Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Friday, October 22, 2010

Liberty Row

In June, 1887, the American Architect & Building News, a trade periodical that later evolved into today's American Architect, carried news of a quartet of buildings to be erected on the west side of 7th Avenue, 21 feet north of 10th Street:

"Building Intelligence; Houses; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 21, no. 599 (Jun. 18, 1887): p. xiii.
– "Seventh Ave., w s, 21' 6" n Tenth St., 4 four-st’y brick and brown-stone stores and dwells., tin roofs; cost, each $8,000; owner, Chas. Nickenig, 368 Eleventh St.; architect, W. H. Wirth."

A few weeks later, the same publication listed plans for the building to occupy the corner lot itself. The builder and architect are the same as in the earlier listing above:

"Building Intelligence; Tenement-Houses; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 22, no. 601 (Jul. 2, 1887): p. xii.
– "Seventh Ave., n w cor. Tenth St., four-st’y brick store and tenement, tin roof; cost, $10,000; owner, Charles Nickenig, 368 Eleventh St.; architect, W. H. Wirth."

Given these listings, one might reasonably expect to find a group of five related structures occupying adjacent lots on the northwest corner of 10th Street and 7th Avenue in Park Slope. And indeed there are five such buildings standing there today:

7th Avenue & 10th Street - n w corner
William H. Wirth, architect
Charles Nickenig, builder - 1887

It is a fine row of 5 mixed-use (flats over stores) buildings, still nearly unchanged since they were built in 1887. The original commercial space on the corner building's ground floor has been converted to residential use. This kind of conversion was opposed by the ROSAS organization, since it tended slowly to kill off a commercial street.

The corner building features one of those marvelous cantilevered corner window bays projecting into the center of the intersection, and is crowned by the name "Liberty". One suspects the building is named for the Statue of Liberty, which can be glimpsed on its harbor perch from many South Slope blocks. The Statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886, not many months before plans for these buildings were filed.

Both the builder, Charles Nickenig, and the architect, William H. Wirth, are by now quite familiar to readers of this blog. Among other buildings, Nickenig built Acme Hall at the corner of 9th Street, and Nickenig and Wirth collaborated on Acme's Hall's neighbors between 9th & 8th Streets.

The row features highly distinctive brick and terra cotta work including small brick arches where one would normally expect to find a wooden or pressed metal cornice. Separating each building is a column of rusticated brownstone blocks.

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