03/12/14 3:00pm

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…)

02/19/14 3:30pm

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…)

02/13/14 12:15pm

This extra-big one-bedroom loft next to the Navy Yard in the Chocolate Factory is the real thing but pricey. The 1,300-square-foot pad has original wood beams, columns, iron work and part of the original wood ceiling, and there’s plenty of closet space. And the kitchen is getting new floors and stainless steel appliances. Building amenities include laundry, 24-hour doorman, storage, parking garage, an organic market, spa and roof deck.

It’s large enough to build out one more bedroom, but the rent still seems steep for being so far from a decent subway line. However, there are free buses to Dumbo and downtown Brooklyn and a Citi Bike station close by. What’s your opinion of it for $3,300 a month?

275 Park Avenue [Danelle Davis] GMAP

02/10/14 3:00pm

123 Clermont Ave, Googlemaps 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Stand-alone house
Address: 123 Clermont Avenue
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1850, changes in 1892
Architectural Style: Italianate, now with Queen Anne ornament
Architect: Original builder unknown, addition designed by architect/builder John McKeefrey, who lived here
Other buildings by architect: McKeefrey, a general contractor, was responsible for building projects throughout New York City, in the late 19th and early 20th century
Landmarked: No, but part of Wallabout HD on the National Register of Historic Places (2011)

The story: I’m really liking Clermont Avenue. The more I find out about the buildings on this Fort Greene street, the more important the avenue becomes in the area’s history, easily rivaling the better known blocks around it. Although there are some great buildings on the Fort Greene side, the Wallabout stretch of the street, between Myrtle and Flushing, is home to some of the oldest houses in the entire neighborhood, making this area exceptionally interesting.

Today, this lot between Myrtle and Park avenues is a generous 50 by 100 feet, more than enough room for an extra-long 22-foot-wide house and a rare side yard and garage. In 1850, when the house was built, it had the same lot, but much has changed since then, including the size of the house. For several years 123 Clermont was the Mayor of Brooklyn’s house; home to Frederick A. Schroeder, a wealthy cigar manufacturer, bank president and one-term mayor of the city of Brooklyn. Here’s the story: (more…)

01/27/14 3:00pm

59 Washington Avenue, CB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former power plant, now warehouse
Address: 59 Washington Avenue
Cross Streets: Park and Flushing Avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1899-1900
Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
Architect: George P. Chappell
Other buildings by architect: 73 Washington, 30-38 Hall Street, in Wallabout. Best known for row houses, flats buildings, churches, and single family homes in Crown Heights North, Bedford Stuyvesant, Park Slope and Clinton Hill
Landmarked: No, but part of National Register of Historic Places Wallabout Industrial District (2012), and proposed Wallabout Historic District

The story: I am fascinated by this part of town. It’s one of the earliest settled parts of Brooklyn, and has an incredible history. Shipbuilding and chandlering, the food and candy industries, printing machine manufacturing, and all of the other wholesale warehouse and storage industries that developed in Wallabout over the last 300 years have left quite a legacy here.

Back in the late 19th century, when Wallabout was bustling with industry, a great deal of that activity surrounded the food industry. Wholesale grocers like the Glahn Brothers had huge warehouses of food products that they shipped across the country to retail grocery stores, and they weren’t the only ones in the area. Because of the proximity to Williamsburg’s sugar operations, as well as the Wallabout wholesale food market, this area also became home to many different candy, cake and processed food factories.

Everything from Drake’s Cakes to bon bons and Tootsie Rolls were made here. The Wallabout market sold meat, dairy products, eggs and produce, and its merchants sold to other markets around the city. When Wallabout was in its prime, it must have had a changing cloud of smells, both enticing and gag-worthy that helped make it unique in all of Brooklyn. (more…)

01/02/14 10:45am

Cutting Ice LOC 1

When it comes to business, there have been many monopolies in American history, as one company succeeds in controlling most or even all of the goods or services in an industry that people need to survive and thrive. Standard Oil, American Telephone & Telegraph, and U.S. Steel were famous American monopolies established in the late 19th century that succeeded in hogging so much business that they could set prices and demand whatever they wanted because they controlled the markets. Everyone protested in one way or another, sometimes violently. Eventually laws were passed, and these companies were all forced to break up into smaller companies. That is, of course, a very simplified version of what really happened.

