Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Monday, November 30, 2009

Garfield Place: Another Row Split by Historic District

Earlier we saw how the current Park Slope Historic District boundary divides rows of identical houses in Union Street and President Street between buildings within and outside the Historic District.

A similar case exists on the south side of Garfield Place, in the row beginning at the southeast corner of 7th Avenue:

204-220 Garfield Place - partially protected

Here, what appears to be a row of nine identical buildings is split between the four easterly houses, which are included in the Park Slope Historic District, and the five westerly houses, which are not.

The Park Slope Historic District's Designation Report includes a description of the first group, #214-220 Garfield Place, four neo-Grec houses built in 1884 by owner-builders Martin & Lee of 440 Clermont Avenue:

Park Slope Historic District Designation Report, p. 58

The same builders erected some of the houses in President Street just below 7th Avenue.

Citations from the American Architect and Building News confirm what the eye can plainly see, which is that Martin & Lee built the rest of the Garfield Place row to the 7th Avenue corner as well.

Interestingly, however, the buildings were apparently built in small groups of two or three at a time. #212 & 210 Garfield Place, immediately outside the current historic district (the boundary runs between #214 and 212 Garfield Place), were apparently built in 1884:

"Building Intelligence; Brooklyn," AABN vol. 16, no. 451 (Aug. 16, 1884): p. 83.
–"Garfield Pl., s s, 50' e Seventh Ave., 2 three-st’y brown-stone dwells., tin roofs; cost, each, $9,000; owners, architects and builders, Martin & Lee, 440 Clermont Ave."

#208-204 Garfield Place, however -- the three buildings on the corner of 7th Avenue -- were apparently built nearly two years later, in 1886:

"Building Intelligence; Houses; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 19, no. 540 (May 1, 1886): p. xv.
– "Seventh Ave., s e cor. Garfield Pl., 3 three-st’y brown-stone dwells., tin roofs; total cost, $30,000; owners, architects and builders, Martin & Lee, 440 Clermont Ave."

#204 Garfield Place, at the corner of 7th Avenue, was later retrofit for commercial space at the basement and parlor floors. That the commercial conversion was very early is reflected in the cast-iron pilasters framing the projecting window at the parlor level, which look nearly as old as the original cast iron on many 7th Avenue mixed-use buildings:

204 Garfield Place - parlor floor commercial conversion

Although all nine buildings in the entire row by Martin & Lee are otherwise identical, there is one extremely slight difference in the console brackets from 1884 and 1886:

214 Garfield Place - 1884 Console Bracket

208 Garfield Place - 1886 Console Bracket

So once again we have a case of an identical row by the same builder, split between houses inside and outside the historic district. Once again, five houses are excluded, each approximately 20' wide, for a total of 100', the depth of a standard building lot in Brooklyn. It is as if the 7th Avenue frontage were deliberately excluded from the original 1973 Park Slope Historic District, to allow large development parcels to be assembled and bulldozed for larger buildings. Is this another case in which politics impact landmarking decisions?

Finally, for the "completists" out there (you know who you are)... the current Park Slope Historic District Designation Report (p. 59) omits the builder for the 5-building group 230-238 Garfield Place, inside the current historic district. We have discovered that it is, again, Martin & Lee:

"Building Intelligence; Houses; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 32, no. 804 (May 23, 1891): p. xviii.
– "Garfield Pl., s s, 250' 4½" e Seventh Ave., 5 three-st’y brick dwells., tin roofs; cost, $11,000 each; owners, Martin & Lee, 440 Clermont Ave."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

3rd Street - Back from the Brink

This week the Brooklyn Paper celebrates its 30th anniversary with short portraits of Brooklyn's neighborhoods describing how they've changed over the past 30 years. The Park Slope feature is accompanied by a photograph from the north side of 3rd Street between 4th & 5th Avenues, showing buildings in a frightful state of abandonment:

3rd Street between 4th & 5th Avenues (Brooklyn Paper photograph)

The article notes that the block, which looks out upon Washington Park and the Old Stone House, "is now one of the most delightful blocks in Park Slope." We certainly agree with that assessment.

The buildings that were in such terrible shape 30 years ago are four story "double flats", i.e. two apartments per floor, perhaps built to house the families of workers employed in the industries ranged along the nearby Gowanus Canal. The buildings are apparently part of a row constructed in 1893 by local builder Charles Hagedorn (whose last name sometimes appears in variants including Hagedon, Hagadon, and Hagadorn).

