Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Disappearing Act in 1st Street (What the LPC Likes, pt. 2)

The photograph below will be familiar to anyone who walks uphill in 1st Street between 7th & 8th Avenues in Park Slope. All of these buildings are within the current Park Slope Historic District.

475-475A-477-479-481 1st Street - Park Slope Historic District

To the left, #475 & #475A 1st Street are the last two of a row of six two-story-over-basement houses built in 1877. The Park Slope Historic District Designation Report characterizes these houses as "rather modest".

To the right is the beginning of a long row of fourteen brownstones built from 1887 to 1889. As originally built, these houses were two-and-a-half stories over a basement floor, with small windows set into the cornice on the 3rd floor. At the rear, these houses rise to a full third story.

The house in the center, at #477 1st Street, once matched its companions to the right. But in another example of a long-ago remuddling that would probably not be allowed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission today, someone pulled down the cornice and built up the front of the third floor to create a full three-stories-over-basement house.

Very recently, however, and with the full approval of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, its neighbor to the left at #475A, originally a "rather modest" two-story-over-basement house, has seen substantial alteration too. Within the last year or so, the owners have added a half-story at the rear of the roof, to create a two-and-a-half stories over basement house. In addition, the house has gained a very handsome and spacious full-width rear extension at the basement and first stories. Thus this "rather modest" house has become rather more spacious indeed.

The casual observer will note none of these changes from the sidewalk. Below is the view from the sidewalk, directly across the street:

475-475A-477-479 1st Street, Park Slope Historic District

Only when one ascends from sidewalk level does the roof extension become visible. See if you can pick it out in the photograph below, which was taken from the top of the stoop directly across the street:

475A-477 1st Street, Park Slope Historic District

Here is a closer view in case it is difficult to make out:

475A 1st Street, Park Slope Historic District - detail

The additional half-story -- understated, tastefully done, and completely invisible from the sidewalk, in contrast to its remuddled neighbor to the right -- exemplifies the kind of substantial change that the Landmarks Preservation Commission permits. This case also exemplifies how the LPC does not "freeze" development within historic districts. In combination with its new rear extension, this house has been greatly expanded, but at no impact to the historic district.

Our congratulations to the owners of #475A 1st Street on a successful and sensitive transformation. And welcome to Park Slope!

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