Building of the Day: 51 Duffield Street

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row House
Address: 51 Duffield Street
Cross Streets: Tillary and Concord Streets
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: Unknown
Architectural Style: Federal with Greek Revival leanings
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: I’ve been walking around Brownstone Brooklyn for quite a while, but a month or so ago, I felt like I had discovered Brigadoon. There’s a wonderful little enclave of houses and buildings tucked in between Downtown Brooklyn and the ramps to the Manhattan Bridge. They aren’t in DUMBO or Vinegar Hill, they aren’t claimed by Downtown. I guess you would have to say that these buildings are in Fort Greene, but it doesn’t matter – they are absolutely charming and wonderful. I’m going to highlight more of them, but will start with this beauty.

It’s a Federal-style house, with hints of the Greek Revival. It appears to be a handsome house with a brick ground floor, and clapboard exterior. The most notable feature has to be the doorway, a newly stripped portico with columns, framing a doorway with sidelight windows and a transom window above the door. Unless the owner found this in the basement, these features appear to be salvaged, as the 1970’s tax photo doesn’t show any of these features. Whatever…the effect is quite appealing, as are the shutters, also now in the earlier tax photo. It’s on a row of similar houses, but this one stands out, on this quiet block.

I tried to do some research, but could not find much. There is no record of the house in the Builder’s Guide, which generally lists everything legally built between 1868 and 1922. The house is probably earlier, like the 1840’s. It would make sense in the development of Brooklyn, as this area is near the Navy Yard, as well as Wallabout.

All seems to have been pretty uneventful in the house until 1902. That year, two significant smallpox outbreaks occurred in Brooklyn and New York City, and one of them struck at 51 Duffield Street. John Grant, aged 40, and Ernest Johns, 39 and were stricken. Today, over a hundred years later, this block is isolated from other neighborhoods by the ramps and streets leading to the BQE and the Manhattan Bridge. It’s worth a walk over here to see this relatively unknown little slice of Brooklyn. GMAP

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