Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Vast Undertaking

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of August 17, 1882 brings news of a "vast undertaking" in the "Prospect Park section" of the growing city of Brooklyn, specifically in the block bounded by 9th and 10th Streets and 7th and 8th Avenues:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 17, 1882, p. 3 ("Brisk")

Let's cut to the Photo Archive to see if we can find those buildings in that block of 10th Street...

One set of candidates appears to be this row of brownstone-faced, three-story, three-family "flat houses":

10th Street between 7th & 8th Avenues, north side - unprotected

This row comprises twenty identical buildings today. It is quite possible that they were built in stages: the developer could have erected an initial row of ten, in order to test the market, and then filled out the row when market conditions proved favorable.

Most of this row are in original condition, many with intact cast iron stoop railings:

553 10th Street - unprotected
Northeast corner, 7th Avenue and 10th Street - unprotected

Further up the same block is another long row of very handsome, three-story, three-family apartment houses, totalling ten in number. We suspect that these were also built by Mr. Doody, since the Eagle article clearly indicates his intention to develop a great many "flat houses" on this particular block:

593-595-597 10th Street - unprotected

The houses in this row have a more generous front areaway, requiring the houses to be positioned further back from the sidewalk. This in turn requires the house connecting the two rows to step back a bit:

583 10th Street - unprotected

We suspect the same developer, "M. Doody", built up this entire side of 10th Street in stages. At this time we cannot tell which of these houses were the initial ten that were under construction at the time of the Eagle article. But it seems reasonable that the entire side of the block was built up in short order.

Some mysteries still surround this development. Three-quarters of a million dollars was an enormous investment at the time, probably an order of magnitude larger than any other project we've found in Park Slope. Such an undertaking would have been made only by one of the largest developers of the time. Yet, there are no other Eagle citations for a builder named "M. Doody". Could the writer have meant "D. Doody" instead? Daniel Doody was indeed a large developer and builder of public works in late 19th-c. Brooklyn, and the Eagle records lot conveyances for this block with which Daniel Doody was involved.

At the very end of the century, Daniel Doody was found guilty of perjury in a huge, scandalous case involving bribery and kickbacks for public works contracts:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 18, 1900, p. 9 ("The Damnation of Doody")

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