Fort Greene Brooklyn -- 67 Hanson Pl History

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

When the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building was being built in 1927, it became a beacon, surrounded by other Art Deco buildings. This apartment building was one of them, dwarfing its brownstone neighbors.

Name: Originally the Doctors and Dentists Office Building; now apartments
Address: 67 Hanson Place
Cross Streets: Corner of South Elliott Place
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1929
Architectural Style: Art Deco
Architect: W.T. McCarthy and Murray Klein
Other Works by Architects: McCarthy: 13-15 Prospect Park West, Cathedral Arms and Chateau Frontenac apartment buildings in Flatbush, houses in Gowanus and Red Hook, and Concord Village apartment buildings. Klein: Storefront at Ashland and Lafayette (demolished), Avenue U Theater, row of store buildings on Flatbush Avenue near Church Avenue, Times Plaza Hotel on Atlantic Avenue, and apartment buildings in Manhattan.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District (1978)

The Doctors and Dentists Building

This Art Deco apartment building replaced a smaller office building built only 19 years before, in 1910. That six-story building was called the Doctors and Dentists Building, developed by a consortium of physicians and hailed as the first of its kind in Brooklyn. (more…)

Stuyvesant Heights Brooklyn -- 406 MacDonough St History

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

As the automobile’s importance grew, sometimes a plot of land was more important as a garage than as dwellings. Here’s such a case from 1916.

Name: Garage
Address: 406-410 MacDonough Street
Cross Streets: Stuyvesant Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Year Built: 1916
Architectural Style: Early-20th-century garage
Architect: Eric O. Holmgren
Other works by architect: 122-134 Brooklyn Avenue in Crown Heights North; Evening Start Baptist Church (former LDS Chapel) on Gates Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant; 189 Ocean Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens; theaters in Williamsburg; Alku Toinen Cooperative Apartments in Sunset Park
Landmarked: Yes, part of Stuyvesant Heights Expansion Historic District (2013)

In 1905, the first automobile show in Brooklyn took place at the 23rd Regiment Armory, at the corner of Bedford and Atlantic avenues. It was the beginning of Brooklyn’s love affair with the automobile. (more…)

Greenpoint Brooklyn -- 138 Milton St Thomas C. Smith House History

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This free-standing mansion was home to Thomas C. Smith, who also designed and built it. Smith was one of Greenpoint’s important residents — an accomplished architect-builder and successful businessman.

Name: Former Thomas C. Smith house, now Greenpoint Reformed Church
Address: 138 Milton Street
Cross Streets: Franklin Street and Manhattan Avenue
Neighborhood: Greenpoint
Year Built: 1866-67
Architectural Style: Federal, Greek revival, with embellishments
Architect: Thomas C. Smith
Other Buildings by Architect: 111, 117, 119-129 Milton Street, as well as most of the rest of the south side of Milton Street
Landmarked: Yes, part of Greenpoint Historic District (1982)

Thomas C. Smith was a man blessed with both talent and business savvy. He was born in Bridgehampton, Long Island, in 1816. He came to NYC as a young man and was a builder’s apprentice for several years. In 1830, he went out on his own as a builder.

Most builders of that day were their own architects, and Smith was no different. He established a fine business that would lead to Brooklyn. He retired from building in 1863.

The Union Porcelain Works

In the course of Smith’s business he had acquired a small pottery company at 300 Eckford Street as payment for a debt. Due in part to the ongoing Civil War, the firm was in bad financial shape. They had been in business since 1854, mostly producing porcelain doorknobs.

Smith was ready for a new challenge, so he went to France and England to investigate porcelain factories there. He got quite an education and learned the porcelain industry in full. (more…)

Brooklyn History Dumbo Empire Stores John Arbuckle

If coffee was a controlled substance, most of us would be addicts of the worst sort. Our national morning jones for caffeine has been the catalyst for fortune and failure over the centuries. Everyone loves a coffee shop, and most are welcomed into any neighborhood like a water fountain in the desert.

There have been countless arguments, discussions and even culinary classes about the world’s best coffee — how to grow the beans, roast them, package them and brew them. Our stores are full of different devices that do whatever we need to get us our fixes.

