Building of the Day: 220 Park Place

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 220 Park Place
Cross Streets: Carlton and Vanderbilt Avenues
Neighborhood: Prospect Heights
Year Built: 1884
Architectural Style: Neo-Grec, with Queen Anne ornamentation
Architect: Walter M. Coots
Other buildings by architect: In PH: 206-208 Prospect Pl. 573-583 Bergen St. Elsewhere: Alice and Agate Court, Bedford Stuyvesant.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Prospect Heights HD (2009)

The story: I’ve always been impressed by the five story row houses on this stretch of Park Place. That extra story, and the elegant way the buildings rise from their deep front yards gives them a grandeur that can be seen also in Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene. The design of this particular house is different from the others, and is quite striking. Going to the records tells us a bit more.

220 Park Place was built as the westernmost house in a group of three. Today, the apartment building next door replaces those other two buildings. They were built as speculative housing by John V. Porter, who developed a great deal of property on this block, and in the neighborhood. For this group, he hired Walter M. Coots as architect.

Walter Coots is another of those very competent and occasionally really good architects whose name pops up throughout the latter part of the 19th century. He was the architect for another BOTD recently, in Park Slope. He was born in 1865, in Rochester, and got his training at his father’s architectural firm of Charles Coots & Son. He came to NYC, and had an office in Lower Manhattan by 1884, when this house was designed. By the following year, he had an office on Court Street, and later, in Park Slope, until his death. He also dabbled, rather badly, in real estate development, and also tried his hand in local politics. He died very young, at the age of 41, in 1906.

His specialty was row houses and apartment buildings, and was responsible for both in many of Brownstone Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. He’s on record, that we know of, so far, in Prospect Heights, Park Slope, Crown Heights North, Bushwick, Cobble Hill, Bedford Stuyvesant, and East New York. His largest group of houses was the Alice and Agate Court buildings, off Atlantic Avenue, in Bedford Stuyvesant, which he initially tried to develop.

Coots’ designs are an interesting mixture of styles, and show a good eye. He was able to take the best features of historic styles and meld them together in a very pleasing way. Unlike the equally tall Second Empire houses next door, this is a warm red brick in a Neo-Grec body and incised details, with Queen Anne details, such as the stained glass windows, and other ornamentation. When all three buildings were standing, they must have been quite commanding on the block.

This large 5 story building was built for one family, at a time when Prospect Park was being developed, and the neighborhood was getting a lot of attention for its proximity to the park and transportation. It was the home of John G. Turnbull and family, an importer of teas and coffee. Turnbull was very active in Republican politics, and ran for county treasurer in 1897. All three of his children were married in the house; two daughters and a son, between 1892 and 1902. Today, the house has 12 units. GMAP

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