What we are reading this week about decorating and renovating old houses:
Refinery29 takes us inside the beach-inspired Prospect Heights pad of Surf Bazaar store owner Bethany Mayer. Check out the way the designs in the rug and pillows echo the inlaid floor. It’s all very casual rustic in a historic envelope. Perhaps the all-white paint is supposed to remind us of sand? Click through to the story for some detail shots, such as a mantel closeup. (more…)
“Can it get any worse?” That’s what Dwight Pardee probably asked his wife Mary, after their oldest child had the details of his very short and very public bad marriage published in newspapers across the country in 1909 and 1910. Dwight W. Pardee was the Secretary of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railway, and twenty year old Roy Pardee was a young man in love with a pretty girl and the idea of marriage. His whirlwind marriage to twenty-two year old Lillian Beasley, a supposed recent widow and current chorus girl, resulted in twenty days of wedded bliss, ended by her spending, and his suspicions of her wandering eye, and finally a messy divorce, with the details written for all of the country to read. For all the details on this juicy story, and the early story of Brooklyn’s Pardee family, check out Part one of our story.
If Mary Pardee had been clairvoyant, she might have answered her husband by saying, “You think this is bad? You haven’t seen anything yet, my dear. Our daughter is going to make even bigger headlines than Roy ever could.” And so she did. The Pardees lived at 1310 Dean Street, in the St. Marks District, now Crown Heights North. Like many wealthy people, they also had a summer home, this one in Bay Shore, Long Island. With all of the mess going on with young Roy, the Pardees found themselves out in Bay Shore a lot, escaping the prying eyes of the press and the curious.
Elsa Pardee was just nineteen, and was herself, tall, dark haired and pretty. She had just graduated from finishing school, and was looking forward to a summer with her friends, especially her best friend, Marion Van Kleek, who lived only three doors away from their Dean Street home, at 1316 Dean. The Van Kleeks had their summer home upstate, at Lake George, and the girls planned to spend time at both cottages during the summer. The only problem was that the Pardees were short on a chauffeur. (more…)
Dwight W. Pardee was born in New Jersey in 1852. He was educated in public schools, and attended the Wilbraham Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. His first job was at the Fourth National Bank in New York City, and then he entered the railroad business. Cornelius Vanderbilt’s many railroad holdings became his career. In 1884, he became the Assistant Treasurer of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad Company, and in 1889 he became Secretary of the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley, and Pittsburgh Railroad Company. He then landing a plum job at the business office at Grand Central Station. When the Secretary of the New York Central Railroad died, Dwight Pardee assumed his job, and successfully handled the business affairs of the largest railroad system in the country. That demanding career was easy, compared to running afoul of the law in his automobile, and the love affairs of his only two children. This is the Pardee family story.
Dwight Pardee and his wife Mary had two children, Roy and Elsa. They were two years apart, and Roy was the eldest. By the time they were young adults, the Pardees were living at 1310 Dean Street, in a George Chappell designed row house featured as a Building of the Day, last week. The Pardees were wealthy; being an executive for the Commodore paid very well, and the family enjoyed all of the perks that came with being quite well-to-do. They, like everyone else in the St. Marks District, had servants in the household, including maids, cooks and chauffeurs. Mr. Pardee was driven to work every day, and after automobiles replaced carriages, he was driven around in a handsome open touring car. (more…)
The conversion at 392 Dean Street that we have been following is all done, an open house was held on Mother’s Day, and photographs of the interior are now available and posted on the listing. Even though the townhouse is basically a brand-new build on an old foundation, the exterior and interior details such as the doors, moldings, windows, and salvage fireplaces are historically appropriate for this mid-19th century dwelling and its neighbors. The kitchens and baths are more modern in style and, as noted before, have book-end matched walnut and lacquer cabinets, and Carrara marble tile. Or, as developer Seth Brown put it, the unit for sale for $1,995,000 is a “mix of new and old, with a traditional parlor and working fireplace in keeping with a 150-year-old house, but with a very modern kitchen, home automation, ultra-efficient mechanicals, etc.” We think the whole thing turned out very well. What’s your opinion?
“Automobile Row on Bedford Avenue became almost as well known throughout the United States as Automobile Row on Broadway…In those days, Bedford Avenue was the Sunday afternoon walk of the most substantial portion of Brooklyn. It was the Easter Parade street, the auto parade street, the center of life and recreation. It was Automobile Row!”