Although many people, especially in upscale urban and suburban communities, swear by their special blends, their small batch, artisanal and exotic coffees, most of the coffee brewed in America comes from a few large companies that supply supermarkets and restaurants across the nation.

The Arbuckle Brothers, working out of Brooklyn, were one the coffee giants of the 19th and early 20th centuries. They roasted and packaged the first popular coffee brand, called Ariosa, and created Yuban coffee, a brand still on the market after 150-plus years. (more…)

Bay Ridge Brooklyn Bay Ridge Branch Brooklyn Public Library History

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

By 1880, Bay Ridge was developing as one of Brooklyn’s premier suburban neighborhoods. Its greatest asset was that wonderful view of New York Bay and the Narrows — close to New Jersey, while simultaneously tied to Downtown Brooklyn and on to Manhattan by trolleys, roads and ferries.

Many of Brooklyn’s moneyed folk were looking to Shore Road as a grand location for second homes. The largest of these homes was owned by Henry Murphy, a lawyer, past mayor of Brooklyn, Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to The Hague and one of the most influential voices in advocating the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. (more…)

666 Fulton St Fort Greene Brooklyn Cast Iron Architecture

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This corner building is one of seven rare cast iron–fronted buildings built in the commercial center of Fort Greene.

Name: Cast iron–fronted mixed-use building
Address: 666 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner of South Elliott Place
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1882
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Charles A. Snedeker
Other Works by Architect: Row houses on South Elliott Place
Landmarked: Yes, part of BAM Historic District (1978)

Cast iron–clad buildings began appearing in Lower Manhattan as early as the late 1850s. By the 1880s, they had reached the height of their popularity, with all manner of styles and ornamentation available.

They were touted for being more fire resistant, their construction allowed for larger and greater fenestration, and, let’s face it, they could be gorgeous. The ornamentation and degree of design detail that could be cheaply worked into sheet metal cladding made for beautiful buildings.

New York’s mercantile and commercial strength was made manifest in the cast iron palazzos along Manhattan’s Broadway and SoHo, the Ladies Mile and the buildings of Tribeca. This trend carried over into Brooklyn as well, but in a smaller way. (more…)

Park Slope Brooklyn History 1915 Edward Reiss

Edward Reiss was a larger-than-life Brooklyn character in the early 20th century who often took matters into his own hands when a situation wasn’t to his liking. Our story today concerns his use of a racist power play to get his way in a feud with a developer.

Reiss was the owner of the Marine Wrecking Company, a very successful salvage company that plied the waters around New York City and the surrounding states, towing in damaged and abandoned craft, and salvaging underwater wrecks.

His name was frequently in the papers after 1910 for his yachting activities. A member of the Park Slope Civic Association, he was one of the Slope’s most aggressive and ardent boosters. When his plans to erect a statue in the area didn’t come to fruition, he was disappointed, but by 1915 he had more immediate problems. A developer was building a six-story apartment building right next door to him.

Edward Reiss and His Neighborhood

Reiss and his wife Jennie lived on the upper edges of Park Slope, in a rather modest row house at 461 15th Street. They were the first owners of this house, which was the lead in a group of four two-family houses built by architect Benjamin F. Hudson and developer Morris Levy in 1909.

The papers referred to the house as a “mansion in a highly desirable neighborhood,” which suggests Reiss may have made some serious upgrades to the home. But after four years of domestic bliss, the building became ground zero for a major feud. (more…)

Crown Heights Brooklyn 947 Prospect Pl Cottage Living

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Who wouldn’t want to live in these charming cottages? These six houses are unlike any others built in Crown Heights North.

Name: Row house cottages
Address: 935-947 Prospect Place
Cross Streets: New York and Brooklyn avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1920-22
Architectural Style: British Arts and Crafts
Architect: A. White Pierce
Other Works by Architect: 759 E. 17th Street and other suburban houses in Victorian Flatbush and Laurelton, Queens
Landmarked: Yes, part of Crown Heights North Historic District (2007)

We visit this row of charming little cottages in my Crown Heights North walking tours, and I am always asked if they were built as servants’ quarters for the now-vanished mansions of St. Marks Avenue, which is right behind this block.

