Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Louis Bonert: 8th Avenue Apartments, 1910

A New York Times search on "Bonnert", a common misspelling of Park Slope builder Louis Bonert's surname, yields a new "hit" from 1910:

As noted in the article, after focusing exclusively on apartment houses, Louis Bonert broke into single-family home construction in the first decade of the last century. And he did so in a characteristically big way: according to the Park Slope Historic District designation report, Bonert developed the entire south side of First Street between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West:

1st Street, 8th/PPW, south side - Park Slope Historic District

2nd Street, 8th/PPW, north side - Park Slope Historic District

These houses are perhaps some of the most luxurious, desirable, and costly residences in Park Slope today.

The article notes that about the same time, Bonert constructed an entire block of buildings on 8th Avenue, between 4th & 5th Streets:

404-420 8th Avenue - unprotected

We've followed the progression of Bonert's apartment houses through 4-family to 8-family configurations. We haven't counted the doorbells yet, but we suspect these 8th Avenue apartments must be 16-family buildings; they are truly colossal in scale.

Bonert's 4-family "single flat" apartment houses were usually about 20 feet in width. His "double flat" buildings (two apartments per floor) began at 30 feet in width, and progressed through 36 to 46 foot configurations. These buildings in 8th Avenue are a full 50 feet wide, and very deep as well:

420 8th Avenue - unprotected

After spending weeks with Mr. Bonert on the blog, we've quite nearly reached the end of the line. As far as we know right now, these were the final buildings constructed by Louis Bonert in Park Slope. It remains only to relate what little else we know about him in the next post.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Early Louis Bonert: 4th Avenue, 1884

A reader who is helping conduct research for a possible expansion of the Park Slope Historic District sends along a tip about some buildings by Louis Bonert on the west side of 4th Avenue, at the northwest corner of Bergen Street. They are outside our Study Area, and technically not even in Park Slope, but we thought we'd include them here anyway, along with all the other Bonerts, since we are "completists" to a degree.

They are a group of five three-story, mixed-use buildings (flats over stores). Our correspondent found the following listing in the American Architect & Building News from 1884:

"Building Intelligence; Brooklyn," AABN vol. 15, no. 437 (May 10, 1884): p. 227.
-- "Fourth Ave., n w cor. Bergen St., 5 three-st'y brick stores and tenements, tn roofs; cost for all, $25,750; owner, Albert Scales, 378 Van Brunt St.; architect and carpenter, Louis Bonert."

We didn't include the west side of Fourth Avenue in our comprehensive Park Slope photo archive, but it is possible to use Google's "street view" to examine the corner. And, apparently, all five buildings are still there today, in nearly original condition. We particularly like the quoins on the corner building:

70-62 Fourth Avenue

The upzoning of Fourth Avenue a few years ago unleashed a building frenzy that has seen many of the original, "first growth" buildings replaced by new, mid-rise apartment houses. The Great Recession has lessened development pressures somewhat. Even so, we suspect these 1884 buildings by Louis Bonert won't be around much longer.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Louis Bonert: Five 8-Family Double Flats in Sterling Place

In 1909 Louis Bonert traded five four story, 8-family "double flat" apartment houses in Sterling Place for a large parcel on the other side of Prospect Park, in a deal recounted in the New York Times:

New York Times, August 4, 1909, p. 10 ("In the Real Estate Field")

164-180 Sterling Place - unprotected

168 Sterling Place - unprotected

The buildings exhibit some of the stylized hoods over the central stairway windows that we have come to associate with Bonert from his apartment houses in 3rd Street and in 6th Avenue:

180 Sterling Place - detail

The doorways are a riot of classical detail. We can make out swags and egg-and-dart molding, but our limited architectural vocabulary cannot begin to describe everything here. What are those pointy things on the upper corners called?:

164 Sterling Place - detail

Bader's roadhouse, which occupied a large parcel at the corner of Ocean Parkway and Coney Island Avenue, just outside Prospect Park, was a popular destination for excursions, apparently as much for the outsized personality of its proprietor as for its convenient location and popular prices:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 4, 1897, p. 20 ("Havens for Cyclists")

Friday, June 19, 2009

Early Louis Bonert: 5th Street, 1891

Somehow this early "flat house" by Louis Bonert in 5th Street just below 6th Avenue escaped our notice. The new building notice appeared in an 1891 Brooklyn Eagle:

Brooklyn Eagle, October 10, 1891, p. 1 ("New Buildings and Real Estate")

393 5th Street - unprotected

The building, at three stories, is uncharacteristically small for Bonert. But it does exhibit the top-floor rounded windows, and terra cotta spandrel panels, with which we have become so familiar from his later "Green Man" style, Romanesque-inflected apartment buildings:

393 5th Street - detail

The building is located just around the corner from two complete blockfronts that we have linked to Bonert. We have not yet uncovered evidence to document Bonert's hand in the west side of 6th Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, but we have linked Bonert to the east side of that block of 6th Avenue. In any case, the doorway of the 5th Street building is identical to doorways from the 6th Avenue rows.

