Gravesend

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Brownstoner takes on Brooklyn history in Nabe Names, a series of briefs on the origins and surprising stories of neighborhood nomenclature.

Gravesend Neck Road in 1879. Photo via the Brooklyn Historical Society

Tucked between Coney Island Avenue and Kings Highway, Gravesend is just across a creek from Coney Island, but the neighborhoods are starkly different.

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Now’s your chance to live in a bit of Brooklyn history. The historic Hicks-Platt House aka Van Sicklen House aka Lady Moody House at 27 Gravesend Neck Road is up for sale.

The five-bedroom farmhouse is one of the oldest buildings in the city (hence all the time to rack up all those names) and is being put on the market just before the Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to consider whether or not to designate the building as a historic landmark. Gothamist was the first to write about the listing.

The home will be considered on October 8 as part of a number of properties in Brooklyn that have been on the LPC backlog for years. It’s sometimes the case that worthy landmarks will stall in the designation process when they don’t have the owner’s backing — although we don’t know that’s the case here.

The home has a contested history. Lady Deborah Moody founded the village of Gravesend — the first English settlement in the New Netherlands — in 1643. This home sits within the original boundary of the village.

But did Lady Moody herself ever live there? Probably not.

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This post courtesy of Explore Brooklyn, an all-inclusive guide to the businesses, neighborhoods, and attractions that make Brooklyn great.

Before Brooklyn was a cultural and arts destination, it was first a Dutch settlement known as Breuckelen — named after the town of Breukelen in the Netherlands. The Dutch colonized what is now present-day Brooklyn in 1646, establishing six different towns with defined borders. These original towns eventually became English settlements, and then the settlements were consolidated to create the City of Brooklyn. (Brooklyn wasn’t incorporated into greater New York City until 1898.)

The original six Brooklyn towns that would become Brooklyn were Bushwick, Brooklyn, Flatlands, Gravesend, New Utrecht and Flatbush. Present-day Brooklyn neighborhoods bearing these names are located roughly in the center of each of these original towns. Here are a few details of those six original towns, when Brooklyn looked a whole lot different than it does today.

Map of Brooklyn towns via Ephemeral New York.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Elias Hubbard Ryder House
Address: 1926 East 28th Street
Cross Streets: Avenue S and Avenue T
Neighborhood: Gravesend
Year Built: 1834
Architectural Style: Dutch Colonial, with modern additions
Architect: John Stillwell (builder)
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1976)

The story:
As everyone hopefully knows, today’s Brooklyn was originally settled as six separate towns. Five of them were Dutch, but one was always English. This was Gravesend, established by the Lady Deborah Moody, an Englishwoman, in 1643. She was granted a patent by the Dutch authorities that year, enabling her and her followers to establish a town. Lady Moody, Nicholas Stillwell, and others in the community were Anabaptists, believing in adult baptisms, which put them out of sorts with the mores of the day in England. They came to the New World and tried to settle in Massachusetts, but the Puritans were less than welcoming, not surprisingly, and the Anabaptists headed to Dutch Long Island.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Hicks-Platt House
Address: 27 Gravesend Neck Road
Cross Streets: McDonald Avenue and Van Sicklen Street
Neighborhood: Gravesend
Year Built: 1659-1663, but maybe 1700
Architectural Style: Dutch Colonial
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Gravesend is the only one of Brooklyn’s original six towns that was not established by the Dutch. English Anabaptists led by Lady Deborah Moody settled here in 1643. A persecuted religious sect in England, they had come to North America to find religious freedom, as had the Puritans and other sects. Settling in New England, they found it as intolerable to their faith as England had been, with even less religious freedom. Leaving there, Lady Moody and her group made their way to New Amsterdam and found the Dutch much more accommodating. The Village of Gravesend was laid out soon afterward, arranged with a town square and surrounding street grid. This house lies within the original village’s fortified borders.

The house was built between 1659 and 1663, according to some experts, or perhaps even as late as 1700. Charles A. Ditmas, of the Kings County Historical Society, told the Brooklyn Eagle in 1932 that he thought the house was built by the Van Sicklen family at that later date. Local lore has it that the house was used as a hospital for several of General Washington’s men fleeing the disastrous Battle of Brooklyn in Gowanus, in 1776. That may be true, but if they did, they didn’t stay long, and they would have had to have been well hidden. The British and their Hessian mercenaries made Coney Island the beachhead for their invasion of Brooklyn, and would have been all over Gravesend. They stayed and occupied Brooklyn for the remainder of the war.

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This early 20th century brick house in Gravesend close to Bensonhurst has some pleasant prewar features and two modest family-sized apartments for under a million dollars. Both apartments are identical, with two bedrooms, one bath and a dining room in each.

There are some decorative wall moldings, parquet floors, French doors and a ’30s-style kitchen with original cupboards. There is also a garage. For $789,000, what do you think of it?

1648 Dahill Road [Corcoran] GMAP

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A tipster tells us that a group of Chinese investors paid $18,500,000 for a big piece of property at 2300 Cropsey Avenue in Gravesend at a state foreclosure auction yesterday. The 45,688-square-foot property, which is sandwiched between Cropsey and Bay Parkway at 23rd Avenue, currently houses a six-story building with a demolished interior that’s zoned as a nursing home. The existing building is 85,619 square feet.

However, an old listing from Massey Knakal notes that the previous owner had acquired additional air rights to construct a 30-story mixed-use development with 264 apartments, 81,378 square feet of community space and an underground parking garage. With the new air rights, the site can hold a new development of up to 275,000 square feet.

The site’s previous owner was Russian developer Alexander Gurevich, whom then-Attorney General Cuomo banned from selling condos and co-ops in New York State for three years in 2010, The Real Deal reported last year. When plans for the massive development didn’t materialize, Gurevich defaulted on his construction loans and mortgage to the tune of $17,030,000.

After fees and penalties, the lien on the property is $27,024,325, according to foreclosure documents. The defaulted mortgage, once held by Lehman Brothers, is now held by a Swedish bank that took over dozens of former Lehman mortgages. The last time we wrote about 2300 Cropsey was in 2010, when we highlighted it for having the most DOB violations.

DOB’s Most Violated? [Brownstoner] GMAP
Image by Massey Knakal

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1. PARK SLOPE $3,750,000
174 Garfield Place GMAP P*Shark
A developer totally renovated this crumbling Park Slope brownstone last year. They paid $975,000 for the home in 2010. It was on the market for a decent while priced at $3,990,000. Not a bad flip at all. Deed recorded on 5/3/2013.

2. GRAVESEND $3,350,000
2228 East 4th Street GMAP P*Shark
No details about this one-family home. Deed recorded on 4/29/2013.

3. FORT GREENE $2,750,00
81 Willoughby Avenue GMAP P*Shark
A HOTD this February. We noted, “Except for the new wood floors on the parlor floor, this two-family house at 81 Willoughby Avenue looks chock full of old-timey goodness along with the right touches of modernization. The corner house also has an unusually large front yard for Fort Greene as well as a side yard and side exposure.” It was asking $2,250,000. Deed recorded on 5/3/2013.

4. DUMBO $2,090,000
100 Jay Street, #28A GMAP P*Shark
Here’s the old listing for the three bed/two-and-a-half bath condo at the J condo building. It last sold in 2007 for $1,507,090, then was listed early this year for $2,100,000. Deed recorded on 5/2/2013.

5. PROSPECT HEIGHTS $1,815,000
181 Park Place GMAP P*Shark
A four-story, multi-family building right off Flatbush Avenue. It was listed in May of last year for $2,000,000. Deed recorded on 5/1/2013.