These were the fond memories of Charles Bishop, one of the pioneers of Automobile Row in the first half of the 20th century. He and his father, Eli Bishop, were two-thirds of one of the most successful automobile dealerships in Brooklyn: Bishop, McCormick and Bishop, which operated out of a series of showrooms on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Halsey Street. Eli Bishop had started out in the real estate business, and was responsible for a great deal of the development of the Bedford area, but had turned to the automobile in the first years of the 1900s, realizing that this could be big, perhaps as big as real estate. He was right. (more…)
The second issue of New York Magazine’s new stand-alone home design magazine, Design Hunting, is out this week and features no fewer than six properties in Brooklyn, including restaurateur-hotelier Andrew Tarlow’s 150-year-old house in Fort Greene. (The magazine hit newsstands Monday, and will be available online in a month.) Tarlow and his wife Kate Huling were attracted to the 1863 house because it had changed very little over the years; they bought it in 2007 and then embarked on what you might call a “makeunder.” They renovated the kitchen and second-floor bathroom, cleaned up the garden and added a fireplace for cooking outdoors, and relined a chimney. Most of the furniture and appliances are second-hand, gifts, or built by Tarlow, whose paintings also line the walls (he was an artist before founding his culinary-hotel empire). The parlor ceiling is a darker color — olive green — than the walls, and the centerpiece is a flaky bit they decided to make a focal point after their first paint job started to peel. The kitchen is quasi-unfitted, with a restaurant stove for cooking; an eagle eye may perceive that the floors slope but the appliances and counters are level. There is no kitchen island, and no television. The couple’s five children “read together, play and draw.” Sounds like our kind of thing. (more…)
What we are reading this week about decorating and renovating old houses:
We were thrilled to see The Wooden House Project start up again in March after a hiatus of about a year and a half. The blog focuses on the history and restoration of frame house facades in Brooklyn. Founder Elizabeth Finkelstein lives in South Slope, land of wood frame houses, and is a preservation consultant. Two contributors both work at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Above, two gorgeous, partially restored wood frame houses at 69 and 71 Dean Street in Boerum Hill. We guess the side of No. 69 still needs a little work. The door frames look about 1840s-ish to us. Does anyone know if the unpainted wood fronts and six-over-six windows are historically accurate? (more…)
“As Brooklyn goes, so goes the world,” Charles Bishop told the Brooklyn Eagle in 1941. He was referring to the automobile industry in Brooklyn, a world he knew as well as anyone, being one of the pioneers in the industry that once dominated the core of the city along Bedford Avenue in Central Brooklyn. In the space of forty years, approximately between 1905 and 1945, the automobile industry took over Bedford Avenue and its environs, creating one of the most lucrative and far-reaching areas of business, the likes of which we will never see again.
It all begins with the road and the wheel. The road was Bedford Avenue, the main north-south roadway in Brooklyn, stretching the length of the city, a vital thoroughfare connecting the towns that make up the city of Brooklyn, running from Greenpoint, south to Sheepshead Bay. By the end of the 19th century, Bedford Avenue, between Grant Square in Bedford, and Williamsburg, was one of the busiest and most important streets in the city. There were blocks with fine homes, especially in Williamsburg and central Bedford, but it was also filled with large houses of worship, clubs, theaters, schools, restaurants and businesses. The street was connected by trolleys and omnibuses, and the Long Island Railroad stopped at Bedford, near Fulton and Atlantic, but in the mid-1880s, a new mode of transportation had also taken to the streets. No, not the car, I’m talking about the bicycle. (more…)
When the Carroll Street Bridge opened in 1889, horse-drawn wagons traveled over its boards to visit local farms, wrote the Times. Its cobblestone approaches are still intact, as is an old sign that says “Any Person Driving over this Bridge Faster than a Walk will be Subject to a Penalty of Five Dollars For Each Offence.” It is one of only four retractile bridges in the U.S., and as reported, is closed for a few months while undergoing repairs. Workers are restoring the worn and rotted wooden deck; resetting the cobblestones; and repairing the beams, bulkheads, and electrical components that open the bridge. It should reopen at the end of the summer.
Antique Bridge Closed to Traffic While It’s Open for Repairs [NY Times]
Four churches will be participating in this year’s Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Open House Weekend. This weekend, check out the art and architecture at the following historic houses of worship (descriptions by Landmarks Conservancy):
Plymouth Church, 75 Hicks Street, erected in 1849-50 (pictured above). Fiery abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher preached here from 1847 until 1887. Among the thousands of worshipers who came to hear him were Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.
First Unitarian Congregational Society, 48 Monroe Place, erected in 1844 in the Gothic Revival style by Minard Lafever. The design of the building was loosely based on late-English Gothic prototypes, such as Kings College Chapel on Cambridge.
South Bushwick Reformed Church, 15 Himrod Street, completed in a park-like setting by Cornelius Woglom in 1853 by families from twenty neighboring farms. The wood-frame church is unusual in its combination of austere Greek Revival forms and is crowned with a Georgian-inspired tower and steeple.
