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Empire State Dairy at 2840 Atlantic Avenue. Photo by Edrei Rodriguez

It is unlikely anyone is better versed in the pastoral murals of East New York’s long-closed Empire State Dairy than architectural historian and writer Michael Padwee.

Below, he tells us why these little-known architectural treasures should be appreciated and saved from demolition.

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1907 photo via Brooklyn Eagle

Beginning in the 1890s and for nearly 40 years after, the Brooklyn Christmas Tree Society brought holiday cheer to Brooklyn’s underprivileged children, treating them to a huge meal, gifts and musical performances.

The annual tradition was founded by a woman named Lena Wilson Sitting, whose legacy of generosity and holiday spirit deserves remembering around this time of year.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Built as a private home during the post–Civil War boom years, this building became famous as the home of the Chandler Piano Company.

Name: Originally a row house, then retail/apartments
Address: 222 Livingston Street
Cross Streets: Hoyt and Bond streets
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: Probably late 1860s or early 1870s
Architectural Style: Italianate with mid-20th-century alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

This four-story building was the middle house in a group of seven brownstone row houses, built for a growing population in the post–Civil War boom years. The earliest detailed map of 1880 shows the group here. It was one of many groups of similar homes built along Livingston Street.

All of downtown Brooklyn’s streets began as residential, including Fulton, Livingston and Schermerhorn. It seems hard to believe today, but traces of this early development can still be found on all three, although they are fast disappearing.

Read the first installment of the Brooklyn coffee history series here, and then Part 3.

Coffee came to America as early as the late 1600s. By the mid-19th century, Manhattan was the green coffee capital of America, home to dozens of wholesale coffee brokers and coffee roasters.

Soon after the Civil War, the beans spilled across the river into Brooklyn, due to this city’s huge capacity for storage and processing. Brooklyn’s vast waterfront piers became the landing place for the coffees of the world.

Brooklyn’s largest coffee company belonged to brothers John and Charles Arbuckle, originally from Pittsburgh. They also left us several great additions to Brooklyn’s architectural legacy.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

The pink house on Bergen Street was still standing when I moved to Crown Heights North in 2000. Only two blocks from my house, I saw it often. It was in rough shape then, but hadn’t been boarded up yet.

According to a 1976 survey of Crown Heights North by the LPC, this house, at 1183 Bergen Street, between New York and Brooklyn avenues, was the second oldest house in the neighborhood.

It was built, they figured, somewhere between 1860 and 1865.

The oldest house in Crown Heights North is the George and Susan Elkins House, at 1375 Dean Street, a couple of blocks away. The Elkins house is only 10 years older, built around 1853.

Both houses were the last remnants of this neighborhood’s suburban past, the two oldest surviving houses in Crown Heights North.

The Bedford branch of the Lefferts family owned most of the land making up Crown Heights North. They stopped farming and began selling it off in the late 1840s and ’50s. The street grid had been marked out in the 1830s, and this land was advertised as a great place for a suburban villa community.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This free-standing mansion was home to Thomas C. Smith, who also designed and built it. Smith was one of Greenpoint’s important residents — an accomplished architect-builder and successful businessman.

Name: Former Thomas C. Smith house, now Greenpoint Reformed Church
Address: 138 Milton Street
Cross Streets: Franklin Street and Manhattan Avenue
Neighborhood: Greenpoint
Year Built: 1866-67
Architectural Style: Federal, Greek revival, with embellishments
Architect: Thomas C. Smith
Other Buildings by Architect: 111, 117, 119-129 Milton Street, as well as most of the rest of the south side of Milton Street
Landmarked: Yes, part of Greenpoint Historic District (1982)

Thomas C. Smith was a man blessed with both talent and business savvy. He was born in Bridgehampton, Long Island, in 1816. He came to NYC as a young man and was a builder’s apprentice for several years. In 1830, he went out on his own as a builder.

Most builders of that day were their own architects, and Smith was no different. He established a fine business that would lead to Brooklyn. He retired from building in 1863.

The Union Porcelain Works

In the course of Smith’s business he had acquired a small pottery company at 300 Eckford Street as payment for a debt. Due in part to the ongoing Civil War, the firm was in bad financial shape. They had been in business since 1854, mostly producing porcelain doorknobs.

Smith was ready for a new challenge, so he went to France and England to investigate porcelain factories there. He got quite an education and learned the porcelain industry in full.