Building of the Day: 399 Prospect Place

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Semi-detached building
Address: 399 Prospect Place
Cross Streets: Between Grand and Washington avenues
Neighborhood: Prospect Heights
Year Built: Sometime between 1880 and 1884
Architectural Style: Unknown
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: This building is on my list of mystery buildings. Located on a small strip of land formed by the intersection of Washington and Grand Avenues only a block up at Park Place, this building seems to be a remnant of Prospect Heights’ earlier days, when the neighborhood was sparsely settled, and parts of it still followed the street boundaries of the Old Flatbush Road. But is it really that old? And what did it really look like when new?

I ran across one source that speculated that this house, with its Georgian quoins, dated back to the 1830s or the 1850s. I looked at the old insurance maps, and unfortunately, that theory doesn’t correspond to the maps. There is nothing on this lot in the 1880 map, but the building, as well as a neighbor to each side, appears on the 1888 map. Furthermore, the address appears for the first time in the newspapers in 1884. So I’m going to have to date this building as sometime between 1880 and 1884.

This appears to have been a boarding house or flats building of some kind. The area was always pretty working class, and this building matches a lot of the construction in the area. It was and probably still is, underneath the stucco, a wood frame building. The last map I have is from 1898-99, and the rest of the buildings on the block, across the street and around the corners, were all wood framed structures. They are all gone, now replaced by early 20th century brick buildings.

But somehow, either this one survived, or it too was replaced by the current building. Who can tell? The clues are unclear, and stucco can mask all kinds of stuff, as well as create it. On top of that, there was a devastating fire in 2011.

In 1935, his property was part of the estate of one Louis Piccolo. He left this house, as well as another property on 610 Grand Avenue to his three sons in his will. They were named Frank, Joseph and Vincent. But he had conditions: Frank was to receive $2,000 more than Vincent and $1,000 more than Joseph. Joseph, in turn, was to receive $1,000 more than Vincent. So class, how much money did Frank get? All three of them probably wished they were the fourth brother, named Philip. He got the family house, also on Grand Avenue, free and clear, with no math. GMAP

1880 map. The property is th center 35' lot. Map: New York Public Library

1880 map. The property is the center 35-foot lot. Map: New York Public Library

1888 map. Property is number 18, at center of map. Map: New York Public Library.

1888 map. Property is number 18, at center of map. Map: New York Public Library

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