Building of the Day: 197 Marlborough Road

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Private house
Address: 197 Marlborough Road
Cross Streets: Albemarle and Beverley Roads
Neighborhood: Prospect Park South
Year Built: 1901
Architectural Style: Queen Anne with Tudoresque details
Architect: William H.C. Leverich
Landmarked: Yes, part of Prospect Park South HD (1979)

The story: This house gives credence to the idea that a man’s home is his castle. And if that home was designed by the homeowner himself, well, that’s even better. There’s no better way to make sure you get what you want, than by doing it yourself. And that’s what William H.C. Leverich did here.

As per usual, I tried to find out a bit about the architect/homeowner, and he proved to be a puzzle in more ways than one. First of all, I couldn’t get a good sense on what he did for a living. He seemed to have his fingers in a lot of different pies. In 1886, someone of the same full name was listed as a paper manufacturer in Manhattan. He summered in Greenwich, Connecticut, and had a yacht called the Mosquito. That summer, someone stole it, and it was eventually recovered on Long Island. Turns out the thieves were two juvenile delinquents from good families who had gone joy riding. They had overturned the sloop, and were clinging to the bottom when they were rescued by another boat.

Perhaps that’s why Mr. Leverich decided to build another sailing sloop for himself. In 1897, he and a friend, F.C. Sniffen, began construction on a new boat. The two men both lived in Bushwick, at the time, and had designed and were building the boat themselves. They were building it in a barn on Gates and Bushwick Avenues, and it soon grew to be a magnificent sloop, crafted with care out of oak. When it was done, there was only one problem. It was too big to get through the barn doors. The newspapers had fun with this, and in the end, Leverich and Sniffen ended up tearing down the front of the barn to free the boat.Perhaps this sort of absent minded multi-tasking genius is the true William Leverich.

At the same time this house was completed, he was also listed as the co-holder of a patent for an automobile tire changing device. Inventor, boat designer and builder, paper manufacturer and architect. Why not? The house looks like the creation of a free-thinking man who wasn’t concerned with conforming to any set style. In a way, he was like John Petit, the chief architect of Prospect Park South who came up with a delightful amalgam of designs for Dean Alvord, the developer of PPS. This house is a basic Queen Anne, but with goodies.

The first thing one notices is the unusual castle turret at the peak of the central roof. A crenelated little folly; Mr. Leverich’s castle. The other details of the house are equally as eclectic. There was once a Tudor style full porch on the front of the house, but that is now gone. The turret has an unusual arrangement of small windows, as well as large, the small ones in keeping with that whole castle theme. There is so much texture and shape to this house, with the polygonal turret roof, the shaped shingles, multi-paned windows, and gables, dormers, diamonds, squares, and rectangles. And why make the first floor out of brick, with shingles and clapboard above? What an inventive mind William Leverich had!

He, his wife Sarah, and son Cameron lived here until at least 1922. There is a wonderful ad in the Eagle where the family is looking for a chauffeur, a young man to drive the family’s Peerless 8, which was one of those grand touring automobiles. Unfortunately, all was not well in the Leverich Castle. He and his wife did not seem to have a happy marriage, and after 26 years of marriage, most of it in this house, with their son Cameron, Mrs. Sarah Leverich filed for divorce in 1920.

William had been stepping out; it seems, with an unknown woman that he kept company with at Manhattan’s Hotel Continental. He did not contest the divorce, but two years later sued when Sarah remarried without telling him. Apparently he was still paying alimony for a few months until he found out she had remarried, and he sued to get the alimony back. The judge turned him down. Even a king in his castle has some bad days. GMAP

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