"Building Intelligence; Houses; Brooklyn, N.Y., AABN vol. 40, no. 905 (April 29, 1893): p. xvii.

- Third St., n s, 175' w Fifth Ave., 12 four st'y brick dwells., tin roofs; cost, $7,500 each; owner, Chas. Hagadorn, 227 Thirteenth St.

American Architect and Building News, April 29, 1893, p. xvii.

The 1897 Lain's Brooklyn Directory lists Charles Hagedorn, lawyer, in residence at 227 13th Street, the same address as in the above AABN listing:

HAGEDORN Chas. lawyer h 227 13th

According to Brooklyn Eagle accounts, Charles Hagedorn was a substantial property owner along the 5th Avenue corridor, and was also president of the Fifth Avenue Property Holders' Rapid Transit Association, which was "anxious to see rapid transit along Fifth Avenue":

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 21, 1888, p. 1 ("Fifth Avenue Property Holders")

The campaign was successful and service along the new 5th Avenue line of the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad commenced in 1889.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1903 carried a photograph of one of the 3rd Street buildings when it was resold to a new investor. Note the awnings on the building to the left:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 13, 1903, p. 11

The entire row comprises twelve identical double flats, all now restored to near original condition.

315-345 3rd Street - unprotected

341 3rd Street - unprotected

341 3rd Street - detail

341 3rd Street - detail

Perhaps even more remarkable than the individual buildings themselves is the fact that all twelve still survive. It remains to be seen whether the buildings will still be standing when our multi-phase, multi-year project to expand the Park Slope Historic District progresses this far downhill.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shocker: Politics Impact Landmarking

Today's New York Times delivers the shocking news that the actions of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission are sometimes affected by political factors:

Last week the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 6 to 3 to give landmark protection to the 100-year-old B. F. Goodrich tire company building on Broadway just north of 57th Street, but not to a connected building around the corner designed by the same architect at the same time. Some commission members on both sides of that unusual divided vote cried foul, complaining that politics played an inappropriate role.

The building that was not designated was in the path of a proposed development by the Extell Development Corporation. Extell "had warned that a landmark designation for the smaller building would endanger the project".

Four City Council members "signaled that the council might overturn a commission decision to confer landmark designation on the second building because they did not want to jeopardize a hotel tower planned for the site at Broadway and 57th Street."

The article also notes that "in the 2009 election cycle, Extell made campagn contributions to three of the four councilmembers who questioned the designation of both buildings, as well as to other councilmembers."

The article concludes with the perspective of a professional preservationist:

Preservationists also said the commission should not have taken Extell’s concerns into account. “The landmarks commission is not supposed to be considering the development potential of the site,” said Andrew S. Dolkart, the director of Columbia University’s historic preservation program.

Of course the news that politics and development potential affect landmarking isn't that shocking to anyone familiar with the boundaries of the current Park Slope Historic District. In our previous post we cited identical examples here in Park Slope, where buildings are excluded from the historic district even though they are immediately adjacent to other buildings that were designed by the same architect and built at the same time. We suspect these buildings were excluded in 1973 precisely because of the "development potential of the site", i.e. their location within 100' of 7th Avenue.

We will review additional examples in subsequent posts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Adjacent and Identical, but Some Historic, Some Not?

The present Park Slope Historic District, designated July 17, 1973, extends west of 7th Avenue only to the north of Union Street. South of Union, the district stops about 100' to the east of 7th Avenue, leaving nearly all of 7th Avenue unprotected by historic district designation.

In several blocks east of 7th Avenue, the arbitrary boundary of the current historic district bisects long rows of identical buildings, leaving some inside and some outside the historic district.

Consider the south side of Union Street and the north side of President Street, east of 7th Avenue.

In Union Street, a long row of 14 identical houses built in 1884-85 by William Flanagan extends east from 7th Avenue. The first five, #810-818, are outside the current historic district, while the next nine, #820-836, are inside the historic district. According to the Park Slope Historic District's Designation Report, Flanagan purchased a large parcel of property extending through the block from Union to President in early 1884 from the Methodist Episcopal Hospital. The land had earlier belonged to the Polhemus family.

810-818 Union Street, SE corner 7th Avenue - unprotected

Park Slope Historic District Desgination Report

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 1, 1885, p. 2 ("New Buildings")

"Building Intelligence; Brooklyn," AABN vol. 17, no. 486 (Apr. 18, 1885): p. 191.
– "Union St., s e cor. Seventh Ave., and President St., n e cor. Seventh Ave., 8 three-st’y brown-stone dwells., metal roofs; cost, each, $10,000; owner, architect and builder, Wm. Flanagan, 46 Berkeley Pl."
American Architect and Building News

In President Street, Flanagan built a similar row of 9 houses altogether. The first five, #823-831 President Street, are outside the current historic district, while the next four, #833-839 President Street, are inside the district.