Grace Episcopal Church, 254 Hicks Street, designed by renowned Gothic Revival architect Richard Upjohn and constructed in 1847-1849. The sanctuary features figural stained glass memorial windows by many prominent studios, including three windows by the Tiffany studios.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has put together an online presentation about jazz in New York City featuring many locations in Brooklyn. The red house above, 117 Saint Felix Street, is where jazz singer Betty Carter lived from 1972 until her death in 1998. The house was built circa 1859.
Photo by PropertyShark
Unfortunately our columnist’s computer problems are continuing today so we are republishing a Walkabout from a few years ago.
Photo: First AME Zion Church, McDonough at Tompkins. Bedford Stuyvesant. Home of this congregation since 1947.
Sidney L. Painter was a well-known Negro band leader in turn of the 20th century Brooklyn. He hailed from the Wichita, Kansas area, but when he died in February of 1905; his funeral took place at the First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Fleet Street, in downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s had several large African-American communities, as Brooklyn has always had African-American residents, and at this time, one of the largest communities was centered in the area of downtown Brooklyn near Fleet and Concord Streets, near Hudson and Myrtle Avenues, in the area now occupied by Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and the northern part of MetroTech. The black community there had a long history of religious participation, and several of modern day Brooklyn’s largest black churches got their start in this community.
The First AME Zion Church on Fleet Street had originally been built as the Fleet Street Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1849. It was a large two story wooden structure with a gabled roof, but no steeple. Inside, it had a large open downstairs room that was used for Sunday school classes and church events, and upstairs was the church sanctuary, with two aisles, and three rows of benches. In order to get upstairs, people had to go up one of two stairways on the left and right of a hallway. These stairs were narrow, and about halfway up, turned on themselves, before continuing upstairs. The church had been sold to the black congregation about twenty years before, and was one of the more important houses of worship in this downtown black community. A celebrity like Sidney Painter would bring out a large crowd for his funeral. Unfortunately, death would be there to claim more than Mr. Painter that day. (more…)
Ever since Henry Ford’s assembly line made it possible for the average American to purchase a car, we’ve been in love with the automobile. But Ford was not the only automaker around, and no sooner than the first cars started to appear, than it seemed that every inventor and blacksmith with a knack for engines and enough money to go into business, was becoming a car maker. The beginning of the 20th century was a marvelous time for the automobile, and there were dozens of companies, long before the “Big Three” took over the industry. Most of these names are long forgotten. Some of the cars produced by these smaller companies no longer exist outside of photographs and drawings. But back then, they were all here, rolling down the streets of Brooklyn.
Although there were dealerships, garages and suppliers all over the borough, Bedford Avenue, especially between Malbone Street (now Empire Boulevard) and Fulton Street, a long stretch of road starting in Flatbush, through the entirety of Crown Heights, and on into Bedford Stuyvesant, became known as “Automobile Row.” Residential development in this area had been slowed down by the looming and forbidding presence of the Brooklyn Penitentiary on Bedford and Union, but as soon as that structure was torn down in 1907, things started to take off. (more…)
Brooklyn’s housing stock is comprised of thousands of buildings, some designed by Brooklyn’s finest architects; some of whom trained in Paris, London and Germany, as well as in the universities and the most prestigious architects’ offices here in the United States. Even more buildings were designed by those not touched by greatness, but nonetheless, talented and competent, men who more or less anonymously went about building our great city block by block.
This second group comprised all kinds of men, and as far as we know, they were all men, who came from many lands, many backgrounds, and had many different kind of skills. Most came up in the building trades, many had fathers and grandfathers who were architects, carpenters, masons and builders, and they learned at their side, apprenticing with their elders until they could go out on their own. As they became successful, many of these men became developers as well, buying plots of land in growing Brooklyn neighborhoods, and building houses which they then sold to eager buyers.
Building can be a high calling, but many people feel that there is an even higher calling, that of the ministry, and while many in the building trade had strong religious convictions, I have learned of only one man whose building skills encompassed both heaven and earth. That would be different enough, but the fact that he was also African American puts him in a category all his own in Brooklyn’s architectural pantheon. This is the story of Essex Roberts, perhaps Brooklyn’s first named black architect and builder. (more…)
Big trials got big press, especially in the days before 24/7 news coverage. Newspapers lived for circus-like trials, when everyone, high and low, spent their three cents on a paper to see what was going on in the courtroom. Dirty deeds had no place to hide. No one knew that better than the good people of Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights, because in 1901, the trial de jour, which captured the front pages of local newspapers, was all about dirty rugs and a self-righteous wealthy housewife named Leila Wunderlich.
