When the temperature drops, dream of roaring fireplaces with a virtual tour of interiors from Brooklyn’s past. The vintage images depict fireplaces from across the borough in states from wonderfully maintained to looking a bit rough and are sure to provide a bit of historic inspiration.
All of the interior images below were taken for the Historic American Building Survey. The program was started in 1933 to document U.S. architectural heritage through architectural drawings and photographs. Photographer E.P. MacFarland snapped sites across the five boroughs in the 1930s for the survey, including all the Brooklyn sites here.
In the parlor of 57 Willow Street is a marble mantel, probably a mid-19th century addition to the house. Among the fireplace accessories visible are andirons, a shovel, tongs and a small bellows leaning against the mantel. The circa 1824 brick Federal-style house still stands. It was protected in 1965 with the designation of the Brooklyn Heights Historic district.
By the 1930s, the fireplace in the common parlor of the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House in East Flatbush was no longer in use and covered up. Miraculously, the 17th century house, considered Brooklyn’s oldest, managed to survive decades of alterations and neglect. It was restored in the 1980s, and you can now visit the Wyckoff House Museum and see this fireplace in person.
Decorative woodwork and Delft tiles adorn a fireplace in the the 17th century Van Pelt Manor. The house once stood near the intersection of 81st Street and 18th Avenue — now the location of Milestone Park in Bensonhurst. The family donated the house and surrounding land to the New York Parks Department in the early 20th century but by the 1950s the Brooklyn Eagle was reporting the house was being allowed to go to ruin. It was torn down in 1952.
A wooden mantel in the dining room at the Lefferts House sports an intricately carved band of detail and a hearth kitted out for any need, from tea to foot warming. The 18th century house was already open as a historic house museum at the time of this photo. It was moved from its original location on Flatbush Avenue near Maple Street to the grounds of Prospect Park and opened as a museum in 1920. The house is still open to the public, so you can stop by for a glimpse.
A wooden mantel can be viewed through a doorway in this shot of the Johannes Van Nuyse House. The circa-1800 wood frame house was moved from its location on Amersfort Place to East 22nd Street in Midwood in the early 20th century. Still a private home, the house can be spotted from the street, hemmed in a bit by 20th century houses on either side. The house was designated an individual landmark in 1966.
The wooden mantel and surround of the 18th century Nicholas Schenck House in Canarsie was looking a bit worse for wear by the 1930s. The Brooklyn Museum acquired this house and the 17th century Jan Martense Schenck House in the mid 20th century. Visit the fourth floor of the museum to see portions of the exteriors and furnished rooms of both houses — a perfect cold weather activity.
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