Commodities that are necessary for everyday life are great candidates for monopolization because, well, everyone needs them. Great power and wealth can be found in controlling heat, electricity, water and the like, so it’s no wonder so many tried. Ice was one of those commodities too, and in the days before electrical refrigeration, or reliable chemically produced ice, the company that controlled ice controlled the quality of life for everyone.

Ice preserved meats, produce and dairy products for shipping, wholesale, retail and home markets. Nowhere was this more important than in large metropolitan areas like greater New York. The city’s hotels and restaurants were huge consumers of ice. Ice was an important ingredient in the brewing of lager beer, a huge Brooklyn and New York industry. Ice boxes were gaining popularity in homes and were proving invaluable in home food storage. Ice preserved the dead in morgues and even during the funeral of your loved one taking place in your parlor. Ice was a huge and profitable industry. (more…)

12/04/13 1:30pm

This seems like such a cute house at such a good price for Brooklyn. We like Wallabout and we like the renovation, which features a steel and reclaimed wood staircase, teak hardwood floors, Carrera Carrara marble counters in the kitchen, and lacquer cabinets. All the mechanicals are new, as is the siding, windows, roof, and skylights. The whole nine yards! But the property has a potentially fatal flaw: It’s right on the BQE. Given the reputed dangers of car exhaust, it might work best as a rental or a place to own and live in for a few years rather than decades. It has a lovely outdoor space but we’re guessing you’ll hear traffic. For $999,000, what do you think of it?

179 Park Avenue [John van Amburg] GMAP


11/20/13 11:30am


We thought you might like to see some photos we took at the Wallabout tour a couple weeks ago, a joint effort of The Wooden House Project and the Brooklyn Historical Society. The area has one of the largest concentrations of pre-Civil War-era wood frame houses in New York City. The neighborhood developed as a place to live for boat builders, captains, and other workers associated with the shipping industry.

The house above at 73 Vanderbilt Avenue was built in 1851 and 1852 in a mix of the Greek Revival and Italianate styles. The clapboard and the detail around the front door are original, but the Greek Revival moldings around the front entrance come from an interior doorway, and the ears around the windows and six-over-six windows were added in a 1970s restoration.


11/01/13 4:00pm


The Wooden House Project and Brooklyn Historical Society have teamed up to give a walking tour of Wallabout this Saturday. The recently landmarked, traditionally working class neighborhood between Clinton Hill and the Navy Yard is renowned for its large number of pre-Civil War wood frame houses.

The tour will discuss some of the challenges to preserving them and the history of the area. Poet Walt Whitman’s former digs is one of the notable houses on the tour.

The tour starts at 11 am at the intersection of Myrtle and Vanderbilt avenues. Tickets may be purchased in advance here. For more information, visit the Brooklyn Historical Society or The Wooden House Project.

Photo by the Wooden House Project


An LLC called 11-45 Ryerson Holdings has closed on an industrial property at 29 Ryerson Street with plans to convert the space into offices for tech tenants and put in retail, according to Crain’s. The development is part of a growing trend in Brooklyn to remake industrial space for Brooklyn’s “new-manufacturing economy,” according to the story, which cited the Navy Yard and Industry City as other examples. The property is located in Wallabout across from the Navy Yard and includes an eight-story, 192,000-square-foot warehouse, a one-story 8,070-square-foot industrial building, and a parking lot. In March, The Real Deal previously reported that Ryerson Equity was in contract to purchase the site for $26,250,000 and planned to put in retail, a gym, and a hotel. Now it sounds as if that is off the table. What would you like to see go into this space?

$26M Wallabout Warehouse to Be Reborn as Offices [Crain's]
Wallabout Warehouse Complex to Become Hotel [Brownstoner]
Huge Industrial Site for Sale in Wallabout [Brownstoner] GMAP

07/30/13 2:00pm

A tipster forwarded along photos of the Brooklyn Roasting Company, now open at 200 Flushing Avenue, off Washington Avenue. As he notes, “Really nice vibe. I like how a manufacturing company is replacing a strip club (Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge), classic.” The company outgrew its space in Dumbo and planned a move late last year. According to Gothamist, 70 percent of the new establishment will be used as a packaging and distribution wholesale center. Up front, there’s seating and a cafe serving hot and iced coffees, Dough donuts, and a rotating selection of espressos. The cafe opens daily at 6 am. Click through for an interior shot! GMAP

Photos by Marc Agger (more…)