Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Sunday, December 21, 2008

3rd Street Patterns

This is another of those odd patterns that leaps out at one, once one notices it. The first photo below is from 3rd Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, north side; most of the street is lined with these monumental 8-family apartment houses. The buildings are 4 stories high, two apartments per floor, walkups; the gently-bayed facades create a pleasing rhythm as the buildings march down the hill toward 6th Avenue:

3rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, north side; unprotected

Below is a closer view of one of these buildings from the south side of the same block. The doorway is protected by a flat entablature, flanked by columns. The central windows above the doorway light the interior staircase. First above the doorway is a rounded window with "Greek Ear" enframement; next up has a Gothic-style pointed arch; the window above that is a "flattened segmental" arch, rounded but flattened at the same time (there is probably a technical term for this, unknown to me):

458 3rd Street - unprotected

Meanwhile, just around the corner in 6th Avenue, toward 2nd Street, one finds nearly identical buildings... except 4-family, not 8-family, with windows that are "the same yet different". Note the identical doorways, flat entablature flanked by columns, and similarities in the window treatment above: Gothic-style pointed arch, with "flattened segmental" above that:

315-317 6th Avenue - unprotected

The similarities are so close as to suggest they might have come from the same hand.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

4-Family Flats

Do you ever start to notice odd patterns, certain repeating motifs, in your surroundings?

Consider the early apartment buildings pictured below. These are "4-family flats", each built to house one family per floor. There are 4-family apartment houses all over Park Slope, often with full-height, 3-sided bays. These apartments were frequently built in series, several buildings in a row, with continuous facade banding and cornices.

But beyond the general similarities amongst 4-family apartment buildings, one finds virtually identical buildings in different parts of Park Slope. The apartment buildings shown here all have light-colored brick over a brownstone first floor, with brownstone detailing above; arched windows at the 4th floor only; terra-cotta panels featuring "Green Men" (foliate heads) or medallions; and clusters of narrow columns framing the doorway.

426-418 2nd Street - unprotected

361 4th Street - unprotected

299 6th Avenue - unprotected

799-803 Union St. - unprotected

There are probably more of these out there... let us know if you find any!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

8-Family Flats

We have been looking at several common historic building styles in Park Slope (Italianate, Neo-Grec) both within and outside the boundaries of the current Park Slope Historic District. Most of the buildings we've seen are "rowhouses", originally single-family homes. However, many other historic buildings in Park Slope were originally built to house multiple families. One very common format is the "8-family", typically four stories, with two flats per floor, and no elevator.

Below is a view of 8th Street, park block (between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West, north side, looking east). All of these buildings are within the current Park Slope Historic District, and all of them are "8-family flats". The Park Slope Historic District Designation Report reads:

"The north side...presents an almost solid wall of four-story apartment houses. Their materials consist of light-colored shades of brick, with limestone trim, which harmonizes with the houses across the street. Their height is visually minimized by the concentration of architectural elements and details at the ground floor level, while their full-height bays create a wavy undulation at the skyline."

Eighth Street, Park Slope Historic District

The report continues on to say that these apartment houses, "basically neo-Georgian in style", were begun in 1904 for John Wilson and were designed by Brooklyn architect Henry Pohlman. Below is a closer view of one of these apartment buildings:

537 8th Street, Park Slope Historic District

Meanwhile, in Carroll Street below 7th Avenue, one finds a very similar row of 8-family apartment houses. Below is the view looking east, toward 7th Avenue:

Carroll Street between 6th & 7th Avenues - unprotected

It is not unreasonable to assume that this row in Carroll Street, so similar in style to the row in 8th Street, must have been built within a few years of 1904, when the 8th Street buildings were erected. Yet, these buildings are not protected by Historic District designation.

Below is a closer view in Carroll Street:

717-719 Carroll Street - unprotected

A Historic District comprises buildings of many types and functions, including 8-family apartment houses like the ones shown here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brownstone-faced Neo-Grec

Row houses in the Neo-Grec style are extremely common in Park Slope. Frequently they feature a full-height, two-sided bay, and are faced in brownstone. Often one finds incised parallel lines flanking the doorways or windows, and the brackets supporting the rectangular door hood feature geometric carving/incising, in contrast to the more naturalistic carving on the brackets supporting the rounded door hoods in the earlier Italianate style.

