Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2009 House Tour: 874 Carroll Street

The neo-Georgian residence at 874 Carroll Street was designed in 1904 by the firm of Mowbray & Uffinger, the same firm that designed the Dime Savings Bank in downtown Brooklyn, and also #1 Montgomery Place, among many other commissions in Brooklyn and Manhattan. This house was designed for the firm's senior partner, Louis M. Mowbray.

878-876-874 Carroll Street - Park Slope Historic District

874 Carroll Street exemplifies the innovative "American basement" house, successor to the earlier high-stooped brownstone basement, and the lower-stooped "Engish basement" configurations. Christopher Gray of the New York Times explains the differences in a "Streetscapes" column published June 5, 2005:

"The term English basement had been used to describe houses of the 1840's [or later] entered via four or five steps, with a reception hall in the front of the ground floor and a dining room at the rear. A kitchen and laundry were placed in the cellar - rendering them quite dark - and the principal floor, the second level, contained the parlor.

"By the 1860's, the high-stoop row house, the classic 'brownstone' (even though they were not all in brownstone), had emerged, with a different design. The ground floor was slightly below grade, with a room at the front and a kitchen at the rear - and fairly good light. It was essentially a service floor, directly accessible from the street for deliveries and tradesmen. The owner and family had to mount a high stoop of 10 to 12 steps to the main entrance, leading to a parlor in the front and a dining room at the back.

"[In an American basement house,] The entrance was through the ground floor, just a few steps above the sidewalk and leading into a reception room. The kitchen, at the rear of this floor, had daylight, and a stairway in the center of the house led to the second floor. There, the parlor ran the full width of the house at the front, and the dining room was similarly sited at the rear - the stairway remained in the center. Instead of having to walk upstairs to answer the door, as in a high-stoop house, the maid in an American basement house simply went from the kitchen directly to the front. And there was no high stoop."

In the 1897 Lain's Brooklyn Directory, Louis M. Mowbray's address is given as 240 Washington Avenue. He thus followed a well-beaten path from the older Clinton Hill neighborhood, to the emerging Park Slope neighborhood, around the turn of the last century.

A daughter, Virginia Mowbray, was born about 1902. The New York Times chronicles activities associated with her privileged childhood, including a blue ribbon in a horse show at the Brooklyn Riding and Driving Club in 1916. Miss Virginia Mowbray won in the polo pony class with "Beowulf, a big 15 hands roan pony." Members of the Brooklyn Riding and Driving Club were frequently to be seen in Prospect Park and along the Eastern and Ocean Parkways. Their clubhouse and stables were formerly located in Prospect Heights on Plaza Street, between Flatbush and Vanderbilt Avenues. The club staged frequent horse shows, indoor polo matches in Brooklyn armories, and other equestrian events.

Grand Army Plaza at Vanderbilt Avenue, looking north -
Brooklyn Riding and Driving Club at left

By 1921, when the Times announced Virginia Mowbray's engagement to Arthur Whitney, her father was deceased but her mother still resided at 874 Carroll Street:

New York Times, November 11, 1921

The marriage was not an unqualified success. The New York Times on July 18, 1925 revealed that the couple were estranged, and that she had submitted a "14 Point" list of conditions to her husband, to which she demanded signed agreement in order to preserve their matrimonial state. By this time Virginia was again living with her mother, who had removed to 616A Third Street in Park Slope. The Times dubbed Virginia Mowbray Whitney the "14 Point Wife" and published the list, which had been placed in public record as part of the case, in its entirety, along with several articles detailing charges and counter-charges:

New York Times, July 18, 1925

Arthur Whitney, it was recounted in the Times, "refused to sign the ultimatum because he said it resembled the 'terms of a victorious General to a foe he had forced to unconditional surrender.'"

The couple divorced, and Virginia Mowbray married Clark Miller on January 1, 1930. He died in 1935, and Virginia herself died in 1949, predeceasing her elderly mother, who placed the following notice in the Times in memory of her daughter, who had spent her childhood at 874 Carroll Street:

New York Times, July 18, 1949

No comments: