind the counter told us business hadn’t been good. We don’t know what will replace the cafe, which is a branch of the original Ted & Honey Cafe and market on Clinton Street in Cobble Hill. But T&H will still run their catering operation, Parker Red, at a commercial kitchen in the Navy Yard. Food options are supposed to return to BLDG 92 in the spring. GMAP

2-12 Ryerson St. SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Former B. A. Jurgens Grocery Warehouse
Address: 2-12 Ryerson Street, aka 246-254 Flushing Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Flushing Avenue
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1890
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: Theobald Engelhardt
Other Buildings by Architect: Ulmer Brewery and Office, and many other factories and warehouses in Bushwick, Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn. Also hundreds of row houses, as well as mansions, tenement buildings, hospitals and churches in Bushwick, Eastern Bed Stuy and parts of Williamsburg
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed Wallabout Industrial Historic District. Also part of Wallabout Industrial District on the National Register of Historic Places

The story:
William B.A. Jurgens, (more correctly spelled Jϋrgens) was yet another of those enterprising German immigrants who made his fortune in America. He established his grocery business in Brooklyn in 1867, and never looked back. Thirty-five years later, he was the largest wholesale grocery business in Brooklyn. When the company was looking to expand at the turn of the 20th century, they went to the foremost architect in Brooklyn’s German-American community; Theobald Engelhardt, and hired him to design a large new warehouse. (more…)

13-15 Waverly Ave, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Van Glahn stables
Address: 13-15 Waverly Avenue
Cross Streets: Flushing and Park avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1907
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Walter B. Wills
Other Buildings by Architect: Row houses, theaters and industrial buildings throughout Brooklyn
Landmarked: No, but part of the Rockwood Chocolate Factory Historical District, designated in 1984 by the National Register of Historic Places. It is part of a proposed Wallabout Industrial HD and part of a larger National Register Wallabout Industrial District

The story: The Van Glahn brothers, John and Henry, established one of the largest wholesale grocery businesses in Brooklyn in the late 19th century. They were both born in Germany, and came over to Brooklyn in that wave of German immigration that started in the 1850s. Like many of their countrymen, they became involved in some aspect of the food business. Many of Brooklyn’s retail grocers were of German extraction, and who better to supply them than fellow German wholesalers?

The wholesale grocery business needed a lot of space and employees. Wholesale product such as coffee, sugar, flour and other commodities were shipped into the large warehouse and then subdivided into smaller packaging for sale to retail grocers and restaurants. Many wholesale grocers also had specialty products made exclusively for them. These too, needed to be stored, sometimes re-packaged, and shipped out. (more…)


Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Mergenthaler Linotype Company, Defense Plant Corporation Building
Address: 35 Ryerson Street, at Park Avenue, block wide on Park, between Grand and Ryerson
Neighborhood: Wallabout, between Clinton Hill and Navy Yard
Year Built: 1942
Architectural Style: Factory modern
Architects: Lockwood Greene Engineers, Inc.
Other buildings by architects: Daily News Factory on Atlantic Avenue (Newswalk Building), several buildings in the Navy Yard, parts of Rockefeller Center
Landmarked: No, but Wallabout has been submitted to LPC for several separate districts designation, and also in the process of being submitted to the National Register

The story: This building is the last built in this amazing industrial complex near the Navy Yard. Prior to computerized printing, linotype machines were used to set type on most newspapers and magazines, as well as many books, and Mergenthaler was the largest manufacturer of these machines, all made right here in Brooklyn. The Mergenthaler complex remains one of the largest and most intact reinforced concrete industrial sites in New York City. The complete story of the company and the rest of the site will be the topic of another post. THIS building was the last one built, constructed by the US Government, and leased to Mergenthaler as a factory for machines built for the war effort of World War II. (more…)

133 carlton avenue fort greene 72014

A pre-Civil War house with a remarkably well preserved exterior (a former Building of the Day) at 133 Carlton Avenue in Wallabout is being marketed as a development site for $5,200,000, along with two neighboring lots that include another small wood frame house and a convenience store. The house at 133 Carlton Avenue, once used as a church, is a wood frame Greek Revival house built in the 1840s. (more…)

Wallabout Market, composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Throughout Brooklyn’s history, a lot of things have come and gone, but one of the greatest losses has to be the Wallabout Market. At its peak, in the early 20th century, it was the second largest wholesale food market in the world. The Market was a bustling place where produce, meat, dairy, fish and foodstuffs were sold and traded to the thousands of retail grocery stores, food shops, restaurants, institutions and other wholesalers who came there every day to haggle, buy, pack up and deliver. Similar to Hunt’s Point, the old Fulton Fish Market and the Brooklyn Terminal Market that replaced it, Wallabout Market was a world unto itself, a rough and tumble world that also included graft, corruption and crime. But the market had one big advantage over New York’s other markets: it was beautiful.

Wallabout got its name from the French-speaking Walloons of Belgium who were the first settlers on the bay. They arrived in 1624, along with the Dutch, who called their bay Waal-bogt. The bay was the perfect location for the first ferry across the East River to New Amsterdam, which cast off in 1637, and continued for centuries. The area remained rural through the Revolutionary War, with most of it belonging to the Ryerson family.

