Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Monday, April 27, 2009

Louis Bonert: 6th Avenue and 4th Street, 1893

The next chapter in the story of Louis Bonert, Park Slope builder, is culled from an early 1894 New York Times report concerning Brooklyn real estate sales:

New York Times, January 21, 1894, p. 15 ("Brooklyn Realty Matters")

#351, on the east side of 6th Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, is the fourth building from the left in the photograph below:

345-353 6th Avenue - unprotected

Now that we have become more familiar with the kind of development Bonert was doing around this time, we can immediately recognize several characteristics of his buildings: a row of several four-family flats, in light-toned brick, with a brownstone-faced mixed-use building on the corner lot, with arched windows on the top story, continuous cornice detailing, and decorative panels below the windows.

The corner mixed-use, brownstone-faced building is virtually identical to the one at the corner of 6th Avenue and 5th Street. The one at 4th Street features handsome scalloped shingles on the round bay facing the corner, but its original first floor commercial space has been converted to residential use.

6th Avenue and 4th Street, southeast corner - detail

6th Avenue and 5th Street, southeast corner - unprotected

The classical doorway surrounds on the apartment houses are identical to the ones Bonert employed on his row just to the south:

347 6th Avenue - detail

359 6th Avenue - detail

Bonert here again employs a full-height bay with decorative geometric terra cotta panels set below each window, a device he used earlier in his St. Johns Place rows:

353 6th Avenue - detail

21-23 St. Johns Place - detail

Some of the decorative terra cotta panels feature Bonert's first use of the fascinating archetype known as the "Green Man", a human face surrounded by leaves and vegetation:

353 6th Avenue - "Green Man" detail

A New York Times article from a few weeks later records the sale of several more buildings from this row (347, 349, 353). Apparently Bonert was doing a brisk business, building these small apartment houses, filling them with tenants, and then selling them off to local investors seeking a reliable return on their money:

New York Times, February 14, 1894, p. 12 ("Brooklyn Realty Matters")

Of course we tracked down the addresses listed in this article, and sure enough, it lead us to yet another Bonert, lying just around the corner at #380 Fourth Street. The article refers to the material of its construction as "fancy brick". It is identical to the four-family buildings in 6th Avenue and was most likely built and marketed at the same time; it is pictured on the right below:

4th Street, looking east from 6th Avenue - unprotected

With this group we are drawing quite near the "Bonert epicenter" of Park Slope, where we will find many more "fancy brick" apartment houses.

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