The houses below, in Berkeley Place between 7th and 8th Avenues, were erected between 1883-84 and are within the boundaries of the current Park Slope Historic District:

Berkeley Place, Park Slope Historic District

One finds brownstone-faced, two-sided bay Neo-Grec houses all over Park Slope. The houses below are in Garfield Place, between 6th and 7th Avenues, outside the current Park Slope Historic District, but are nearly identical to the ones above:

175-177-179-181-183 Garfield Place - unprotected

Below is another very similar group, from 3rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, outside the current historic district. These houses feature another very common characteristic of the Neo-Grec style: pointed "ears" on each end of the door hood. Several of the houses below retain the original, heavy, Neo-Grec cast-ironwork on the stoop:

426-424-422-420-418-416 3rd St. - unprotected

Yet another very similar group, from Berkeley Place between 5th and 6th Avenues, outside the current historic district. The houses below appear to be just two floors over a basement floor, but actually have a full 3rd floor on top, with small windows set into the cornice. Although generally Neo-Grec, the slightly rounded arch above the doorway betrays a slight influence of the lingering Italianate style:

62-60 Berkeley Place - unprotected

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Non-Contributing" in Second Street

543-545-547-549 2nd St., Park Slope Historic District

Are the buildings pictured above, in 2nd Street between 7th & 8th Avenues, "historic"?

According to the Dept. of Buildings database, they were built in 1955. Note the auto-centric design: the front yards are parking lots.

It may be surprising to discover buildings like these within the boundaries of the Park Slope Historic District, which was designated in 1973, when these buildings were less than 30 years old. These are what are called "non-contributing" buildings: they do not contribute to the historic fabric of the district. However, the important point is that all the surrounding buildings contribute to the fabric of the historic district; therefore these buildings were included in the district as well so that the district would not have "donut holes".

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Brick-faced Neo-Grec

The Neo-Grec style emerged in the 1870s-1880s as a reaction to the earlier Italianate style. Whereas the Italianate style was characterized by more naturalistic forms such as the rounded, cave-like entrance, the Neo-Grec style reverted to the square doorway that had characterized the even earlier Greek Revival style. The naturalistic, plant-like carving on the brackets supporting the Italianate door hood gave way to machine-made, geometric incisions around the Neo-Grec doorway and windows. Another Neo-Grec innovation was the full-height, two-sided projecting bay, which allowed larger windows to bring more light into the interior. The Neo-Grec houses below, in Berkeley Place between 6th & 7th Avenues in the Park Slope Historic district, are brick with brownstone trim and were begun in 1886.

158-156-154 Berkeley Place - Park Slope Historic District

Neo-Grec houses are very common all over Park Slope. The row below is nearly identical to the row above and stands in Garfield Place, between 6th & 7th Avenues, outside the current historic district:

165-167-169 Garfield Place - unprotected

Below is another example of the common brick-with-brownstone-trim neo-Grec style in Park Slope. These are from 7th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues. Like the houses above, the ones below exhibit a distinctive fan-shaped detail at the upper corners of the windows:

420-418-416 7th Street - unprotected

Friday, October 17, 2008

5th Ave. Contrasts

Today, two perspectives on Park Slope's 5th Avenue.

At Garfield Place, these 19th-century buildings, with their narrow storefronts, house many "mom-and-pop"-style businesses. The buildings are multi-purpose, with commercial on the first floor and apartments above. We particularly like the quoins on the corner building.

5th Ave. at Garfield Place

Meanwhile a bit further south at 10th Street we find an entirely different kind of building. This one, built within the past few years, houses a national chain store. It is entirely commercial; i.e. no apartments above. Except for a parking lot, this "little box" store is identical to those found in suburban strip malls anywhere in America:

5th Avenue at 10th Street

These pictures starkly highlight how physical buildings themselves can foster (or suppress) a particular business climate. Which structures are welcoming, which encourage strolling, lingering, and window-shopping? Which structure says, get what you need and then get out of here? Which corner has a unique "sense of place"?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Remuddling in 9th St.

265-267 9th St.

