Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Wood framed semi-detached row house
Address: 133 Carlton Avenue
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park Avenues
Year Built: 1840s
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed Wallabout Historic District
The story: In spite of all that’s happened on this block of Carlton Avenue, this little house has survived for over 170 years. Before the housing projects, the apartment complex, the bodega, the flats buildings and brownstones on this block, this house, and its neighbor were among the rows of wood framed houses that made up working class Wallabout. These houses were built by and for the people who settled in this area in the early part of the 19th century, drawn by jobs and careers at the Navy Yard and in the shipbuilding, printing, and other factories and industries that also developed in the area.
In his 2005 Wallabout Cultural Resource Survey, architectural historian Andrew Dolkart called this house the “most interesting house on the block.” It’s typical of the period; a Greek Revival-style frame house, amazingly still with its fluted Corinthian style wooden pillars and capitals. The house still has fish scale shingles alternating with plain shingles in a very pleasing vernacular pattern, and an intact cornice with a carved wooden frieze with swagged garlands. On almost any other block, this house would be a treasured period gem. Here, unfortunately, it’s rather lost.
The house has had many owners over the almost two centuries it’s been here, but most were ordinary working folk who rarely made the papers, neither in a good nor bad way. The first person listed in the Eagle was an accountant named James McFarland, who put an ad in the paper advertising his services at this address. Later that year, his ad was joined by that of his daughter, who put in her own separate ad as a “teacher of music.”
In 1903, the house was home to the Hogan family, and in 1911, was home to Irish immigrants James and Susan McCrickett. They lived here with their two sons, James and Harry. The parents had lived in Brooklyn for over forty years. On January 15th, the father, James Senior, died, his death notice appearing in the paper. Only a month later, on February 10th, 1911, Susan followed him into the grave. There was no cause of death listed in either case, or comment on the quick succession. They were both buried in the Catholic Holy Cross Cemetery, in Queens. Their poor sons and family members!
In 1913, a man named Michael Houster listed this as his address. He worked in the mechanical department of the New York Herald. Late one night in November, the doorbell rang at the Cochran household in an apartment building on Sterling Place, across from PS 9 in Prospect Heights. When Mrs. Cochran buzzed the person who rang in, no one came up, so she went back to bed. The next morning, she woke up to find a young man in the hallway of her apartment, dazed, beat up and bloody. When he was rushed to the hospital, he told the police that a woman had brought him upstairs. He was a total stranger to the Cochran’s.
His name was Michael Houster, and he was very intoxicated, on top of being bruised and bloody. He turned out to have a broken hip, and police and his doctors surmised that he had been hit by a car. When Mrs. Cochran pressed her buzzer, the night before, she looked out the window, and saw a man and a woman in automobile riding gear (the days of greatcoats and goggles) rushing back to their vehicle, but she didn’t think anything of it. The police figured that he had been hit by the car, and the driver and passengers didn’t want to be blamed for it, and dumped him at the apartment. The authorities never figured out why the Cochran’s had been picked, or why Houster had been carried so far. He never could have gotten there by himself with a broken hip. Another mystery in Brooklyn.
The house was, for many years, a church; the Fort Greene Church of God. A Google search revealed that the church is now closed. This is such a great little house. Hopefully it will not meet the fate of its long gone neighbors. Thanks to Rebecca for suggesting this building. GMAP
(Photo: Sarah Westcott for PropertyShark)