Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 House Tour: 178 Garfield Place

This house will be featured on the 2010 Park Slope House Tour, which will be held Sunday, May 16. Tickets will be available at 7th Avenue merchants, and are available now through the Park Slope Civic Council's website. All proceeds from the House Tour are returned to the community through the Council's Grants Program.

178 Garfield Place, part of a longer row of 11 similar houses on the south side of the street between 6th and 7th Avenues, in many ways exemplifies the history of Park Slope as a whole.

182-180-178 Garfield Place - unprotected

These houses are outside the Park Slope Historic District, so we know little about when or by whom they were built. A smaller row of matching houses stands behind these, through the block on 1st Street. The entire group is visible on an 1880 map of Brooklyn, so we know that they must have been standing at that time, when Garfield Place was still called Macomb Street (it was renamed after the 1881 assassination of President James Garfield):

1880 Park Slope Map
178 Macomb Street (now Garfield Place) in row at lower right

Stylistically the houses mark the transition from Italianate to Neo-Grec. The flat facade, the arched windows and doorways, the exceptionally graceful parlor windows that drop all the way to the floor, and the remaining original ironwork on the rows are all characteristic of the Italianate style. Yet the geometric console brackets and incised decoration below the pedimented doorways herald the arrival of the new Neo-Grec style.

178 Garfield Place was associated with the Robbins family for over 70 years, beginning in the late 1870s. The 1879 Lain's Brooklyn Directory lists Thomas H. Robbins, whose occupation is listed as "bricks", in residence at 178 Macomb:

CLARKSON John painter h 178 Macomb
ROBBINS Thomas H. bricks h 178 Macomb

Thomas Herrick Robbins was the father of William Alfred Robbins and Lillian Florence [Robbins] Naylor. Both children remained associated with 178 Garfield Place for the rest of their lives. The New York Times of September 11, 1933, carried the obituary of Lillian Florence Naylor, with services at her late home, 178 Garfield Place. Meanwhile her brother, William A. Robbins, a lawyer and genealogist, lived until 1951, and his address at the time of his death was also 178 Garfield Place.

The history of the house becomes unclear at this point, but it probably followed the same arc of neglect and decline suffered by the rest of Park Slope, as families abandoned the city for the suburbs after World War II. In 1969, the police raided the second-floor apartment at 178 Garfield Place and arrested the occupants for selling heroin:

New York Times, January 23, 1969

Happily, both 178 Garfield Place and Park Slope in general have recovered immensely from their earlier nadir, as the abandonment of urban centers has been reversed. 178 Garfield Place has most recently been the recipient of a highly sensitive restoration by Levenson McDavid Architects.

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