After spending three weeks with Edward Linton of East New York, it’s time to end his story. He was such a major figure in the history of the 26th Ward, I’ve really only touched the surface in relating what a larger-than-life and influential man he was in his day. Any neighborhood would be glad to have such an advocate. True, a lot of what he worked so hard to get for East New York also enriched his own coffers, because as the largest of the area’s landowners and landlords, what was good for the 26th Ward was good for Edward Linton. Fortunately, his was a benevolent despotism. Most of what he lobbied for in the halls of city and state power was necessary for the community as a whole. Transportation, public services and economic opportunities: These were the things that moved Linton to action.
Many of his contemporaries were extremely jealous of him, especially local political functionaries. They managed to keep him out of public office, but they couldn’t keep him off committees and commissions put together by mayors or state officials. Linton didn’t need to be in politics; the politicians were going to come to him, regardless. If they weren’t coming to his door, he would be banging on theirs. And no fight would be bigger than Linton’s to get a sewer system in East New York. (more…)
When the Church of the Redeemer announced it would demolish its Gothic Revival structure at 24 4th Avenue at Pacific Street last year, the plan ignited community protest. Carolynn DiFiore Balmelle of the East Pacific Street Block Association updated us on the group’s continuing efforts to save the church. Since last July they have been fighting to repurpose the building, which was used as a school back in the ’70s. DiFiore Balmelle reached out to area preschools to gauge interest in moving into the structure; two schools seriously considered it and were given a tour last month. There’s still resistance from the church, though: Although they could charge an annual rent of $400,000 for the space, they are arguing that it would take $4 million to get the building back up to snuff. The church’s original plan was to demolish for a mixed-use building, including a new church and residential units. DiFiore Balmelle estimates that the existing structure, which needs its roof, electricity, and plumbing replaced, needs $2 million in repairs. She isn’t hopeful that the church will ultimately agree to rent out or repair the building. There also isn’t hope that Landmarks will step in to designate this building, which will soon be 160 years old. The community is holding another meeting to talk strategy, organize protest, and gain more support on Tuesday, April 30. It’ll be held at the YWCA at 30 3rd Avenue at 7 pm.
Warm weather means house tour season is starting soon! Not every neighborhood association has published its 2013 tour dates yet, which run through October, but here are some of the upcoming ones that have been set:
Park Slope Civic Council
Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Lefferts Manor Association
Flatbush Development Corp.
Correction: As of yet, there is no Fort Greene house tour scheduled for this year.
Photo by the Park Slope Civic Council
Streeteasy released the third episode of its new video series, Demo to Decor. In the last episode, Brooklyn architect Brendan Coburn, of CWB Architects, tackled a facade restoration. In this episode he moves to the rear facade and the redesign of the back wall. The construction includes a glass extension into the brownstone’s garden, which will bring light into the parlor floor and the cellar below. The owners are designing a “doggy gym” room in the cellar.
The Renovation of a New York City Brownstone [Streeteasy]
Believe it or not, it was not easy being Edward F. Linton. It was hard work building an empire in East New York, building a new Brooklyn neighborhood in a town that wasn’t even part of the City of Brooklyn until 1886. When the former town of New Lots became Brooklyn’s 26th Ward, Linton was front and center as head of the powerful Atlantic Avenue Improvement Committee, lobbying hard for improved transportation and infrastructure. He was also amassing a fortune, buying up as many of the old Dutch farms as possible, and reselling the lots, or selling the houses he built on many of those lots. He invested in a baseball club, built a stadium for his club, and rented the field out for other sporting events. Like many wealthy men, he was drawn to the ultimate rich man’s sport, and bought himself a yacht, and a membership in a yacht club.
Linton had a loving wife and children, and a fine home, a former Dutch farmhouse that he had had enlarged and modernized. His real estate and development business had grown to the point that he started his own bank, in order to control his mortgages and real estate investments. He also had a business partner he trusted, William Winberg, his CFO, a man he regarded as a friend as well as former employee. In 1895, Winberg, had tragically tried to kill his wife, and succeeded in killing himself in a drunken jealous rage which may have been exacerbated by an undiagnosed brain tumor. That story and further background can be read in the previous chapters of our story, linked at the end of this chapter. With his death, Linton lost a fine financial mind, and a good friend. (more…)
The 19th-century armory at 355 Marcy Avenue that has been empty for two years is now for sale, and the Hasadim of South Williamsburg want to buy it, reported The New York Times. The overcrowded sect would use the 165,000-square-foot property, known as the 47th Regiment Armory, for housing, school and community space. The New York State Empire State Development Corp. plans to soon put out a request for proposals for repurposing the site.
