Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Semi-detached row houses
Address: 1208-1230 Carroll Street
Cross Streets: Nostrand and New York Avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: between 1908 and 1912
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: (Developer /Builder) F. W. Rowe
Other works by architect: many similar rows of houses in Crown Heights South, eastern parts of CH North.
The story: By 1912, the community of Crown Heights was growing up out of the old Crow Hill neighborhood, best known for the notorious Brooklyn Penitentiary. Back then, Crown Heights encompassed the area between Eastern Parkway and Empire Boulevard, sandwiched between Flatbush and the St. Marks District. Today, we call that area Crown Heights South, and the St. Marks District is now Crown Heights North. When the prison was torn down, the entire area saw a rush in land speculation and development, and houses, apartment buildings and institutions sprang up in record time. The Brooklyn College of St. Ignatius went up where the old Pen was located, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science, (now the Brooklyn Museum) was already in the process of being built, and some canny investors from the Brooklyn Baseball League were looking at a site for a new stadium.
The area was well served by public transportation; trolley lines to both downtown and out to the beaches of Coney Island. The IRT subway lines were also coming, making the area even more convenient, and allowing for a migration from more crowded parts of the city. Homes were being built as well. President Street had been restricted to free-standing private houses, between New York and Troy Avenues. But the other streets were prime locations for one and two family attached and semi-detached homes. The streets were laid out and paved, some with service alleys between them, and room was made for flats and small apartment buildings on the corners of residential streets, and on the north/south avenues.
Two of the largest developers in the area were F. W. Rowe and Henry Roth. Many of the limestone rowhouses along these streets, including Eastern Parkway, can be credited to one of these men. Rowe, especially. He was the long-time head of the Brooklyn Builder’s Association, and a successful early 20th century builder. He developed this group of semi-detached two family row houses, all with access to their own garage in the back of the lot. He realized that the automobile was the wave of the future, and even by 1912, nearby Bedford Avenue was becoming Automobile Row.
The houses are in the Renaissance Revival style, neatly copied from the similar buildings of prolific architects like Axel Hedman. They alternate from brownstone to limestone fronts, and all have side windows, looking out on the shared driveways. They have beautiful detail and ornament, including handsome cornices, carved detail and elaborate glass and iron front doors. All have large extensions in the back, to make plenty of room for two families.
Rowe does a similar mini-group of six houses on Union, between Nostrand and New York, but this row on Carroll is twice as long, and makes a visually striking streetscape. He must have crunched the numbers and found that the income lost by adding all of those driveways and garages, as opposed to more houses, was made up by the desirability of having one’s own garage, with off the street parking. An amenity that still is just as desirable today. GMAP