Editor’s note: This story is an update of one that ran in 2011. Read the original here.
This house has a special meaning for me because my godson’s parents were married and had their reception here, quite a while back. It was one of the first grand historic homes in Brooklyn that I had ever been in, and further fueled my love of old houses in general, and Brooklyn, in particular.
Oil man and philanthropist Charles Pratt had eight children, and four of his six sons had grand houses near his, here on Clinton Avenue. Remarkably, three out of the four houses still remain, as well as Pratt Senior’s own home.
Frederick Pratt was the second son, and had his house built next door to his older brother Charles, and the two homes couldn’t be more different. Charles’ house is a magnificent Romanesque Revival brick mansion designed by William Tubby, and today is the residence of the Catholic bishop of Brooklyn.
Frederick’s house, completed in 1897, is both more modern, and yet harkens back to an earlier time and architectural styles. The Manhattan-based firm of Babb, Cook & Willard designed a Georgian style home through the lens of the then-popular Renaissance Revival style, and the result is a large and beautiful semi-detached mansion that allows the grounds and the entrance to take center stage.
This house replaced an earlier wood framed mansion on the lot, and the group of row houses to the north was already built when the architects took on the job.
Rather than placing the new house in the center of the lot, and trying to deal with the unwieldy problem of the side of the building next door, the architects cleverly made use of the wall as a backdrop for a magnificent pergola and entryway that both hides the wall and creates a majestic entrance to the home.
They faced the wall in the same brick as the house, added complementary trim, and a two story Roman style stoa, with six granite columns on the first level and six caryatids and atlantes (draped female and male figures on a support column) supporting the trellis on the second floor.
Over the years the wisteria and other vegetation has grown to the extent that the whole entryway looks much older than it really is, creating a unique and majestic walkway; unique, and quite special. A less ornate, but also wisteria-clad, pergola stretches across the rear of the property.
The house itself has distinct Georgian lines in a very Italian Renaissance body, the most striking features being the generous size, the Palladian window in the front, and the curving bay on the side.
To really understand the house, one needs to take in all the small details, as well, such as the copper cladding along the roof, and other subtle goodies that indicate the great attention to detail the architects had. Frederick Pratt was president of Pratt Institute for 44 years, and the school owns the property, which is now called the Caroline Ladd Pratt House, named after Frederick’s wife. It’s located within the Clinton Hill Historic District.
For many years it was foreign student housing, and the parlor floor could be rented out for things like weddings. The house still has a lot of fine, original detail. Today it is home to the President of Pratt Institute.
[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]
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