History

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We took a drive around Bed Stuy on Sunday just for kicks and had to pull over and take a shot of this grand old home at 247 Hancock Street. When we got home, we consulted our copy of Francis Morrone’s “An Architectural Guide to Brooklyn” hoping to get the scoop. We were in luck, as this is one of the buildings highlighted in the book. Morrone calls Number 247 the “Queen of Hancock Street”. The eighty-foot wide, three-story brownstone was designed in the 1880’s by Montrose Morris for John C. Kelley, who made his fortune in water-meters (we guess someone had to, right?) The design is particularly notable, Morrone notes, because it employed a High Renaissance design in a period when Romanesque and Queen Anne were the styles of choice in Brooklyn. Can anyone confirm if it is still used as a single-family home?

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On our way over to browse the salvaged building materials at Build It Green NYC in Astoria on Saturday, we passed this beautiful, though somewhat ramshackle, brick house on 27th Avenue. It looks like it was once the home of a well-to-do merchant or other member of the bourgeousie. We’d be curious to know more about what this nabe was like a hundred years ago.

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The most recent commenter, Will, is right: It turns out our mystery building on Friday is the Frederick A. Cook mansion on Bushwick and Willoughby Avenues in Bushwick. Thanks also to Matthew Rudert, a Massey Knakal broker specializing in the area, for being the first one to give us the heads up (via email). He sent us a link to the Forgotten NY page on Bushwick that laments the horrendous condition that this and other formerly grand mansions have fallen into. An interesting aside: Cook, an avid explorer, claimed to be the first person to reach the North Pole, but his detractors say this was just another of his many frauds (which included operating the first Ponzi scheme).
Bushwick Boastables [Forgotten NY]
The Man Who Inspired Enron [Peary & Henson Foundation]
CSI Brooklyn [Brownstoner]

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We were browsing the website of Lost Brooklyn Trips this morning when we came across a page of historic photos. This one caught our eye but it was unlabeled. It looks to us like it would fit right in on Clinton or Washington Avenues, but we don’t know for sure. Can anyone help ID the location or architect of this building?
Historical Photos [Lost Brooklyn Trips]

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Come out this weekend and hear brownstone expert (and author of Bricks and Brownstones) Charles Lockwood expound on the history, architecture and lifestyles of 19th-Century Brownstone Brooklyn. Unless Mrs. Brownstoner is in labor by that point, we’ll definitely be there. The lecture is on Sunday at 2 pm at the Brooklyn Historical Society, 128 Pierrepont Street. Pre-paid reservations are required as availability is limited. Sorry, no refunds. Members $10, Non-members $15, $18 at
the door. Call 718.222.4111, ext. 250.
Profile [Charles Lockwood]
Calendar [Brooklyn Historical Society]

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Open two browser windows at once and read Alexis’ first-hand account of accompanying a family of former occupants on their return to one of the Officer’s Row houses in the Brooklyn Navy Yard while you look at Corie’s haunting photographs documenting the visit. Great stuff for all of us urban archaeologists.
First Glimps Inside, Part I [callalille.com]
Coming Home [Lex’s Folly]
Finally Inside! [Daily Heights]

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We happened to be walking by the Williamsburg Art & Historical Society Building yesterday when we noticed the doors were actually open. (Evidently it’s always opened on weekends and we just never noticed before.) Located at 135 Broadway right next to the bridge, the old bank building is a beautiful example of French Second Empire Design. Built in 1867 by King & Wilcox Architects, it was converted into a gallery and theater space in 1996 by Uko Nii. Some vestiges of its former life as a bank still exist (an old teller counter that looks more like a bar, for example). According to the older gentleman working the door, they are waiting for a new fire escape before reopening the upstairs theater. We weren’t blown away by the art on display, but it’s definitely worth a visit to see the old wood paneling, columns, plastered ceiling and vaulted windows.

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Here’s an inspiring story for those of you contemplating taking on an historic gut reno. One of our oldest friends grew up in an 1816 brick house in Philadelphia’s Society Hill, once (and now again) one of the most fashionable quarters of Philadelphia. Towards the end of the 19th century, the neighborhood began a slow decline that saw most of the residences converted to rooming houses for those who worked at the nearby docks and food market. From sometime in the 1930’s to the 1950’s, a luncheonette occupied the first floor while the proprietors inhabited the upper floors.

In the mid 1960’s the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority undertook the country’s first historical neighborhood restoration project…

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There’s an interesting piece in the Landmark Conservancy Autumn 2004 newsletter about the renovation of a Greek Revival house in Bay Ridge. Originally built for Joseph Bennett in 1847 on Shore Road overlooking the Verazzano Narrows, the house was moved in 1913 to 95th Street, making one of the few buildings to pre-date that neighborhood’s development in the 1930’s. Most recently, the house was purchased from an estate by Maryanne and Pasquale Dellituri in 1997. It was designated an individual landmark in 1999, and the extensive restoration began in 2000. Check out the newsletter for more details on the renovation scope and process.
Autumn 2004 Newsletter [NY Landmarks Conservancy]

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Don’t miss the most recent installment of Forgotten NY. Kevin posted two new pieces yesterday. The first is on Coney Island, a place which loses more and more of its historic treasures every year, according to Kevin. We look forward to his next Coney Island installment in which he promises to focus on the oft-overlooked architectural gems, like the house above.