The waterfront was an excellent port, which the British took advantage of when they took over Manhattan and Brooklyn during the Revolutionary War. Wallabout became infamous as the docking area for the British prison ships holding American soldiers and sailors throughout the war. Over 10,000 prisoners died on those ships, only to be dumped overboard, or buried in shallow graves on the shore. Today, the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument in Fort Greene Park holds their remains and honors their memories. After the war, much of the Wallabout area was purchased by John Jackson. He and his relatives decided to open a shipyard.

The new United States government was interested in a permanent shipyard in New York, and bought 40 acres of John Jackson’s property. They kept buying more and more acreage, so that by the 1850s, the Navy Yard had been pretty well established, with the first dry dock, the Commandant’s House, the Navy Hospital and other buildings on site. The Yard became one of the area’s largest employers, and houses, tenements and related businesses grew, filling up the streets of the Wallabout neighborhood. (more…)

Wallabout Tours

The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project is teaming up with the Fort Greene Park Conservancy to offer free walking tours of the park and Wallabout this summer. The 1.5-mile walk begins in Fort Greene Park and concludes at 99 Ryerson Street, where Walt Whitman wrote “Leaves of Grass.”

The tours will discuss the neighborhood’s development dating back to Dutch settlers in the 1600s and highlight the homes of famous residents. They’ll take place every third Saturday from June to September, and the first one is on June 21 at 11 am. Anyone interested in attending the free tour can register here through Eventbrite.

Image via Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

108-110 Waverly Ave. Google Maps

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 108-110 Waverly Avenue
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1886
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Andrew Spence?
Other Buildings by Architect: Frame houses, row houses, stables in many different Manhattan neighborhoods
Landmarked: No

The story: An entry in the Dec. 5, 1885 Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide intrigued me: “Miss Ashley intends to build two three-story and basement brick and stone flats, 16.8x55x73 each, at Nos. 108 and 110 Waverly Avenue, at an estimated cost of $30,000. The plans are being drawn up by Andrew Spence of Manhattan.” I went to see if the houses were indeed built, and there they were. The dimensions were the same, although they didn’t look like classic flats buildings, they looked like single family brownstones. But that doesn’t mean anything. Lots of flats were built to look like single family homes during this time period.

Women appear as developers every once in a while on the pages of the Real Estate Record or the newspapers, in the late 19th century. One rare occasions they are true partners with their husbands, but more often than not, wives are merely fronts for their husbands. Taking advantage of the polite Victorian upper-class disdain for suing a woman, or dragging her into court, many developers used their wives as shields against bankruptcy or lawsuits. Of course, as this practice continued, the courts and creditors stifled their chivalry, and filed suit anyway.

But every once in a big while, a rarity would occur and a woman would be on her own in the real estate and development business. MISS Ashley, not even a married woman, would have been that rarity. Since the papers did not give her first name, I was unable to track her down any further, for the sake of this piece. There are just too many Ashleys. But then the property appears again the following year, with a man getting the credit, and perhaps for different buildings all together. (more…)

133 Carlton Ave, SW, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Wood framed semi-detached row house
Address: 133 Carlton Avenue
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park Avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1840s
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed Wallabout Historic District

The story: In spite of all that’s happened on this block of Carlton Avenue, this little house has survived for over 170 years. Before the housing projects, the apartment complex, the bodega, the flats buildings and brownstones on this block, this house, and its neighbor were among the rows of wood framed houses that made up working class Wallabout. These houses were built by and for the people who settled in this area in the early part of the 19th century, drawn by jobs and careers at the Navy Yard and in the shipbuilding, printing, and other factories and industries that also developed in the area.

In his 2005 Wallabout Cultural Resource Survey, architectural historian Andrew Dolkart called this house the “most interesting house on the block.” It’s typical of the period; a Greek Revival-style frame house, amazingly still with its fluted Corinthian style wooden pillars and capitals. The house still has fish scale shingles alternating with plain shingles in a very pleasing vernacular pattern, and an intact cornice with a carved wooden frieze with swagged garlands. On almost any other block, this house would be a treasured period gem. Here, unfortunately, it’s rather lost. (more…)

99 Ryerson St. CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Wood-framed row house
Address: 99 Ryerson Street
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1850s
Architectural Style: Italianate, underneath all that siding
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Underneath this rather uninspiring façade is an Italianate clapboard framed row house. What makes it special among all the other covered-up, remuddled pre-Civil War houses on this block is that this is the last remaining home of the great Brooklyn (and American) poet, Walt Whitman. From this house in 1855, Whitman penned his greatest and best known work, Leaves of Grass.

Whitman is everywhere these days, most noticeably in a commercial for Apple. He lived in Brooklyn for 28 years, and during that time supported himself as a carpenter, a teacher, a journalist and a government clerk, while all the while writing his poetry and essays. For two years, between 1846 and 1848, he was the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle. He lost his job when he sided, in an editorial in the Eagle, with the “Free Soil” wing of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, the Eagle’s owner, his boss, sided with the other side. Instant unemployment.

Leaves of Grass was Whitman’s opus, a collection of poetry that he would edit, refine, and edit again until his death. He paid for the first printing himself, and printed it at a Brooklyn printshop when the workmen were on breaks. 795 copies were printed. Whitman received much attention, both good and bad, from this seminal work. He was hailed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a very flattering five page letter to Whitman, praising him for a “most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.” Many other critics were horrified and highly offended at the sensuality of some of the verses, and were quick to call Leaves of Grass, “trashy, profane & obscene.”

All of those letters of praise and damnation came to this house. (more…)