Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2009 House Tour: 129 Park Place

This essay completes our series of articles about the 2009 Park Slope Civic Council House Tour. This year's tour will be held on Sunday, May 17, 2009, from noon until 5:00pm. Advance tickets are available here; tickets are also available on the day of the event at the tour's starting point, 50 Prospect Park West. Keep in mind that all of the tour's proceeds are returned to the Park Slope community through the Park Slope Civic Council's unique grants program. As far as we know, no other community group in Brooklyn runs an annual grants program like ours. So come on out, visit some great houses, and help support your local community on May 17! And our sincere thanks to the generous, community-minded people who have agreed to open their houses to the public for this tour. You have done a great service to Park Slope.

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.

129 Park Place - Park Slope Historic District

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:

129 Park Place - detail

This house lacks the original Italianate stoop newel posts, which can still be seen on the house immediately to the right:

131 Park Place - stoop newel post

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:

131 Park Place - detail

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:

New York Times, June 22, 1893

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:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 23, 1883, p. 3

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:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 21, 1895, p. 12

Benjamin H. Bayliss died suddenly at 129 Park Place in 1897, aged 54, of "paralysis", apparently while preparing to go to church:

New York Times, March 9, 1897

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:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 27, 1897, p. 5

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:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 29, 1899, p. 10

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.
Mr. Dahlquist and four colleagues were returning from a job in Westhampton, Long Island, where they were engaged in painting a house.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

+$3,624 profit last week!

Get 5 Star verified winning bets on NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL + Anti-Vegas Smart Money Signals!!!