While the state authority has said it hopes to spur “a competitive process” and capture “the best value for New York State taxpayers,” it also plans to require in its request for proposals that the site be used to benefit “the needs and priorities of the local community,” potentially giving an edge to the Satmar Hasidim — an important voting bloc increasingly courted by politicians.
The Satmars of South Williamsburg are pressed for space as gentrification moves southward from north Williamsburg and their own population rapidly grows. For example, a girls’ yeshiva, Bais Rochel, will graduate eight classes of eighth graders this year, but in September, it will need space for 16 classes of first graders. In 1959, the entire Satmar school system had 800 students, and now it has 30,000 in New York City and upstate. In five years, another 4,500 children are expected. “We know one thing: We are out of space,” said Rabbi Benzion Feuerwerger, head of the girls’ school.
Hasidic Sect Hopes to Buy Huge Armory in Brooklyn [NY Times]
Photo by Scott Bintner for PropertyShark
On November 23, 1889, at three in the afternoon, a group of East New York dignitaries, Brooklyn officials, and well-wishers stood on the corner of Atlantic and Pennsylvania Avenues to watch East New York’s first bank have its cornerstone laid in the ground for its new building. The architect, Richard Upjohn, Jr. did the honors, and the venture was celebrated with speeches, prayers, and well wishes. The keynote speaker, Gustaf Dettloff, reminded his audience of how far East New York had come; from a small town called New Lots, inhabited by Dutch farmers, to the bustling community it was that day. He spoke about how a group of these Dutch farmers and businessmen, whose names read like a map of the city’s streets, had gotten together in 1868 to form the East New York Savings Bank. Most of the men were now gone, but they weren’t forgotten.
One of the East New York dignitaries at the front of the crowd was Edward F. Linton, the president of the Atlantic Avenue Improvement Commission, the local business improvement organization that had lobbied to get the bank built, as well as other amenities and services in the 26th Ward. As Linton listened to the early families being remembered: Schenck, Remsen, Stoothoff, Rapelye, Vanderveer, Lott, Palmer, Wyckoff and others, he must have chuckled to himself. Most of those names were very familiar to him, he had bought their farms, mostly from their heirs, and he was now the largest landowner in the 26th Ward. (more…)
What we are reading this week about decorating and renovating old houses:
Artist Rudy de Amicis has seemingly brought a casual Brooklyn bohemian vibe to his Milan apartment. The red fabric on the hall ceiling seems like an easy-to-execute strategy to warm up an otherwise empty corridor, particularly if the paint is peeling or the light fixture is fluorescent. (more…)
The life and career of Edward F. Linton seemed to be heaven blessed. In the years following the Civil War, he came to Brooklyn by way of Massachusetts and Manhattan, and every endeavor he attempted seemed to be successful. He started his business career as a fireworks company president, and the money amassed from that business enabled him to buy land in the growing community formerly called New Lots, now the 26th Ward of Brooklyn: East New York. Through some canny and fortuitous purchases of old Dutch farmsteads, he rapidly became one of the largest landowners, developers and landlords in East New York. As his power and influence grew, so did his presence in local politics and community planning. Edward Linton had great plans for East New York, and in order to do what he wanted to do, he needed the ears and attention of city and state government. So he did what many wealthy men do, even today, he jumped into politics.
The Republicans ruled Brooklyn in the last quarter of the 19th century, so Linton ran as a Republican candidate for state office. Unfortunately, even though he was a powerful landowner and ENY fixture, he didn’t impress his fellow political animals. He was not liked by the powerful Republican committee heads of the 26th Ward, which was probably as much due to Linton’s own A-type personality and generally pushy manner, as it was to jealousy over his accomplishments and money. He was so disliked that at one point he was asked to leave their company. It took him two years to do so. In the meantime, he lost his bid for the state legislature.
His fellow Republicans may have been able to deny Linton a seat in Albany, but they couldn’t deny his influence with Brooklyn’s city government. Linton had the ears of the mayors of Brooklyn, whoever they might have been over the years. He was the head of the Atlantic Avenue Improvement Commission, a consortium of local business and civic leaders concerned with the business and social development of Atlantic Avenue, as it ran through the 26th Ward. And he was busy; there was a lot going on in the area in the late 1880s, as commerce, public transportation, amenities and people were pushing out towards the Queens border. (more…)
A Swiss chalet-style 19th-century wood frame office building on Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue has been beautifully restored by its owners, Curbed noted. New York Landmarks Conservancy awarded the building, known as Keramos Hall and located at 857-861 Manhattan Avenue, a Lucy G. Moses Award for the restoration. Union Porcelain Works owner Thomas C. Smith erected the building in 1887 to house offices for professionals and civic organizations, according to Greenpointers. At some point in the 20th century, its details were hidden by vinyl siding. Kamen Tall Architects handled the restoration, which included fixing the original exterior hidden under the vinyl; re-creating a missing tower, brackets, pediments, and window molding; and replacing the windows, among other repairs. If you haven’t seen it in person, it’s worth a trip. We hope this trend catches on in Northern Brooklyn, where so many wooden buildings have lost their fanciful original exteriors to vinyl siding.
