Our tour house, 129 Park Place, is one of a row of five classic Italianate brownstone-faced row houses, built in 1874-75 by neighborhood builder John Gordon. It is within the current Park Slope Historic District. These are among the oldest houses in Park Slope, having been built within convenient distance from the horsecar lines that once ran in Flatbush Avenue and 7th Avenue, which provided easy access to the New York ferries at the foot of Fulton Street.
The Italianate style is seen in the flush front; the fully-enframed windows; the rounded entryway with segmental-arched door hood; the naturalistic, acanthus-leaved brackets below the door hood; and the cast-iron stoop balusters resembling chess pawns:
This house lacks the original Italianate stoop newel posts, which can still be seen on the house immediately to the right:
The house to the right also sports a projecting, V-shaped bay window at the second floor. This probably represents a 19th-century attempt to "remuddle" an Italianate house into a more modern, neo-Grec V-fronted house. It's true the house gained a nice projecting bay. But, at what cost? The house lost not only the distinctive, segmental-arched door hood, but also the lovely, naturalistic brackets, which were replaced with the more geometric neo-Grec versions, resulting in a kind of bizarre, stylistic mish-mash:
In short, we're not sure we would have traded in a pristine Italianate door hood for that bay window.
The first owner of 129 Park Place was probably George W. Alexander, bookbinder, who is listed at this address in the 1879 Lain's Brooklyn Directory:
ALEXANDER George W. bookbinder 10 Astor pl N.Y. h 129 Park pl
Alexander's business occupied a series of locations in Manhattan over the course of several decades. By 1893 he no longer resided at 129 Park Place, but a sensational fire in his business on W. 18th Street in New York generated headlines for several days:
As early as 1883, 129 Park Place was in the hands of Benjamin H. Bayliss, a lawyer in New York. Bayliss was a "man of faith" and was associated for many years with the Memorial Presbyterian Church at 7th Avenue and St. Johns Place in Park Slope. Indeed, the first evidence we have of his residence at 129 Park Place is a notice that he is searching for a precentor for his church choir:
Bayliss was apparently as frugal as he was faithful, renting out rooms to lodgers over the years. An Eagle notice in 1895 recounts that one George H. Gardner of 129 Park Place, most likely a lodger, was relieved of his pocket watch on a trip to Coney Island after succumbing to the "easy familiarity" and excitements of that locale and to the "enthusiastic charms" of a Miss Stacy and her friend, Mr. "Hart Stag", from whom he had accepted the offer of a carriage ride at 3am:
Benjamin H. Bayliss died suddenly at 129 Park Place in 1897, aged 54, of "paralysis", apparently while preparing to go to church:
The Eagle notes that Bayliss was eulogized as an "every day good man" and was memorialized by his congregation in the form of a Tiffany window installed in Memorial Prebyterian Church later that year. The paper carried a drawing of the window, whose subject, "Christ Blessing Little Children", befits the man who ran the church Sunday School for 25 years:
His son Lucien, named after his maternal grandfather, apparently assumed ownership of 129 Park Place after his father's death. Lucien, who ran successfully for the New York State Assembly, is listed as the resident of 129 Park Place in the 1897 Lain's Brooklyn Directory:
BAYLISS Lucien S. lawyer 170 B'way N. Y. h 129 Park pl
Lucien continued the family's custom of letting rooms to lodgers. Several ads appear in the late 1890s Eagle for room and/or board at 129 Park Place:
The association of the Bayliss family with 129 Park Place continues into the early 20th century. The New York Times on January 18, 1908, carries notice of the incorporation of the Economy Electric Company of Brooklyn, NY, one of whose directors is Donald Bayliss of 129 Park Place. By 1916, Lucien Bayliss is referred to as the "late".
In 1927, the Times recounts that Uno Dahlquist of 129 Park Place was killed in an automobile accident on the Montauk highway. Whether Mr. Dahlquist was a tenant of a still-resident Bayliss family, or whether the house was now a rooming house, is unclear.