Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

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".

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