823-827 President Street - unprotected

Park Slope Historic District Designation Report

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 1, 1885, p. 2 ("New Buildings")

The houses nearest to 7th Avenue were likely fitted very early on with commercial spaces at the basement and parlor levels. #810 Union Street has a particularly fine stained-glass bay window overlooking 7th Avenue at the parlor level:

810 Union Street - detail

Why does the current historic district cut rows of identical buildings in this way? We have no idea. But we note that in both streets, five 20' buildings were left out. 5 * 20' = 100', which is the depth of a standard Brooklyn building lot. It is almost as if the historic district boundary anticipates that buildings within 100' of 7th Avenue, lacking historic district protection, will someday be demolished, perhaps to make way for the kind of buildings recently being constructed along nearby 4th Avenue. Could this be the ultimate future of 7th Avenue?:

Argyle (brownstoner)

It seems to us that the 10 excluded buildings (5 each in Union and President) are just as historic and worthy of protection as their identical neighbors in long rows constructed at the same time by the same builder, and that they equally contribute to Park Slope's unique and historic "sense of place".

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mystery at 7th Avenue & Union Street

The northeast corner of 7th Avenue and Union Street is occupied by a handsome block of four mixed-use buildings (flats over stores) in a vaguely Neoclassical style:

83-87 7th Avenue (Park Slope Historic District); 89 7th Avenue (unprotected)

The row exemplifies the schizoid boundaries of the original Park Slope Historic District, designated July 17, 1973: the three buildings on the left (83-87 7th Ave.) are in the current historic district, while the building on the right, at the Union Street corner, was left out, even though all four buildings were clearly designed as a unit.

We know from our Documentary History of the Park Slope Historic District Expansion that the parcel of four building lots came into the hands of prolific Park Slope builder Louis Bonert in 1896. Bonert purchased the lots from the executor of the "Morrison estate" and immediately filed plans, prepared by architect Robert Dixon, for four mixed-use buildings, the interiors of which were to be "fitted up in the finest manner and have every modern improvement".

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 22, 1896, p.12 ("Real Estate Market")

New York Times, January 23, 1896, ("Brooklyn Realty Matters")

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 24, 1896, p. 13 ("New Buildings")

Building Intelligence; Houses; Brooklyn, N. Y.,
– "Seventh Ave., n e cor. Union St., 4 four-st’y brick dwells., one 27' 6" x 90', one 21' 8" x 62', two 20' 6" x 62', tin roofs; $42,000; own., Louis Bonert, 321 Tenth St.; arch., Robert Dixon, 213 Montague St."
American Architect & Building News, vol. 52, no. 1062 (May 2, 1896): p. 2

The buildings exhibit a number of characteristics similar to other buildings erected by Bonert, including the arched windows at the 4th floor and the decorative panels below some of the windows:

One of the most distinctive characteristics is the unusual tripartite windows at 85 7th Avenue. These windows are found on only a very few other buildings in Park Slope, all associated with Louis Bonert, standing in 3rd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues.

85 7th Avenue - detail

408 3rd Street - detail

Alas, the Bonert attribution appears to be incorrect. Since three of these buildings are within the current Historic District, we can consult the existing Designation Report, which maintains that the buildings were erected in 1901 by builder Leo W. Winkelman to plans by architect M. J. Morrill:

Park Slope Historic District Designation Report, p. 12: "83-87 7th Avenue"

We have been trained to consider the current Designation Report to be infallible (although we have identified at least one omission in it), so we can only assume that Bonert's plans for this parcel were quickly aborted for some reason; that the property was transferred from Bonert to Winkelman some time between 1896 and 1901; and that the similarities of the existing buildings to Bonert's other buildings are merely coincidental. We have found no information documenting the property transfer from Bonert to Winkelman, and no building permits issued to Winkelman for these lots.

The narrow entrances to the flats above, up three steps from the sidewalks, flank the original commercial spaces on the ground floor.

The corner building at Union Street is within the first phase of the proposed extension to the Park Slope Historic District, so one hopes that it will soon obtain the historic district protections enjoyed by its immediate neighbors to the north.

83-87 7th Avenue (Park Slope Historic District); 89 7th Avenue (unprotected)