These two buildings in 9th St. between 4th & 5th Avenues were once twins. Both are 8-family walk-up "flats", originally two apartments per floor. But the building on the left has lost the twin full-height, three-sided bays, leaving replacement double windows and mismatched brick scars running up the facade where the bays used to be. The cornice is completely obliterated.

Oddly, in the face of all this destruction, the original horizontal banding between the upper floors was thoughtfully extended across the full width of the facade... a nice touch? Or just weird?

Italianate in 7th Street

421-423-425-427-429 7th St. - unprotected

Park Slope's side streets are a veritable treasure trove of 19th-century building styles. Some of our recent posts have highlighted the Italianate style, characterized by a flat front, slightly rounded door and window embrasures, and parlor windows that drop all the way to the floor. This fine row of circa-1865 brick-front Italianate houses stands in 7th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, outside the boundaries of the Park Slope Historic District. These are among the earliest houses in Park Slope.

The houses above face a nearly identical row across the street, below:

432-430-428-426-424 7th Street - unprotected

Many of these houses retain the original Italianate ironwork on areaways and stoops:

Italianate ironwork, 7th Street - unprotected

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Park Slope Neighborhood History Guide

Francis Morrone has released his new book about Park Slope, part of a series of "neighborhood guides" published by the Brooklyn Historical Society. Entitled "Park Slope: Neighborhood & Architectural History Guide", the book is essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in Park Slope's history.

The book is available from the Brooklyn Historical Society and, soon, from the Park Slope Civic Council.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Brownstone-front Italianate

Later in the 19th century, houses faced with brownstone emerged as the latest fashion. These were basically the same structures as the brick-front Italianate houses that preceded them, but with a thin veneer of chocolate-colored brownstone. Many examples can be found in Park Slope, both within and outside the current Historic District. Most of them date from the early to mid-1870s. The facades are flat (i.e. no projecting bays), are 3 windows wide, and have either fully-enframed windows or slightly-rounded hoods over the windows. Doorways feature rounded or peaked pediment hoods.

The following brownstone-front Italianate houses stand in Park Place, between 6th and 7th Avenues, within the current Park Slope Historic District. #113 has fully-enframed windows and was begun in 1872 by neighborhood builder John Gordon. #115 has rounded hoods over the windows and was built in 1870-72 by John Magilligan.

111-113-115 Park Place (Park Slope Historic Distric)

Below are nearly identical brownstone-faced Italianate houses elsewhere in Park Slope. However none of the following examples is included in the current Historic District:

30-28-26 Sterling Place - unprotected

3rd Street between 6th & 5th Avenues - unprotected

6th Street between 6th & 5th Avenues - unprotected

One wonders whether there is any neighborhood in the city where block after block of Italianate houses stand unprotected, excluded from any historic district. These blocks are the heart of Park Slope.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brick-front Italianate

Some of the oldest houses in Park Slope can be found in the blocks adjacent to Flatbush Avenue. The simple, flat-front Italianate houses below are in 7th Ave. just off Flatbush, and are within the boundaries of the current Park Slope Historic District, which was designated in 1973. According to the Designation Report, these houses were built in 1860 by Charles S. Scribner of 300 Dean St. in Boerum Hill.

8-16 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope Historic District

Looking more closely at one of these houses, one notes how the parlor windows drop gracefully all the way to the floor, maximizing the interior light:

12 Seventh Avenue, Park Slope Historic District

Meanwhile, one block downhill in Sixth Avenue, just off Flatbush, stands a row of very similar houses that are not included in the current Historic District. This row is also Italianate and was undoubtedly built within a few years of the row above.

96-88 Sixth Avenue - unprotected

These houses in Sixth Avenue boast gracefully rounded door hoods lacking in the Seventh Avenue row, but are otherwise nearly identical:

92 Sixth Avenue - unprotected

There are many similar houses nearby in the North Slope, off Flatbush. Below is part of a row in Prospect Place between 5th & 6th Avenues, simple brick-front Italianate from the mid 19th century:

53-55-57 Prospect Place - unprotected

Why were the houses in Seventh Avenue included in the current Park Slope Historic District, while the ones in Sixth Avenue and Prospect Place were not? It makes no sense.

Update: Two of the houses in the 6th Ave. row have small, modern plaques embedded in the facade between the parlor floor windows. The plaques read "1867".

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hellooooooooooooooooo... testing