Axel Hedman’s Twin Houses of Distinction in Prospect Lefferts Gardens

Photo by Susan De Vries

Editor’s note: This story is an update of one that ran in 2012. Read the original here.

Here in Lefferts Manor, much is made of Axel Hedman’s fine limestone row houses on Maple Street, between Bedford and Rogers, and rightly so, as they are among the finest houses in the neighborhood. But this interesting group of houses by the same architect often gets overlooked.

These three groups of twin semi-detached houses from 77 to 93 Midwood Street, all with garages and shared driveways, sit on the far end of the street, just around the corner from Hedman’s famous Maple street row. They were built in 1904, five years before the Maple Street houses, and represent Hedman’s second job in this fast-growing neighborhood.

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These houses were built for the Frederick B. Norris Company, one of the three or four big developers who were responsible for most of the homes in this area. Hedman had already designed a group of houses for Norris on Lincoln Road in 1901.

All of the houses are faced with brick, and Hedman showed some design chops by placing a pair of pale yellow brick houses on either side of a central pair of red brick houses. All of the houses have identical heavy limestone band courses, trim and ornamentation, which ties them all together.

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At left, a 1905 ad for the houses. Image via Brooklyn Daily Eagle. At right, a current view of 83 and 85 Midwood Street

What makes these different from the other row houses in the neighborhood, or anywhere else, for that matter, is that Hedman moved away from the usual row house stoop and entrance arrangement. The houses have full-width, three-corner bays that extend up two stories. The first story bay is hollowed out to make a deep porch and entryway, one in which Hedman tweaks the formula even further by off-centering the door. These porches look quite massive, with the heavy limestone band courses and ornamentation giving them the rather ponderous look of mansions much larger and more important than these houses really are.

Prospect Lefferts Gardens was developed at a time when the suburbs, even if they were only a mile away, further into Flatbush, were calling the upwardly mobile middle class. These houses were built in the middle years of the neighborhood’s development, started after the Panic of 1903, which totally halted construction. A house like this has gravitas and would be appealing, especially with the added perk of the garage, the new status symbol of the 20th century.

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They are a bit serious, but I like ‘em, especially in the red brick. I’ve been in a lot of Hedman houses and wonder if these are similar inside to his usual fare: a mixture of Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts woodwork and fixtures. [Editor’s note: Yes they are. See photos of 77 Midwood here from when it was for sale in 2011.]

Hedman would be busy in the neighborhood, with most of his work going up in 1909-1912. As an architect, he often reworked a lot of his designs for later use, and he revisited the red brick and limestone bay over the entrance idea in his houses on Prospect Place in Crown Heights North in 1907, giving them a much more Colonial Revival flair. But that’s a topic for another day.

[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]

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