Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Row houses
Address: 1173-1179 Bushwick Avenue
Cross Streets: Cornelia Street and Jefferson Avenue
Year Built: 1880
Architectural Style: Transitional Italianate/Neo-Grec
Architect: Thomas F. Houghton
Other works by architect: St. Agnes Catholic Church and school, Carroll Gardens; Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, Stuyvesant Heights; St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Park Slope. Also row houses and other buildings in Stuyvesant Heights, Crown Heights North, and elsewhere
The story: At first glance, these transitional Italianate and Neo-Grec homes are just another group of four modest brownstones. But here, as in all of his work, architect Thomas Houghton created beauty in the details.
These four houses were designed by one of the East Coast’s premiere Catholic Church architects, best known for his churches here in Brooklyn, Manhattan and in Massachusetts.
Houghton learned from the best of the best, Patrick Keely, and became part of the family by marrying the boss’s daughter.
1980s tax photo via Municipal Archives
Thomas Houghton was born in Brooklyn in 1842. He had a Brooklyn public school education, and discovered his talent for drawing and design. But the Civil War interrupted his further study, and he enlisted, becoming a paymaster for the United States Navy.
After the war, Houghton got a job as a draftsman for the architectural firm of Patrick Keely. With over 600 churches and church buildings to his credit, Keely was the 19th century’s most prolific religious architect.
In addition to Houghton, there were at least four other architects in the firm, many of them extended family. Houghton eventually became family too, when he married Patrick Keely’s daughter.
Towards the end of Keely’s practice, he and Houghton became partners, and Houghton was responsible for several important churches done in Keely’s name. After his father-in-law’s death in 1896, Houghton designed churches under his own name.
Detail of St. Francis Xavier Church in Park Slope. Photo by Suzanne Spellen
But an architect needs to make a living, as well as expand his repertoire, so Houghton branched out from ecclesiastical work and designed and built houses while still working with Keely.
He is credited with row houses in neighborhoods where he also designed churches, such as the group of row houses around the corner from Our Lady of Victory, in Stuyvesant Heights.
He also designed a large brick mansion for a client on St. Marks Avenue in Crown Heights North. There were more, including this group.
These four modest brownstones were built on a quiet block of Bushwick Avenue, far from the mansions of the biermeisters and factory owners further down the street.
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark
The ornament is simplified, but quite elegant. Little details, like the stone brackets under the windows, add to the charm. There is still original ironwork here, and that too, was simple, but sophisticated.
The best part is the side elevation of the corner house, number 1173. Here, Houghton gives us a nice bump-out oriel. The most elegant detail is a large broken pediment formed by the pitch of the roof and carrying the cornice partially around the side. Good stuff!
Photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark
Top photo by Christopher Bride for PropertyShark