Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Builder Charles Peterson in 15th Street

People walking 15th Street between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West pass a handsome row of white houses, each two stories of limestone over a brownstone basement floor:

15th Street, between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West - unprotected

Most of the houses have a full-height, three-sided bay; on some the bay is rounded. The stoops alternate, in ABAB pattern, between "straight" and L-shaped configurations.

The houses are nearly identical to other rows within the district such as this row on the north side of 9th Street, in the park block; the similarities extend even to the alternating straight and L-shaped stoops:

9th Street, between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park West - Park Slope Historic District

According to the Park Slope Historic District Designation Report, the 9th Street row was constructed in 1902-03 for William H. Reynolds, to designs by Brooklyn architect Benjamin Driesler. According to the Brooklyn Eagle, the 15th Street row was also begun in 1902, by builder Charles Peterson:

Brooklyn Eagle, November 11, 1902, p. 18 ("New Buildings")

All of these houses of course post-date the great Columbian Exposition of 1893, which showcased the "White City" to the throngs that packed the Chicago fair for its 6-month run, and which helped finally to draw the curtain on brownstone's long dominance in urban neighborhoods like Park Slope. Our friend Francis Morrone has said one can generally estimate the age of a Park Slope building by its color: if brown, earlier than 1893; if white, later than 1893.

Note that these houses, though white on the upper two floors, still retain a brownstone stoop and basement floor. Perhaps it was hoped that brownstone at the base would be less likely to show the dirt from the gritty streets?

We believe that the Charles Peterson who built these houses is the same Charles Peterson who constructed the full blockfront on Prospect Park West between 6th & 7th Streets:

Prospect Park West, 7th to 6th Streets - Park Slope Historic District

And we suspect it is the same Charles Peterson who built the "wrong-way" houses in 8th Avenue, just off Flatbush, whose backsides face their distinguished neighbors across 8th Avenue:

8th Avenue, Lincoln Place to St. Johns Place, Park Slope Historic District

The plans created a huge stir in their day and actually caused gentlemen to leave the Montauk Club! Click here for more of this story... It is our personal theory, never before seen in print, that Peterson's architectural affront in 8th Avenue commenced Park Slope's long decline from its 1890s "Gold Coast" status, a decline that would not be turned around until the "brownstoner" movement of the 1960s.

Charles Peterson's 15th Street row is outside, but adjacent to, the current Park Slope Historic District; the line runs down the rear lot line between 14th and 15th Streets. The Park Slope Civic Council has asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider this block in a proposed expansion to the historic district.

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