393 5th Street - detail

348 6th Avenue - detail

355 6th Avenue - detail

Friday, June 12, 2009

Louis Bonert's $750,000 deal in Park Slope

In 1905 Louis Bonert put together a deal to sell a great many of the apartment houses he had recently built in Park Slope. The deal's value was estimated to be $750,000, a tremendous amount in those days. The deal was reported in both the New York Times and the Brooklyn Eagle:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 18, 1905, p.1 ("$750,000 deal in flats")

New York Times, November 19, 1905, p. 18 ("In the Real Estate Field")

It is worth working through the list of addresses in the articles, both to confirm attributions we have already made, and to look for new buildings that we have not yet confirmed to be from Bonert.

The first set of addresses includes several of the buildings in the row extending from the northwest corner of 6th Avenue and 3rd Street. We discussed these buildings earlier on the blog and attributed them to Bonert, circa 1895:

407-415 3rd Street - unprotected

417-421 3rd Street - unprotected

423-427 3rd Street - unprotected

The articles indicate that several of the eight-family apartments on the north side of 3rd Street between 6th & 7th Avenues were included in the deal. Bonert built eight of these "double flat" apartments on the north side of the street, devoting a very generous 46' in lot frontage to each building. We now immediately recognize Bonert's signature enframements over the central (stair hall) windows. The buildings closer to 7th Avenue boast a doorway with full pediment and flanking columns. These buildings were constructed circa 1902-1903:

3rd Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, north side - unprotected

461 3rd Street - unprotected

461 3rd Street - detail

The deal also included some 4-story, 4-family flat houses in the south side of 3rd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues. These buildings are similar to others across the street, constructed by Louis Bonert circa 1895:

414-408 3rd Street - unprotected

The deal also included a few buildings from the 1894 row Bonert constructed at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and 3rd Street:

6th Avenue & 3rd Street, southwest corner - unprotected

The deal also included the row of eight-family apartment houses on the south side of 3rd Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, matching the row across the street, and constructed by Louis Bonert circa 1902-1903:

466-450 3rd Street - unprotected

The apartments further from 7th Avenue lack the pedimented entablature, boasting instead Bonert's characteristic "florid classical" detailing around the doorway. Again we see his distinctive hoods over the central stairway windows:

458 3rd Street - unprotected

458 3rd Street - detail

458 3rd Street - detail

The huge deal also included a row of Bonert's earlier (circa 1894) "Green Man"-style, Romanesque-infected 4-family flat houses in 4th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues:

357-363 4th Street - unprotected

There's our friend, the Green Man himself, symbolizing our unity with Nature, peeking out from the spandrel panels:

359 4th Street - detail

The deal also included Bonert's row from the north side of 4th Street east of 6th Avenue:

389-393 4th Street - unprotected

Finally, Bonert threw into the deal the apartment building at the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and 3rd Street:

319 6th Avenue - unprotected

It was a huge deal for Louis Bonert, most likely one of the largest in his career, and one of the largest in Park Slope up to that time. Interestingly, the buyers were a couple of local guys, David Marks of 107 6th Avenue and A. E. Goldstein of 121 St. Johns Place.

Bonert went on to construct luxurious single-family limestone row houses on the entire south side of 1st Street and the north side of 2nd Street, in the park blocks, within the current Park Slope Historic District, financed perhaps by the proceeds from this colossal sale of his earlier apartment houses.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Probable Louis Bonert: 6th Avenue between Garfield Place & 1st Street

Updated: the row at the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and 1st Street is not by Bonert.

At the present time we have no documentary evidence regarding the east side of 6th Avenue between Garfield Place and 1st Street. However, knowing what we now know about the work of prolific Park Slope builder Louis Bonert, we are almost certain that the entire blockfront facing 6th Avenue is by him.

The buildings at the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and Garfield Place are consistent with Bonert's Neoclassical-style apartment houses. They are four story flat houses, fully faced with limestone over a brownstone basement, featuring full-height rounded window bays. The Garfield Place elevation is of "fancy brick" with limestone trim, and features rounded windows at the top story:

6th Avenue & Garfield Place, southeast corner - unprotected

The four-family flat houses feature paired classical entrances and "Greek ears" on upper story windows:

271-273 6th Avenue - unprotected

The style changes mid-block, where the buildings continue in a row very much like Bonert's Romanesque-inspired "Green Man" flat houses:

277-279 6th Avenue - unprotected

Except these buildings, if indeed they are by Bonert, lack the characteristic terra cotta spandrel panels below the windows. Also the top-floor window arches employ a keystone, which is unusual for Bonert.

