Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Monday, May 25, 2009

Louis Bonert: First 8-Family Apartments, President Street, 1899

Our unfolding story of Louis Bonert, Park Slope builder, next shifts a few blocks away from Park Slope's Bonert epicenter to President Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues. We here find the first 8-family apartment houses positively associated with Louis Bonert; up until now, from what we have been able to discover, he has built 4-family apartments exclusively. 8-family apartments are of course more efficient in that the overhead of the stairwell, hallway, and landings are shared by eight apartments, rather than just four.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 11, 1899, p. 14 ("New Buildings")

798-796-794 President Street - unprotected

Note the Brooklyn Eagle's description of these articles as "tenements". These buildings are 30' wide, or 15' per apartment. Bonert's early "Green Man" apartments, by contrast, were usually 19-20' wide, and his newer limestone-faced apartments in 6th Avenue were a spacious 23.5' wide. And those earlier buildings held only a single apartment per floor. Thus the 15'-wide apartments necessitated by an 8-family configuration on a 30' lot might seem rather narrow by comparison.

The Brooklyn Eagle once again mangles Bonert's name, citing him as "Bonnert" or "Donnert". Any suspicion that these apartments might have been built by someone else is resolved by an article about a year later, which recounts how Louis Bonert trades two of the finished buildings to a "syndicate of capitalists" for a block-front of lots in Bedford Avenue, on the other side of Prospect Park:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 16, 1900, p. 22 ("A Big Real Estate Deal")

We now recognize the President Street buildings as classic Park Slope 8-family apartment houses. Certain stylistic details echo some of Bonert's earlier buildings: three stories of brick, trimmed with stone, over a limestone-faced first story, over a brownstone basement, with full-height, rounded window bays:

792 President Street - unprotected

The buildings exhibit graceful notes perhaps not often associated with "tenements", including small stained-glass windows (not all of which survive). Note also the use of narrow, elongated "Roman" brick:

790 President Street - detail

Bonert's signature florid capitals and pediment embellish the doorway and windows:

792 President Street - detail

Look closely to see winged figures peering out from some of the buildings.

792 President Street - detail

Is Bonert revealed here as an angelologist?

Below, from Google's "street view", the buildings in Bedford Avenue, across Prospect Park, most likely another Bonert row of 8-family flats.

Bedford Avenue, Lincoln Place to St. Johns Place

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