This 1890s Park Slope brownstone is lush with original woodwork and spacious — and it offers an intriguing connection to a Brooklyn author of the era. Located just down the block from Prospect Park at 916 President Street, the four-story row house is on the market for the first time in decades.
It’s in the Park Slope Historic District and one of a stretch of 14 houses built by Patrick Sheridan. There is some variety along the row and No. 916 has a rough faced brownstone facade with a full-height angular bay, an L-shaped stoop and a deep bracketed cornice punctuated with the windows of a full-height fourth story. While the designation report dates the row to 1899, articles and ads of the time indicate that at least some of the stretch was complete by 1895. By April of that year the first owner of No. 916 was already in residence and leasing out her former home in Bed Stuy.
That owner was Laura Jean Libbey, a popular late 19th century writer of dime novel romances. With titles such as “A Dangerous Flirtation, Or Did Ida May Sin?” and “When His Love Grew Cold,” her stories typically featured spirited, virtuous working girls overcoming strife to earn the reward of a wealthy husband. She was already a well established writer when she married Van Mater Stilwell, who joined her in the President Street house until her death in 1924.
During her writing peak, Libbey’s home office was in a second floor room adorned with red paper and glass-fronted bookcases and lit with gaslight according to a 1909 profile in Harper’s Weekly. There aren’t enough listing photos to determine exactly how much original detail survives on the upper floors of Libbey’s former home, now a three-family. Along with the floor plans showing an owner’s triplex with one-bedroom apartments on the garden and fourth floors, the photos show views of just four rooms — as is and virtually staged.
Those images do show a wealth of unpainted woodwork, including a pier mirror, wainscoting, staircase and heavily ornamented mantels with original tile surrounds. There’s also stained glass, plaster medallions and, in the dining room, a built-in china cabinet. That room also has an “S” inlaid in the center of the wood floor, likely for the surname of the current owners. Not all the wood floors are on view, and there’s a fair bit of carpeting, including in the front hall.
The floor plans indicate an original passthrough with sinks might be intact between the front and rear bedrooms on the second floor. None of the three kitchens or 4.5 baths are shown, so their condition is unknown.
The house last changed hands in the 1960s. Listed by Kim Larkin of Corcoran, it’s now on the market for $6.25 million. Worth the ask?
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