Also uncharacteristically, Bonert's usual "clustered columns" flanking the doorway have been reduced to a single Romanesque column in these buildings:

281 6th Avenue - detail

The row concludes in a wonderful 8-family "double flat" apartment house featuring a rounded window bay overlooking the intersection.

6th Avenue and 1st Street, northeast corner - unprotected

6th Avenue and 1st Street, northeast corner - detail

So are these buildings by Bonert? At this time we can cite no documentary evidence supporting such a claim. However his hand seems quite clear to us. We would probably date these as "circa 1895", similar to the Bonert row running westward from the northwest corner of 6th Avenue and 3rd Street.

The double flat at the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and Garfield Place features a highly distinctive cast- and wrought-iron fence about the areaway:

6th Avenue and Garfield Place, southeast corner - detail

We knew we'd seen this unusual fencing somewhere else in Park Slope, and with a bit of digging we found it. Indeed, the same fence is found at 427 3rd Street:

427 3rd Street - detail

427 3rd Street is just below 6th Avenue, on the north side of the street, in the middle of a row confirmed to have been built by -- you guessed it -- Louis Bonert in 1895.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Louis Bonert: 4th Street and 6th Avenue, 1903 sale

We've already identified the building at the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and 4th Street as a Louis Bonert "double" apartment house (i.e. housing eight families), constructed in 1897. The following Brooklyn Eagle article records the sale of this building six years later, in 1903. The article doesn't add to our knowledge of the "vital statistics" for this building, to use Francis Morrone's term (i.e. builder/architect/date). But the article is noteworthy for its contemporary assessment of Bonert as having "constructed some of the finest and most artistically finished apartment houses in this fashionable district":

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 27, 1903, p. 11 ("Brokers Report a Fairly Busy Week")

The building, in yellow "fancy brick" with limestone trim over a brownstone basement, is indeed very fine, as we noted earlier. Note the gently rounded window bays, alternating with slightly angled bays, chimney stacks, and central stairway windows over the double-granite-columned entrance portico:

343 6th Avenue - unprotected

Note to the reader: With this 1903 Brooklyn Eagle article, we have exceeded the limit of the online Eagle at the Brooklyn Public Library, which runs only through 1902. The rest of the Eagle's run can be accessed at the wonderful "Fulton History" website. The articles do no load the way they do at the Brooklyn Public Library, so we cannot provide a hyperlink directly to the article as we have been doing with the BPL material. But the issues can be accessed via the search box at the Fulton History website. Many thanks to Fulton History for putting online material that the BPL has been unable to make available. The search key we used is highlighted in the article above ("Louis Bonnet", a typical misspelling of Bonert's name).

Note also that there is an error in the address cited in the article. The Bonert building at the corner of 4th Street is actually 343 6th Avenue, not 243 as cited above.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Louis Bonert: Six-family apartment houses, President Street, 1902

In 1902 Park Slope builder Louis Bonert was granted a permit for a row of four apartment houses on the south side of President Street between 6th & 7th Avenues. The apartments are immediately adjacent to a row of five 8-family apartments he constructed three years earlier, in 1899:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 28, 1902, p. 16 ("Real Estate Market")

788-784 President Street - unprotected

The row represents an innovation in small apartment house design.

In his earlier, adjacent 8-family apartments, the staircase was set deep within the building, and had no external illumination or air. Each of the small windows in the center of each story illuminated the same room as the adjacent bay window:

790 President Street - unprotected

In these newest apartments, by contrast, the staircase was pushed to the front of the building and had its own external windows, illuminating the stair landing halfway between each floor:

782 President Street - unprotected

This innovation was made possible by the nearly 35-foot lot width of the new buildings, in contrast to the 30-foot width of the older buildings.

The new row features many characteristics associated with the Neoclassical style including dentils, egg-and-dart detailing, and "Greek Ears" on the central windows:

782 President Street - detail

The apartments also feature Bonert's by-now-standard "florid classical" doorway:

782 President Street - detail

These apartments are uncharacteristically small in scale, housing only six families in each. Also rather uncharacteristically, the facades are flat and feature no projecting rounded bay. The top-floor windows, however, are arched, in an echo of a feature Bonert has not employed since 1895.

Bonert would soon explore this "wide lot" apartment configuration to even more striking effect nearby.