Brooklyn, one building at a time.
As the automobile’s importance grew, sometimes a plot of land was more important as a garage than as dwellings. Here’s such a case from 1916.
Address: 406-410 MacDonough Street
Cross Streets: Stuyvesant Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Year Built: 1916
Architectural Style: Early-20th-century garage
Architect: Eric O. Holmgren
Other works by architect: 122-134 Brooklyn Avenue in Crown Heights North; Evening Start Baptist Church (former LDS Chapel) on Gates Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant; 189 Ocean Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens; theaters in Williamsburg; Alku Toinen Cooperative Apartments in Sunset Park
Landmarked: Yes, part of Stuyvesant Heights Expansion Historic District (2013)
In 1905, the first automobile show in Brooklyn took place at the 23rd Regiment Armory, at the corner of Bedford and Atlantic avenues. It was the beginning of Brooklyn’s love affair with the automobile.
At first, only wealthy people could afford to own an automobile, but more inventory at varying price points made them more attainable by the teens.
Most people parked on the street, as they do now. But then, also as now, many preferred to keep their automobiles in a garage, protected from the elements and the possibility of damage or theft.
The stables of the previous century were turned into garages, and many more new garages were built. Upscale neighborhoods such as Stuyvesant Heights had many such garages built to house and protect these new precious necessities.
1904 map via New York Public Library
The Architect and His Garage
The architects of the day welcomed garage projects. They were bread-and-butter designs, always good to have on hand until something more creative presented itself, and they paid the rent. Most clients wanted a good, solid structure, and the building codes of the day demanded such, as well.
Everyone did garages, even the most famous and expensive of architects. The starchitects of the day designed garages for the rich, and were often more expensive to build than the average home.
But everyone else designed more ordinary fare. This building is your basic garage, a generous 50-by-100-feet large. It may have at least a partial second story. LPC calls it a two-story garage, while the DOB has it classified as a one-story building.
It was built in 1916 for owner Charles J. Goebel, and the architect was Eric O. Holmgren. The garages replaced three brick-filled wood-framed houses, as seen on the 1904 map.
1980s tax photo via Municipal Archives
Architect Eric O. Holmgren
Eric Olof Holmgren was a Swedish-American architect. Very little is known about his background or education. He had an office on Fulton Street from 1896 until his death in 1951.
He had a successful practice designing homes, theaters and churches throughout Brooklyn. Many of his projects were in conjunction with the Swedish and Scandinavian communities. One of his early churches was the Swedish St. Paul’s Church, a few doors down from this garage, which is no longer standing.
His best-known buildings include two apartment buildings in Sunset Park built for the Finnish Housing cooperative Alku Toinen.
He also designed a Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired church for the Church of Latter Day Saints on Gates Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant and a new facility for the Kallman Scandinavian Orphanage in Bay Ridge.
Holmgren was also on the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects in the 1940s.
1924 ad in the Brooklyn Eagle
The Garage Today
The garage has served the same function since its construction. Neighborhoods change, demographics change, but the car remains an investment to be protected.
Photo by Joe Strini for PropertyShark