Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Mergenthaler Linotype Company, Defense Plant Corporation Building
Address: 35 Ryerson Street, at Park Avenue, block wide on Park, between Grand and Ryerson
Neighborhood: Wallabout, between Clinton Hill and Navy Yard
Year Built: 1942
Architectural Style: Factory modern
Architects: Lockwood Greene Engineers, Inc.
Other buildings by architects: Daily News Factory on Atlantic Avenue (Newswalk Building), several buildings in the Navy Yard, parts of Rockefeller Center
Landmarked: No, but Wallabout has been submitted to LPC for several separate districts designation, and also in the process of being submitted to the National Register

The story: This building is the last built in this amazing industrial complex near the Navy Yard. Prior to computerized printing, linotype machines were used to set type on most newspapers and magazines, as well as many books, and Mergenthaler was the largest manufacturer of these machines, all made right here in Brooklyn. The Mergenthaler complex remains one of the largest and most intact reinforced concrete industrial sites in New York City. The complete story of the company and the rest of the site will be the topic of another post. THIS building was the last one built, constructed by the US Government, and leased to Mergenthaler as a factory for machines built for the war effort of World War II.


A pre-Civil War house with a remarkably well preserved exterior (a former Building of the Day) at 133 Carlton Avenue in Wallabout is being marketed as a development site for $5,200,000, along with two neighboring lots that include another small wood frame house and a convenience store. The house at 133 Carlton Avenue, once used as a church, is a wood frame Greek Revival house built in the 1840s.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Throughout Brooklyn’s history, a lot of things have come and gone, but one of the greatest losses has to be the Wallabout Market in the Brooklyn Navy Yard — at the site of today’s Steiner Studios. At its peak, in the early 20th century, it was the second largest wholesale food market in the world.

The Market was a bustling place where produce, meat, dairy, fish and foodstuffs were sold and traded to the thousands of retail grocery stores, food shops, restaurants, institutions and other wholesalers who came there every day to haggle, buy, pack up and deliver. Similar to Hunt’s Point, the old Fulton Fish Market and the Brooklyn Terminal Market that replaced it, Wallabout Market was a world unto itself — a rough and tumble world that also included graft, corruption and crime.

Late 19th c. postcard showing relationship to Navy Yard. From the Museum of the City of New York

But the market had one big advantage over New York’s other markets: it was beautiful.

Wallabout got its name from the French-speaking Walloons of Belgium who were the first settlers on the bay. They arrived in 1624, along with the Dutch, who called their bay Waal-bogt. The bay was the perfect location for the first ferry across the East River to New Amsterdam, which cast off in 1637, and continued for centuries. The area remained rural through the Revolutionary War, with most of it belonging to the Ryerson family.

The waterfront was an excellent port, which the British took advantage of when they took over Manhattan and Brooklyn during the Revolutionary War. Wallabout became infamous as the docking area for the British prison ships holding American soldiers and sailors throughout the war. Over 10,000 prisoners died on those ships, only to be dumped overboard, or buried in shallow graves on the shore. Today, the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument in Fort Greene Park holds their remains and honors their memories. After the war, much of the Wallabout area was purchased by John Jackson. He and his relatives decided to open a shipyard.

Late–19th century photograph: New York Public Library

The new United States government was interested in a permanent shipyard in New York, and bought 40 acres of John Jackson’s property. They kept buying more and more acreage, so that by the 1850s, the Navy Yard had been pretty well established, with the first dry dock, the Commandant’s House, the Navy Hospital and other buildings on site. The Yard became one of the area’s largest employers, and houses, tenements and related businesses grew, filling up the streets of the Wallabout neighborhood.


The Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project is teaming up with the Fort Greene Park Conservancy to offer free walking tours of the park and Wallabout this summer. The 1.5-mile walk begins in Fort Greene Park and concludes at 99 Ryerson Street, where Walt Whitman wrote “Leaves of Grass.”

The tours will discuss the neighborhood’s development dating back to Dutch settlers in the 1600s and highlight the homes of famous residents. They’ll take place every third Saturday from June to September, and the first one is on June 21 at 11 am. Anyone interested in attending the free tour can register here through Eventbrite.

Image via Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership


Finally, a new Williamsburg development that has some design potential: Curbed unearthed a rendering and discovered that the architect for the big building going up at 287 Broadway near Marcy in South Williamsburg will be Morris Adjmi Architects, which also designed the Townhouses of Cobble Hill and the Wythe Hotel. The address of the development has changed and will now be known as 282 South 5th Street.

The tall, setback portion of the building will be a cube encased by a transparent, presumably glass and steel, exoskeleton. The architects of record are still Goldstein, Hill & West. It will be a rental building, with 13 stories and 82 apartments. There will be 24 studios, 40 one-bedrooms, 18 two-bedrooms and extensive amenities, including “26,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space,” Curbed said. This will include “private garden plots, a dog run, fire pit, barbecues, [and] an outdoor cinema screen.”

The base of the structure will not be residential but will house 29,964 square feet of retail and 6,895 square feet of community facility space. There will also be 166 parking spaces underground. The developer is Midwood Investment & Development.

What do you think of it?

