Advertised as one of the best built houses in the city in 1893, this impressive Queen Anne brownstone is in need of renovation but has some extravagant details, including Gothic ornament on the exterior and seven elaborate mantels on the interior.
It’s one of a group of four with “Gothic tracery, quatrefoil elements, shield-holding dragonettes, tiny turret dormers, ornate pressed metal fleur-de-lis, and scallop shells with cartouches,” as Brownstoner columnist Suzanne Spellen put it. The row at 849-855 Jefferson Avenue was designed by architect Otto J. Gette and built in 1893 by developer Charles Palmer, responsible for many Bed Stuy houses.
No. 851 has a grand decorated gable and ornamental frieze over a rough-faced stone facade and high stoop. The house’s interior yields two duplexes festooned with oodles of woodwork and mantels.
In the entry hall is a curving screen with turned spindles arrayed in sunburst patterns, along with wainscoting and pocket doors leading into the front parlor. There, one of the house’s seven decorative mantels has a mirrored topper with tiered shelves and is elaborately carved with columns and foliate patterns.
Two other mantels are pictured, both in the lower duplex, and all are similarly elaborate with fanciful overmantels and summer covers. Two have original tile surrounds. The carved wooden mantels were called “cabinet mantels” in the 1893 Brooklyn Eagle ad, which also mentioned hardwood and a burglar alarm as among the home’s features.
Other original details throughout the house include woodwork around windows and doors, baseboard moldings, and the staircase and newel posts. Note that plaster covered by faux wood paneling may need skim coating, and original wood floors may or may not exist under the worn linoleum shown in some rooms.
In the house’s current configuration, two bedrooms on the parlor level share the garden-level bathroom stuck beside the kitchen. Possibly it would make sense to reconfigure as triplex over a garden rental. One bathroom pictured, located on the third floor, appears to have been updated within the last 20 years and has stone tile and a vessel sink.
Public records indicate that the house has been in the same family since at least 1980. Listed by Ban Leow and Howard Ramlal of Halstead, it’s offered now for $1.5 million, which may or may not leave room for substantial improvements. We have recently seen similarly appointed and recently renovated houses in the area asking about a million more. Is it workable?
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