Drab Greenpoint Building Restored to Fanciful 1887 Design [Curbed] GMAP
Forgotten Greenpoint: Keramos Hall On Manhattan Ave [Greenpointers]
Photo by Michal Nowicki via Kamen Tall Architects Kamentall News
A reader pointed us to this charming history of Greenpoint, commissioned by the Green Point Savings Bank and published in 1919. Apparently the area has been isolated forever by rivers, not just the G train, and this “geographical situation” gave Greenpoint “a peculiar opportunity for separate development, and it is therefore not to be wondered at that the early settlers of Green Point were men of independence of character, self-dependent, and possessing those native traits that make for vigorous manhood.” La plus ca change…
The Sunset Park Landmarks Committee will hold a walking tour of the neighborhood next Saturday, April 13. Urban historian and former Sunset Park resident Joe Svehlak will lead the tour, which will start at the landmarked courthouse on 43rd Street and 4th Avenue. The walk will focus on history, architecture, ethnic diversity, development, and the area’s potential to become a New York City landmark district (it is already listed on the National Registry of Historic Places). The group is seeking New York City landmark status in part to stop historically inappropriate alterations, of which it has several examples pictured on its website. The two-and-a-half hour tour will end in the area’s Chinatown. To reserve a spot, go here.
Photo of 40th Street by Sunset Park Landmarks Committee
If you live in Brooklyn today, you know that the borough is sports crazy. Having a Brooklyn team means all kinds of city cred to many people, including some of the borough’s biggest and most well-known movers and shakers. That has been true not only recently with the Brooklyn Nets, but for the last century and a half with the Brooklyn Dodgers and, before them, the earliest of Brooklyn’s sports teams. Brooklyn baseball started in the 1850s. The first league club convention of early baseball teams had 16 participating clubs. Brooklyn sent eight of them. Brooklyn’s Eckford, Excelsior and Atlantic clubs dominated baseball for most of the 1860s, and Brooklyn led the way for establishing the first enclosed playing fields, and the first admission fees. But up until the 1870s, baseball was still balancing between being an amateur and a professional sport.
But professionalism eventually won out, especially when it was possible for teams and their owners to actually make money having fun like this, and professional baseball was born. I’m glossing over a lot of history here, because this story is not really about the history of baseball, it’s about the history of one of Brooklyn’s league owners, Edward F. Linton. As we saw in Chapter One, Linton was a wealthy and powerful landowner in the 26th Ward, the new Brooklyn neighborhood called East New York. He actually owned half of it, and was a force in the community when it came to politics, land use, and anything that had to do with his domain. He also liked baseball and other sports, so when professional baseball emerged, it was a gift from heaven, because who is more popular and influential than the guy who owns a baseball team? (more…)
A stunning Magnus Dahlander home with beaucoup original details at 242 Decatur Street is now in contract for $1.75 million all cash, we hear. The sellers were asking $1,800,000.
Photos by Evans & Nye
What we are reading this week about decorating and renovating old houses:
The late Ed Koch was a surprisingly stylish guy, as these
1970s 1990s photos of his apartment from House & Garden reveal. We’re digging the heritage-preppy-equestrian-man-pad feel here, lent to an otherwise bland white box by the framed posters, sculptural dining room set, black shade with horse lamp, and two-tone wardrobe. Get out your pocket squares. (more…)
East New York. For many who read these pages, or live in more affluent parts of Brooklyn, the neighborhood of East New York is terra incognita, the land not explored, or rather, the neighborhood passed through as fast as possible in the cab to the airport; that vast stretch of Atlantic Avenue between Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and the Conduit. If you take the subway a lot, you may have changed trains at the massive hub now called “Broadway Junction,” one of the few stations where three different lines of trains cross over each other, with the LIRR station not too far away, as well.
