Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

7th Avenue, 10th to 11th Streets, West Side

By request, we turn our attention now to the west side of 7th Avenue between 10th & 11th Streets in the South Slope.

To the casual observer, the entire blockfront might appear to have been built as a single unit. Each building is of brick, brownstone-faced, 3 stories, flats over stores, 3 bays, flat front, with identical neo-Grec detailing around the windows:

350-358 7th Avenue (sw corner 10th Street)

(Our photos are from 2008-2009 and show the late, much lamented Tea Lounge!)

360-368 7th Avenue (nw corner 11th Street)

On closer inspection, certain subtle differences appear. The side facade of 350 7th Avenue, at the 10th Street end, is plainer than the side facade of 368 7th Avenue, at the 11th Street end, which features decorative sawtooth brick patterns and a slightly projecting chimney stack:

350 7th Avenue (sw corner 10th Street)

368 7th Avenue (nw corner 11th Street)

An even closer view of the corner buildings highlights the identical facade detailing of the window frames, but also reveals differences between the cornices:

350 7th Avenue - detail

368 7th Avenue - detail

So what do you think? Same builder/owner/architect, or not? It is indeed puzzling. Compounding the confusion is the fact that we have not yet found any supporting attributions in our usual sources (Brooklyn Eagle, American Architect & Building News, etc).

However, our researchers have actually pulled the Dept. of Buildings files for this stretch of 7th Avenue, so we do have findings at least for some of the row.

Regarding 350 7th Avenue, at the sw corner of 10th Street, the building files yield a surprise: the original permit, dated September 3, 1885, was for a row of two buildings at the northeast corner of the intersection, diagonally across the street! But pencilled in at the top of the permit, with a date of Sept. 12, are the words:

It is now proposed to erect the below buildings on the S.W. cor 7th Ave + 10th St - To front on 7th Ave Also to build 3 houses Two to be 20 ft. front Approved David Acker Depty Comm

Building permit, 350-354 7th Avenue
September 3, 1885
Revised September 12, 1885

Apparently the plans were changed at the last minute, to build a row of 3 buildings on the SW corner of the intersection, instead of a row of 2 on the NE corner. (One can see that the letters "N.E." in the original plan, above, are struck out.)

The next page of the permit reveals the names, quite familiar to us by now, of those responsible at least for this row of 3:

350-354 7th Avenue - 1885 building permit, showing:
C. Nickenig, owner
R. Dixon, architect
L. Bonert, builder

Charles Nickenig of course built Acme Hall and other 7th Avenue buildings; Robert Dixon was a prolific Park Slope builder; and Louis Bonert would go on to develop a vast amount of Park Slope property including some of the finest houses within the current historic district.

The plans also contain the original architect's drawing with R. Dixon's name stamped in the corner; the rendering shows the commercial space with two floors above, and the cellar floor below ground level with thick foundation walls:

350-354 7th Avenue, rendering
R. Dixon, architect, 1885

Our researcher also found DOB files for 368 7th Avenue, at the northwest corner of 11th Street, the building at the other end of the row. The plans, dated October 19, 1886, are for a single building, with Bonert now listed as owner as well as builder. The architect for 368 7th Avenue is listed as Frederick E. Lockwood:

368 7th Avenue - building permit dated Oct. 19, 1886

368 7th Avenue - building permit
Owner - Louis Bonert
Architect - Frederick E. Lockwood
Mason/Carpenter - Louis Bonert

No other original building files for this blockfront were found by our researcher. So what is one to make of this confusing situation? A row of highly similar buildings; plans extant only for the end buildings; different architects; Louis Bonert a constant in both.

Below is what our researcher, a professionally trained preservationist, has to say about the row, beyond what is revealed by the building files above:

All buildings in this block share distinct architectural elements including building height, brownstone facing, a unique wood cornice, and machined window entablature so while it is not reflected in the Buildings Department records these buildings were built within a short span of time. Records for the corner buildings, lots 41 and 50, show different owners, architects, and builders, but the same key elements, and were built in 1885 and 1886 respectively, providing a timeline for construction of the infill buildings.


R. Edebohls said...

Thank you so much for the information about my block! Unfortunately, mine is one of the "infill" buildings at 360. 360 & 362 were constructed at the same time and have the same floorplans. There is an interior hallway in both buildings, so they do not have the railroad flat set-up that the other buildings on the block have. A builder's passway also exists in the hallway between the two buildings. At least I now know the approximate date of my property. Property Shark says 1900, which I knew to be incorrect.

HDEC said...

I think PropertyShark just gets its data from the DOB, and the DOB's data entry system will not accept a building date earlier than 1900. I.e. that is the earliest date that can be entered into the system, even if your building was built in say 1850. So "1900" really should be interpreted to mean "1900 or any time earlier".

Christopher said...

Impressive! how did your researchers go about finding 1880s building permits? There are some buildings in the area I'd like to do the same with. 145 14th Street is my family's old homestead.

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