No, they weren’t. The earliest owners of these houses would probably have been highly offended at the suggestion. After all, they themselves were of more-than-moderate income, had domestic help and were fixtures in Brooklyn’s society pages. (more…)

Automobile Row Brooklyn 73 Empire Blvd Crown Heights

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

When Ebbets Field opened in 1913, thousands of people flocked to the ballpark from all over. Since the automobile had worked its way into the hearts of Americans as securely as the love of baseball, many of those people had cars. They had to park somewhere, right?

Name: Former garage
Address: 73-97 Empire Boulevard
Cross Streets: Corner McKeever Place
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: Somewhere around 1913-14
Architectural Style: Brick commercial, with Gothic ornament
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Baseball Meets Automobile Row

The site for Ebbets Field was chosen for several important reasons, one of which was the availability of public transportation. This was the edge of Flatbush, on Bedford Avenue near Malbone Street (now Empire Boulevard) and Flatbush Avenue, all heavily traveled streets with trolley and rail service. (more…)

Park Slope Brooklyn 515 4 Ave PS 124

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Last week we featured some of the great C.B.J. Snyder’s Brooklyn schools. There are a lot of them, and here’s one more great addition to the Brooklyn streetscape.

Name: Public School 124, Silas B. Dutcher School
Address: 515 4th Avenue
Cross Streets: 13th and 14th Street
Neighborhood: Park Slope
Year Built: 1899-1900
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts
Landmarked: No

This beautiful Beaux-Arts-style elementary school is just one many built by C.B.J. Snyder, the Supervisor of School Buildings for the City of New York. It one of his earliest Brooklyn schools, planned a year after Brooklyn became part of Greater New York City in 1898.

As we posted last week, Snyder revolutionized school building with his H-shaped schools. This is not one of them; instead it’s a massive old-style rectangular school, built on a block-wide lot with lots of room around it for maximum use of windows on all four sides.

Snyder was well aware of the impact a handsome, well-built school had on a community. The 1893 Chicago World’s Exhibition had introduced the nation to the Beaux-Arts style — an ornate, classically inspired French Baroque style that lent itself well to public buildings of all kinds. (more…)

Sunset Park Brooklyn 6301 2 Ave Brooklyn Arsenal Building of the Day

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

No matter how big or small, excess stuff has to be stored somewhere. Before this great building became a self-storage facility, it stored armaments and supplies for the National Guard.

Name: Former Brooklyn Arsenal, now Extra Space self-storage
Address: 6301 2nd Avenue
Cross Streets: 63rd and 64th streets
Neighborhood: Sunset Park
Year Built: 1924-26
Architectural Style: Fortress
Architect: Sullivan W. Jones
Other works by architect: Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany, City Hall in Buffalo. Also armory in Hempstead, Long Island
Landmarked: No

The crenellated castle armories of the late 19th century were the inspiration for more-modern armory architects. The fortresses on many of our neighborhood streets were built for shock and awe, and that tradition carried through into the new century. But here, overlooking New York Bay, the inspiration came from another military installation.

This arsenal is next door to the U.S. Army Military Ocean Terminal, architect Cass Gilbert’s massive reinforced concrete staging area and warehouse for the military built in 1918. This building was designed to complement it.

Gilbert may have brought the “awe,” but this building provided the “shock.” After all, it was designed to be filled with guns, ammo and the armaments of war. (more…)

It’s School Week here on Brownstoner — a series of posts celebrating the start of the school year.

Brooklyn School Buildings Repurposed Architectural History

We’ve been highlighting some of the wonderful school buildings in Brooklyn this week, focusing on the schools of James W. Naughton and C.B.J. Snyder, two of the greats of school architecture.

It costs a lot to build a building, so people have always repurposed buildings whenever possible and tailored them to fit their needs. Today we’re looking at buildings that had a different function before becoming a school, or were built as schools and have now been put to another use. Just as the P.S. 9 Annex became apartments, one should never let a good school go to waste.