Morris Adjmi-Designed Apartments Coming to South 5th Street [Curbed]
Rendering by Morris Adjmi Architects via Curbed


If you’re looking to rent a true Williamsburg loft and money is no object, you can’t do much better than this huge three-bedroom, two-bath pad at the Mill Building. The 1,800-square-foot apartment sports exposed brick, huge windows and original wood beams, and the kitchen and bathrooms have been recently updated. There’s a dishwasher and washer/dryer too. The rent is $7,000 a month, which is pricey but probably about on point for a high-end ‘Burg rental.

85 North 3rd Street, #309F [Citi Habitats] GMAP

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 108-110 Waverly Avenue
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1886
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Andrew Spence?
Other Buildings by Architect: Frame houses, row houses, stables in many different Manhattan neighborhoods
Landmarked: No

The story: An entry in the Dec. 5, 1885 Real Estate Record and Builder’s Guide intrigued me: “Miss Ashley intends to build two three-story and basement brick and stone flats, 16.8x55x73 each, at Nos. 108 and 110 Waverly Avenue, at an estimated cost of $30,000. The plans are being drawn up by Andrew Spence of Manhattan.” I went to see if the houses were indeed built, and there they were. The dimensions were the same, although they didn’t look like classic flats buildings, they looked like single family brownstones. But that doesn’t mean anything. Lots of flats were built to look like single family homes during this time period.

Women appear as developers every once in a while on the pages of the Real Estate Record or the newspapers, in the late 19th century. One rare occasions they are true partners with their husbands, but more often than not, wives are merely fronts for their husbands. Taking advantage of the polite Victorian upper-class disdain for suing a woman, or dragging her into court, many developers used their wives as shields against bankruptcy or lawsuits. Of course, as this practice continued, the courts and creditors stifled their chivalry, and filed suit anyway.

But every once in a big while, a rarity would occur and a woman would be on her own in the real estate and development business. MISS Ashley, not even a married woman, would have been that rarity. Since the papers did not give her first name, I was unable to track her down any further, for the sake of this piece. There are just too many Ashleys. But then the property appears again the following year, with a man getting the credit, and perhaps for different buildings all together.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Wood framed semi-detached row house
Address: 133 Carlton Avenue
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park Avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1840s
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed Wallabout Historic District

The story: In spite of all that’s happened on this block of Carlton Avenue, this little house has survived for over 170 years. Before the housing projects, the apartment complex, the bodega, the flats buildings and brownstones on this block, this house, and its neighbor were among the rows of wood framed houses that made up working class Wallabout. These houses were built by and for the people who settled in this area in the early part of the 19th century, drawn by jobs and careers at the Navy Yard and in the shipbuilding, printing, and other factories and industries that also developed in the area.

In his 2005 Wallabout Cultural Resource Survey, architectural historian Andrew Dolkart called this house the “most interesting house on the block.” It’s typical of the period; a Greek Revival-style frame house, amazingly still with its fluted Corinthian style wooden pillars and capitals. The house still has fish scale shingles alternating with plain shingles in a very pleasing vernacular pattern, and an intact cornice with a carved wooden frieze with swagged garlands. On almost any other block, this house would be a treasured period gem. Here, unfortunately, it’s rather lost.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Wood-framed row house
Address: 99 Ryerson Street
Cross Streets: Myrtle and Park avenues
Neighborhood: Wallabout
Year Built: 1850s
Architectural Style: Italianate, underneath all that siding
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Underneath this rather uninspiring façade is an Italianate clapboard framed row house. What makes it special among all the other covered-up, remuddled pre-Civil War houses on this block is that this is the last remaining home of the great Brooklyn (and American) poet, Walt Whitman. From this house in 1855, Whitman penned his greatest and best known work, Leaves of Grass.

Whitman is everywhere these days, most noticeably in a commercial for Apple. He lived in Brooklyn for 28 years, and during that time supported himself as a carpenter, a teacher, a journalist and a government clerk, while all the while writing his poetry and essays. For two years, between 1846 and 1848, he was the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle. He lost his job when he sided, in an editorial in the Eagle, with the “Free Soil” wing of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, the Eagle’s owner, his boss, sided with the other side. Instant unemployment.

Leaves of Grass was Whitman’s opus, a collection of poetry that he would edit, refine, and edit again until his death. He paid for the first printing himself, and printed it at a Brooklyn printshop when the workmen were on breaks. 795 copies were printed. Whitman received much attention, both good and bad, from this seminal work. He was hailed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote a very flattering five page letter to Whitman, praising him for a “most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed.” Many other critics were horrified and highly offended at the sensuality of some of the verses, and were quick to call Leaves of Grass, “trashy, profane & obscene.”

All of those letters of praise and damnation came to this house.


This extra-big one-bedroom loft next to the Navy Yard in the Chocolate Factory is the real thing but pricey. The 1,300-square-foot pad has original wood beams, columns, iron work and part of the original wood ceiling, and there’s plenty of closet space. And the kitchen is getting new floors and stainless steel appliances. Building amenities include laundry, 24-hour doorman, storage, parking garage, an organic market, spa and roof deck.

It’s large enough to build out one more bedroom, but the rent still seems steep for being so far from a decent subway line. However, there are free buses to Dumbo and downtown Brooklyn and a Citi Bike station close by. What’s your opinion of it for $3,300 a month?

275 Park Avenue [Danelle Davis] GMAP