A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

As much as Brooklyn has changed and improved over the last 200 years, one thing has not changed for the better — the number of health care facilities.

In Brooklyn’s prime as an independent city, during the last two decades of the 19th century, the city was filled with all kinds of hospitals, sanitariums, clinics and dispensaries, both public and private. Today, only a handful remain.

Those who were well off enough to have private medical care could always depend on a doctor’s house call, or a visit to his practice. Most of Brooklyn’s doctors could be called upon in emergencies, but there were very few hospitals and very few hospital beds.

The poor had to rely on the charity of individual doctors, or their services in a small number of charitably run dispensaries — clinics that took care of basic medical needs, emergency operations, and dispensed medicines at low or no cost.

City government didn’t address the needs of the poor until a growing awareness of public health opened their eyes. It took a lack of hospital beds for such random emergencies as traffic accidents to help even the most jaded and tight-fisted realize that more needed to be done for the public good.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Altered row houses
Address: 137-147 Lafayette Avenue
Cross Streets: Cumberland Street and Carlton Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: Original buildings, 1860s; major alterations, 1934
Architectural Style: Originally Italianate, now Colonial Revival
Architect: Unknown; 1934 alterations, Horace B. Mann
Other works by architect: With partner Perry R. McNeille: “Kinko” houses in Crown Heights North and Park Slope, suburban houses in New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester and the Fieldston Historic District in the Bronx
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: How times and fashions change! When the row houses of Fort Greene were built, primarily in the 1860s and ‘70s, a single-family house was seen as the optimal family home. But 80 years later, things had changed.

Apartments were the new homes of choice. But the lack of available land for new buildings, and a paucity of available funds during the middle years of the Great Depression, meant that developers needed to get creative in order to meet that need.

The front page of the Brooklyn Eagle’s real estate section on Sunday, September 23, 1934, featured extensive coverage of a project that was midway to completion on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene.


Developers are moving to transform a lowly Fort Greene lot. Just as their first Brooklyn building begins to rise at 250 Ashland Place, the father-son duo running Gotham Organization snapped up a coveted parking lot a mere two blocks away. For $5,500,000.

Located at 130 St Felix Street, the lot is steps from Atlantic Terminal, wedged between a BAM theater and the iconic Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower. Naturally, we’re predicting condos.

The seller was the sponsor of the condo building next door at 1 Hanson Place, Canyon Johnson Urban Funds. The sponsor and the condo association of 1 Hanson Place negotiated an easement on the lot, used for parking, more than a year ago, according to public records.

A building with 75,114 square feet is permitted, according to PropertyShark. However, there may be trouble in developer paradise.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Wood-framed row houses
Address: 293-299 Cumberland Street
Cross Streets: Lafayette and Greene avenues
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1853
Architectural Style: Greek Revival, with alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: The Greek Revival style of architecture began to grow in popularity in the United States in the 1820s. By the 1830s and ’40s, the features we most readily associate with the style — the white temple-style buildings, the columns and the pediments — had been blueprinted in architectural style books.

These books became the guides that thousands of American builders, both known and unknown, used as the basis for their own designs. Greek Revival vernacular buildings became common from the Ohio Valley to New England, throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, and throughout the South.

This particular group nestled here on Cumberland Street is actually two pairs of attached row houses. Their presence is quite wonderful and unexpected in a neighborhood predominated by brownstone row houses.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 54 Greene Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Adelphi Avenue
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1868
Architectural Style: Italianate (once)
Architect: Thomas Skelly (builder)
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: Most of Fort Greene was developed in the busy years just after the Civil War. Brooklyn’s population soared due to manufacturing and business growth. The population began to spread eastward from Brooklyn Heights, aided by better roads and public transportation.

Small developer/builders such as Thomas Skelly bought as many lots as they could in Fort Greene, and built hundreds of row houses, most in some variation of the popular Italianate style.

Skelly built all ten houses on this side of the block, between Adelphi and Clermont. He built them in two groups; numbers 54-66 were built in 1868. Their stoops and doorways were built on the left. Numbers 68-72 were built in 1869, and their stoops and doorways are on the right.

All of the houses in this group survived the century and a half pretty much intact, except today’s house, number 54.


WELCOME TO THE INSIDER, Brownstoner’s weekly in-depth look at a notable interior design or renovation project, written and produced by Cara Greenberg. Find it here every Thursday at 11.

WHERE MOST PEOPLE SEE A WRECK, architects see glorious opportunity. So said Elizabeth Roberts, founding principal of Gowanus-based Ensemble Architecture, of this four-story brick row house whose new owners are a young family late of SoHo.

“The house was in really bad shape,” said Roberts of the neglected 20-by-36-foot structure, into which the architects managed to fit four bedrooms, a study, three full baths and two half baths.  “It had been vacant, water had been leaking for a few years, and the rear wall was falling down. The opportunity was there for opening it up a lot, and putting on a two-story addition.”

That 13-foot-deep addition was the project’s boldest stroke. Now, the new garden-level kitchen, as well as the back parlor on the floor above, open into a two-story volume containing a high-ceilinged dining space.


Dixon is renovating a landmarked mid-19th-century wood frame house at 266 Clermont Avenue in Fort Greene and is restoring the outside per the LPC requirements, as we saw when we happened by recently. When it is done, it will look similar to the twin house next door.

Dixon is restoring the two full-length windows on the parlor floor and putting in a new front door. It will also add back a missing cornice, according to the rendering posted on the construction fence, and install new two-over-two windows.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 205 Dekalb Avenue
Cross Streets: Carlton Avenue and Adelphi Street
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1860s
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Fort Greene Historic District (1978)

The story: Some of our architecture is notable for its beauty, some for its ugliness. Sometimes we’re drawn by the genius of a building’s designers and craftsmen, its functionality, or just the sheer awesomeness of it. And sometimes, we note a building because of who lived there.

Twin houses 205 and 207 Dekalb Avenue were part of the residential building boom of the 1860s, when Fort Greene seemed to spring up almost overnight.

A robust post-Civil War economy spurred the expansion of Brooklyn, creating homes for a new middle class of merchants and small business owners, white-collar workers and others eager to live in this fast-growing city.

Like most of the houses built at this time, these were in the Italianate style; they were classic brownstones with heavily carved window and door hoods, tall stoops, overhanging wooden cornices and substantial entryways with carved brackets flanking tall, elegant wooden doors.


Mayor de Blasio intends to lease unused land at public housing projects to private developers to build towers with 50-50 market rate and subsidized rentals, he announced Tuesday. Van Dyke and Ingersoll Houses as well as one complex in the Bronx will be the first in the project, which aims to raise $200,000,000 in fees from developers over 10 years as well as create 10,000 affordable units, The New York Times reported.

The money will go toward maintaining existing NYCHA housing, to make up for losing more than $1 billion in federal subsidies since 2001. Separately, an advocacy group for the elderly today recommended in a report that 39 parking lots at low-income senior housing be transformed into housing for seniors, The Wall Street Journal reported.


Actress Christina Ricci is moving to Fort Greene. She and her husband, James Heerdegen, bought a townhouse at 67 Adelphi Street, The New York Post reported. The sale has not yet closed, so we don’t know the amount, but it was most recently asking $1,995,000.

The house is a wood frame and is 25 feet wide and semi-detached. It likely dates from the mid-19th century, but in other respects doesn’t seem especially distinguished inside or out.