Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yet More Louis Bonert: 6th Avenue between 4th & 5th Streets

Our last few posts have followed Park Slope builder Louis Bonert at work in 6th Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets. We examined a row he built in 1892 at the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and 5th Street, and also a row he built in 1893 at the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and 4th Street.

These rows nearly meet in the middle of the block. But close inspection reveals a mysterious building, #355 6th Avenue, between the two Bonert rows on either side:

353-355-357 6th Avenue - unprotected

Is 355 6th Avenue a Bonert?

We have confirmed in previous posts that Bonert was responsible for the entire rest of the block facing 6th Avenue. It seems unlikely that only this one mid-block lot would have escaped his control.

The building is a four-story, four-family "single flat" house executed in "fancy brick" with brownstone trim, a characteristic building style for Bonert. The cornice detailing on this building is identical to that on the rest of the block, as is the detailing on the top-floor windows:

353-355-357 6th Avenue - detail

Although we cannot provide a photograph at this time, the original wooden details set into the doorway are identical between 355 6th Avenue and the rest of the buildings on the block.

Finally, 355 6th Avenue was listed has having been sold at the same time and by the same broker, John Pullman, as three buildings in the Bonert row to the north.

For all these reasons, we feel confident in attributing this building to Louis Bonert. It's true that the building is slightly different from its neighbors to either side. It lacks decorative terra cotta panels below the windows. It lacks the classical doorway of its neighbors to either side. It remains a mystery why this building is distinct from its Bonert neighbors.

At any rate, if we conclude that 355 6th Avenue is a Bonert, as we believe we must, then further conclusions follow as well.

Directly across the street, on the west side of 6th Avenue, running from 4th to 5th Street, stands a complete row of buildings executed as a unit:

6th Avenue and 4th Street, southwest corner - unprotected

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

It is a row of eight four-story, four-family, brick-faced "single flat" apartment houses. A brownstone-faced mixed-use building stands at each end, and these buildings match the Bonert building at the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and 5th Street, across the street. The cornice detailing, the top-floor arched window detailing, the geometric terra cotta panels beneath the windows... all these details match those on the Bonert buildings we have been examining.

340 6th Avenue - detail

346 6th Avenue - detail

Finally, the rusticated stone door and window arches on the first floor of these flat houses, and the wooden detailing of the door frames, precisely match those on the first floor at #355 6th Avenue across the street:

346 6th Avenue - detail

The conclusion is inescapable: all of these buildings, on both sides of 6th Avenue from 4th to 5th Streets, were built by Louis Bonert. We have not yet found any Brooklyn Eagle or New York Times citations for the buildings on the west side of the street, nor for #355 on the east side, so we cannot yet offer the usual documentary evidence. But the stylistic evidence overwhelmingly points to Bonert's hand here.

The west side of the block forms an extremely handsome row. The two center buildings meet to form a mirror image, surmounted by a high cornice at the middle of the block:

348-346 6th Avenue - unprotected

It is not possible to see in the photo above, but the very top of this cornice features two hands clasped in a handshake... whatever could have been meant by this image?

One of our favorite details in all of Park Slope is the group of three half-figures holding up the cornice at each end of the row:

356 6th Avenue - detail

Updated: the attribution for the west side of 6th Avenue between 4th & 5th Streets has been confirmed.

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