From the elevated station, one can see across to Jamaica Bay and Kennedy Airport. In the other direction, you can see the Victorian-era cottages and homes that make up the neighborhoods of Cypress Hills and Highland Park. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of Highland Park itself, one of Brooklyn’s larger neighborhood parks. What you may not realize is that practically everything I’ve mentioned was influenced in some way by a man named Edward F. Linton, an East New Yorker who was instrumental in turning much of the old town of New Lots into one of late 19th century Brooklyn’s nicest neighborhoods. This is his story. (more…)
With inventory low and demand high, prices for Brooklyn townhouses are jumping, with more and more listings selling for over $3 million, reported The Real Deal. Such prices are frequently seen in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Park Slope. In the latter area, for example, there are currently 10 townhouses listed for more than $3 million, up from only one in the fourth quarter of 2011. The average sales price for townhouses there increased substantially, by 40 percent, in the fourth quarter, to $1.7 million, up from $1.2 million from the same period in 2011. Meanwhile, over in Manhattan, the average sales price for townhouses surged only 6 percent. Prices in Cobble Hill were up 108 percent year over year in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn Heights bucked the trend, actually decreasing 22 percent in the same period, but still holding value with an average sales price of $3.6 million. Readers would do well to bear in mind, of course, that the sample size of closed townhouse sales for any given Brooklyn neighborhood is small. Incidentally, the article also mentions, 113 Prospect Park West is in contract for $4.75 million. To what do you attribute the uptick in prices for Brooklyn row houses, and do you think prices will hold?
Brooklyn Brownstones Bringing Bigger Bucks [TRD]
Wallabout is waking from its long slumber with several major developments planned, new retail in the works, and a newly hot residential real estate market, The Wall Street Journal reported. “And it isn’t just the loft buildings that are selling,” said the story. “Historic 19th-century wood frame houses, the backbone of Wallabout’s working-class housing stock, are getting scooped up. Doug Bowen, executive vice president at CORE, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years, estimated 18 townhouses changed hands in Wallabout last year.” The Journal credits the changes to new industry at the Navy Yard and spillover gentrification from nearby Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. Luckily some 40 residential buildings were landmarked as the Wallabout Historic District, so the character of the area will be preserved despite growth. Some of the new developments to come: the huge under-construction affordable development the Navy Green; the recently purchased (for $26.25 million) warehouse on Ryerson Street; Brooklyn Roasting Company moving into the old J.J’s Cocktail Lounge, as previously reported, which received a glassy renovation in 2011. The article also notes two Washington Avenue buildings are getting converted to residential use with street-level retail: There are two lofts available at 66 Washington with a coffee purveyor and importer in contract to take the ground floor retail space, and 64 Washington will house a wine store on the bottom floor and renovate the building into five apartments. Meanwhile, 73 Washington, a four-story unconverted building, upped its asking price from $1.5 million to $2.2 million.
Wallabout Refloats Next to the Navy Yard [WSJ]
Quite a few of Brooklyn’s most prolific and successful architects have a German background: the Berlenbach’s; father and son, Rudolph Daus, William Schickel, and the most prolific of all; Theobald Engelhardt. To this list, we can add another; Benjamin Dreisler. His work appears mostly in Flatbush and Long Island, and he was a busy man, designing hundreds of homes in those areas, while also contributing to the architectural landscape of Brownstone Brooklyn. He also was quite active in Brooklyn’s architectural enclaves, leading architectural organizations, and contributing to the general public’s knowledge of just what it was an architect did. This is his story.
Benjamin Dreisler came from Bavaria, and was born there in 1849. He came to the United States in 1881. We don’t really know what he was up to until 1895, when his name appeared as a builder, with an office in Flatbush, on Avenue C and Flatbush Avenue. By 1896, his name starts appearing as an architect in the Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide, which tracked the building trades in the New York City metropolitan area.
A great deal of Dreisler’s work was in Flatbush. Between 1899 and 1911 he designed sixteen homes in Dean Alvord’s Prospect Park South. His homes also appear in other parts of what we call Victorian Flatbush. In Midwood South alone, he designed 20 frame cottages, all typical of his suburban style, middle class housing work. In a newspaper advertisement, he wrote that he had designed over 400 such cottages across Flatbush, Long Island and New Jersey, all modest and modern suburban homes, reasonable in cost. A group of ten homes in Kensington was described as being for “clerks and other skilled workmen.” (more…)
Inhabitat has renderings for the new addition at the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House, the city’s oldest structure, now a museum. The plans seem quite different from what we had envisioned when we first wrote about the addition. Strikingly modern, the new space is completely separate from the old house and based on old farm outbuildings on the property. It is strategically placed between the Wyckoff House and the street to shield the 1652 structure from its now-urban surroundings. Designed by nARCHITECTS, the new build will house administrative offices as well as museum activities and displays. The grounds are also due for new landscaping with native plants. Construction will start later this year. GMAP
New York City’s Oldest House Getting a Bright New Addition [Inhabitat]
New Visitors Center Coming to Flatbush’s Wyckoff House [Brownstoner]
Rendering by nARCHITECTS via Inhabitat