She was one of their own, a wealthy homeowner; wife to a rich and prominent doctor named Frederick Wunderlich. Leila was a perfect wife, born in Massachusetts, raised in New Orleans, and was beautiful, fashionable and educated. She ran a tight ship at home, with a staff of servants that she worked all day, every day, in order to achieve a home that was so clean and perfect that her husband could have operated on the floor. Her house was her pride and joy; her house was a reflection of herself, as perfect as was humanly possible in a dirty and uncivilized Brooklyn world. (more…)
Officers Grant, McKee, Donlin and Sullivan were part of a special unit – the Sanitary Squad. The year was 1901, and the place was Remsen Street in tony Brooklyn Heights. In June of that year, these officers were doing what they had been assigned to do for close to a year: they were looking for the serial rug beater who was terrorizing Remsen Street. The cops knew where the miscreants lived, but the perps were crafty, and they could never catch them in the act. So they patrolled the roof of the Title and Guarantee Building, on Montague Street, a tall office building that overlooked the backyards of Remsen Street. Next door, in the Garfield Building, an office building on the corner of Court and Remsen, where the Temple Bar Building stands today, the office workers, architects, lawyers, secretaries and other tenants of the building could see these plainclothes officers peering over the parapet, looking for something. They were obviously some kind of police, but whatever they were looking for was eluding them. But that would soon change.
Everyone on this block of Remsen Street knew who the perpetrator was. Everyone, especially the neighbors on either side of 165 Remsen, had been the victims. This block was populated by some of the wealthiest and most important people in the city. This was Remsen Street, one of the premiere blocks of Brooklyn Heights, home to doctors, politicians, financiers, lawyers, and well-paid professionals. 165 Remsen belonged to Dr. Frederick Wunderlich, a distinguished, well-known and highly regarded medical doctor. He had lived in this house for about six years when the trouble went down, with his wife, children and a staff of several servants. (more…)
Cobble Hill residents are banding together to raise funds to help rebuild Cobble Hill’s Christ Church, damaged by lightning in July, The New York Daily News reported. The church is closed, and its iconic bell tower, a neighborhood landmark, was removed for safety. Church officials have not yet decided what to do with the property. “First an engineering study must be finished and renovation plans drawn up and put out to bid to determine if there’s expensive work required that’s not covered by insurance,” said the story. A musical event Saturday, “Spring Up: Bizet to Broadway,” at 75 Hicks Street will raise funds to pay a forensic engineer. About 40 community groups were displaced by the church closing. ”This was a tragic event,” said Susan Baxt, a neighbor and a member of Friends of Christ Church Cobble Hill, which is holding Saturday’s fundraiser. “We want to bring the building back from that and make it a resource for all of Brownstone Brooklyn.”
Cobble Hill Group Raising Cash to Rebuild Christ Church [NY Daily News]
Repair Work Continues at Lightning-Damaged Church [Brownstoner]
Photo by Friends of Christ Church Cobble Hill
What we are reading this week about decorating and renovating old houses:
This bathroom transformation started out with the kind of very small, mid-20th century, really ugly old bathroom that is so common in Victorian row houses in Brooklyn (although this one is located in Canada). House and Home editor Mandy Milks ripped everything out and changed the window and the floor plan. She used Hexagonal Bluestone marble tiles on the floor and honed Statuario Perla marble subway tile on the wall. The tub is new, with an outside painted matte black and feet plated in patinated brass. The shower and fixtures are brass, and the shower curtain is linen. Click through to the story to read about every detail in the captions. (more…)
Brooklyn Heights has long been home to some of the city’s elite, and that was never more true than in the latter half of the 19th century. Some of Brooklyn’s most important and influential people lived in the Heights, those who were kings and royal families of finance, commerce and political power. The Heights was also home to wealthy professionals: doctors, lawyers, and others who worked hard to achieve great success and wealth in their professions. Put all of these people together, and you have… well, you have people who acted like everyone else who lived in less exalted stations, just with better wardrobes and perhaps a greater chance of getting their business in the paper. Take the case of Mrs. Leila Wunderlich and her neighbor, Hugh McLaughlin, and the offending rugs that landed her in court.
Dr. Frederick W. Wunderlich was a prominent physician. He and his wife and family lived at 165 Remsen Street, between Court and Clinton Streets, in Brooklyn Heights. Their house was a five story brownstone with a large extension in the back, like many of the other large, mid-19th century townhouses that line Remsen on the other side of Clinton. Today, this block is more commercial, and the Wunderlich house is gone, replaced by an office building that was the choice for a BOTD last week. (more…)
A listing is up for 392 Dean Street, the Park Slope frame house we told you about that is being renovated and converted to condos. The listing has a photo of the exterior with a rendering of the future stoop, above, and a floor plan, but no photos of the interior yet. We dropped by the site to see how the renovation is going, and to snap some pictures. Everything was pretty well covered to protect it from construction, so the finishes aren’t visible in the photos but the quality was evident in person. The property was a wreck when developer Seth Brown of Aspen Equities bought it last year for $922,800, according to public records, and he’s rebuilding from the ground up. (more…)