Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Two family duplex row houses
Address: 352-386, and 377-409 Parkside Avenue
Cross Streets: Flatbush and Bedford Avenues
Neighborhood: Prospect Lefferts Gardens
Year Built: Around 1910
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival-Colonial Revival mixture
Architect: Unknown, but perhaps Benjamin Dreisler
Other Buildings by Architect: If by Dreisler, many buildings in PLG, Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, and other parts of Flatbush
Landmarked: No, although should be
The story: Many years ago, when I first started reading Brownstoner, I became embroiled in online “discussions” about Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I had only been there once, a short trip to one block of the neighborhood to look at a house with my mother. I don’t know where we were, since I did not know the neighborhood. In retrospect, it may have been Maple Street. At any rate, I empathized with the PLG people who were defending their neighborhood’s quality of life and architectural beauty. One day, someone offered to drive me around PLG, and as much as I liked all parts of the neighborhood, I really loved this block.
At the time, this was considered a “sketchy” block (not fond of that word), but it was undeniable that the architecture was superb. I always wondered why this block was not included in the PLG landmark district, as the buildings on this block are more than worthy. Perhaps it’s because of the apartment buildings, or perhaps because it was down market from the other blocks in Lefferts Manor, proper, but it was a huge oversight, in my opinion.
Since then, I’ve been to Prospect Lefferts Gardens numerous times, and have had a chance to walk around. I haven’t changed my opinion, this is a gorgeous block, and these houses are among the best in the entire neighborhood. In many ways, they are very reminiscent of townhouses on the Upper East Side, and represent the last styles of the classic row houses of New York, before they changed into smaller, more suburban looking dwellings.
I tried to find the architect, but I didn’t have any luck. I did find the builder and developer. The Westwood Realty Company built this group of ten houses, as well as an identical group across the street, 377-409 Parkside. The president of Westwood was a man named W.A.A. Brown. Westwood was very active in Brooklyn in the first quarter of the 20th century, and built and sold houses mostly in Flatbush, but also in other developing areas at the time. They often used the architectural talents of Benjamin Dreisler, who was extremely prolific during the late 19th and early 20th century. Dreisler may have designed these houses, but it’s also quite possible another architect did as well.
Whoever designed them did a great job. They are beautiful. They were all built as double duplexes, with separate entrances on either side of the house. Unlike the Kinko house double duplexes of Crown Heights, these were given separate house numbers, not “A” for the upper unit. The architect designed several styles of houses and then arranged them on the street in a pattern, ABCBA, etc. He combined Renaissance Revival ornamentation with Colonial Revival quoins and doorways, some with Mediterranean tile roofs, mansards, dormers and some spectacular leaded glass windows.
It’s a great collection of houses, best seen walking from Flatbush towards Bedford, so that you can see the houses on both sides of the street. There are ten on the southern side of the street, and nine on the northern side. A quick look at the newspapers tells us that this was an affluent block. Many of the people who lived here, upstairs and down, were listed in the society pages, with weddings, funerals, engagements, and other milestones. Over the years, some of the houses were chopped up into many units, and some still have over six apartments. As you can see in the 1941 ad, that began many years ago.