Editor’s note: This story originally ran in 2011 and has been updated. You can read the previous post here.
This grand house at 235 Clinton Street was built in the 1840s for the wife of Captain Isaac Brewer, a merchant marine sea captain who became quite wealthy on the high seas. The house, like many others on Clinton Street, and the surrounding neighborhood, was in the Greek Revival style, which is characterized by very little ornament on the brick facade.
Like Brooklyn Heights, many of Cobble Hill’s lots are 25 feet wide, and this allows for a spacious interior. Greek Revivals also have tall windows and high ceilings on the parlor floor. The house also has a generous back yard.
Sometime in the 1870s or early 1880s, the homeowner added some zing to the house to make it more current with the building styles of the time. That is when the Neo-Grec pedimented lintels were added at the front door and windows, and the decorative bracketed shelves were added to the parlor windows.
They also bumped out the bays and added the very nice stained glass windows on the Congress Street side of the building.
Throughout most of its history, the house has had a strong connection to the local Catholic church, St. Paul’s, on Warren Street. The first owners, the Brewers, were Catholic, and their daughter, Elizabeth, was very devout and well known in the community for her charitable work for the church.
She was a friend of Bishop Laughlin, perhaps Brooklyn’s most famous Catholic clergyman, and gave generously until her death from pneumonia, contracted on a trip to the Holy Land, in 1890. The Brewers no longer lived at 235 Clinton by that time.
The beloved rector of St. Paul’s in the mid to late 1800s was the Reverend Francis Francioli, who also died in 1890. His nephew, Edward Francioli, who worked for the city controller’s office, lived here from at least 1890 until his death in 1911. The poor man died of a heart attack at the Court Street Station of the Fulton El at the age of 46.
By the time of the neighborhood’s designation as a historic district, 235 Clinton Street was home to the Sisters of Charity, working out of St. Paul’s. They, in turn, sold the house to the current family in 1978.
I would imagine the stoop was removed during the time the house was a convent, but that is just conjecture. Fortunately, whoever did it did not destroy the original entryway to the house, only the stoop. Perhaps someday the stoop can be restored, giving this grand house the entrance it deserves.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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