Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Smiling Pizza" Row

According to the American Architect & Building News, the row of six buildings on the northeast corner of 9th Street and 7th Avenue was built in 1881 to designs by prolific Park Slope architect Cevedra B. Sheldon:

"Building Intelligence; Brooklyn," AABN vol. 9, no. 281 (May 14, 1881): p. 239.
– "Seventh Ave., n e cor., Ninth St., 6 three-st’y brownstone tenements; cost, each $7,000; owner and builder, John H. Townsend; architect, C. B. Sheldon."

The corner building contains the famous "Smiling Pizza" shop on the ground floor, familiar to generations of Park Slope residents and 'F' train riders:

439-449 9th Street
Cevedra Blake Sheldon, Architect - 1881
John H. Townsend, owner/builder

The rest of the row are 3-story, 3-family flat houses or "tenements," a term which meant any multi-family housing in those days. The row is brownstone-faced, with neo-Grec incised detailing, fully-enframed windows, and distinctive cornice:

The corner building is taller by one floor than the rest of the row, but has the same cornice:

Apparently the corner building was originally 3 stories tall, like the others; the 4th floor was added in an extensive 1890 remodeling whose architect was Mercein Thomas:

"Building Intelligence; Alterations; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 28, no. 756 (Jun. 21, 1890): p. xiv.
– "Seventh Ave., n e cor. Ninth St., three-st’y brick dwell, tin roof, raised one-st’y, one-st’y extension added for a store and altered internally; cost, $10,000; owner, James McLaren, foot of Court St.; architect, Mercien Thomas, 16 Court St."

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Streetscapes" Visits the Carleton Club

In a recent column entitled "Social Clubs, Long Gone, Left Their Meeting Places Behind," noted NY Times "Streetscapes" columnist Christopher Gray visits four former social clubs in Brooklyn, including Park Slope's Carleton (a.k.a. Carlton) Club, on 6th Avenue just off Flatbush Avenue:

Carleton Club
Mercein Thomas, architect

Regarding the Carleton Club, Mr. Gray tells us:

Three of the four were built within two years of one another. So competitive were the Brooklyn clubs that the Carlton (a k a Carleton) put up a headquarters in 1890 at Sixth and St. Marks Avenues in Park Slope simply because of rumors that another club was organizing to build nearby.

The Carlton had been dry, but after an 1889 meeting at which the membership voted, 38 to 11, to serve beer and wine, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that it had “stepped to the front rank of Brooklyn clubs at a strike.”

This momentously fermentative change was thus in effect for the opening of the clubhouse, attended by 1,500 guests, including the mayors of Brooklyn and Manhattan. The club served a 10-course dinner, and members lent paintings by Jervis McIntee, George Inness and Eastman Johnson for the event. The Carlton was apparently designed by Mercein Thomas, and it is a mild, even modest, essay that could just as easily be a small apartment house, which indeed it has become.

In a lengthy article on March 9, 1890, the Brooklyn Eagle published a detailed review of the new club building and its facilities:

Brooklyn Eagle, March 9, 1890, p. 17 ("For the Carleton Club")

The review of the opening gala had appeared a few weeks earlier, on February 19, 1890.

Despite its auspicious beginnings, the Carleton Club apparently lasted only a few years. In 1907 the building became the home of the Cathedral Club of Brooklyn, a Roman Catholic social club. A long-time resident of Park Slope informs us that the Cathedral Club was established because Catholics were not allowed to join the nearby Montauk Club. [UPDATE: this story is apparently apocryphal... see comments below; thanks to "LGR".] According to the Cathedral Club's website, the group owned the building until 1974, when the building was sold and converted to its current residential use.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Phase 1 Expansion Map

Somehow Brownstoner managed to obtain a map of the calendared first phase of the Park Slope Historic District expansion. Unclear how they got it; we have been unable to locate it on the LPC's website. Excerpt shown below; click here for the full version.

7th Street is at the top; 16th Street at the bottom; 7th Avenue is at the left. The existing historic district, designated in 1973, is outlined in blue. The proposed expansion, comprising over 500 buildings, is outlined in red:

Significantly, the LPC decided to include the entire west side of Bartel-Pritchard Square (actually a circle, at lower right), because of the way that side creates a kind of special "gateway" into 15th Street.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lost Park Slope: John H. Hanan Residence

Our recent "Lost Park Slope" featured the Romanesque Revival residence of John H. Hanan, a wealthy shoe manufacturer in Brooklyn. The residence was designed in 1890 by C. P. H. Gilbert and stood at the northwest corner of 8th Avenue and Carroll Street until the mid-1930s.

John H. Hanan Residence - 118 8th Avenue
C. P. H. Gilbert, architect - 1890
Demolished circa 1935

Architectural historian Christopher Gray discussed this house in a 2003 "Streetscapes" column devoted to C. P. H. Gilbert:

Another element crept into Gilbert's work about this time -- the lacy forms, decorated gables and lighter stone, often limestone, of late French Gothic. One of the first was a mansion for the shoe dealer John Hanan at Carroll Street and Eighth Avenue in Park Slope, around 1890. The Hanan house, demolished in the 1930's, still had the heavy, rock-faced stone common to the Romanesque revival of the 1880's, but period photographs indicate that the masonry was of a much lighter cast than the usual brownstone and, more significantly, was detailed with delicate French Gothic detail in limestone at the doorway and roof line.

John Henry Hanan was the "son" of the firm of Hanan & Son shoes, a highly successful shoe manufacturer here in Brooklyn started by his father, James. The firm built a shoe factory in Brooklyn that still stands in the DUMBO Historic District:

Hanan & Son Shoe Factory
54 Bridge Street, DUMBO Historic District

According to the DUMBO Historic District's Designation Report:

Hanan & Son. Shoe manufacturer with a major complex on Bridge Street between Water
and Front Streets erected between 1893 and 1905. Hanan, with 1,131 employees in 1913,was, by far, the largest shoe manufacturer in Brooklyn...

...Hanan initially announced construction of a seven-story structure; he actually built a five-story factory. Even before purchasing the DUMBO property, James Hanan was a resident of Brooklyn, living in a large mansion at 45 Eighth Avenue (demolished) in Park Slope. James Hanan (1819-1897) was born in Ireland and learned the shoe trade from his father. In 1849 he moved to America and in 1854 established a small shoemaking business in New York City. In about 1865, his son, John Henry Hanan (1849-1920), entered his father’s firm, and in 1882 the company became Hanan & Son. The Hanan Company was among the first to stamp the firm’s name on every shoe, a daring idea at a time when most people still sought shoes handmade by the dealer. The firm was successful and in 1888 Hanan began opening retail stores to sell the factory’s product directly to consumers.

1884 advert from Puck

The mansion stood until about 1935, when it was demolished to make way for the present structure, an 11-story apartment building begun in 1936:

118 8th Avenue - 1936
Park Slope Historic District

LPC Press Release on Park Slope Calendaring

The Landmarks Preservation Commission also issued a press release regarding today's calendaring action (excerpts below; full release here). The press release states contradictory figures for the size of the proposed extension, at one point indicating 582 buildings, and at another point, 564 buildings. We're not sure which is correct. At any rate, thank you, LPC! And congratulations to Staten Island on your new landmarks.

Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010
No. 10-09


Staten Island Armory and Episcopal Become Landmarks, and Six Structures on the SI Advance Towards Designation, As an Expansion of the Park Slope Historic District Gets Under Way

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission today unanimously designated Christ Church, its rectory and parish house in New Brighton and the Headquarters Troop, 51st Cavalry Brigade Armory in Castleton Corners as individual New York City Landmarks. The Commission also agreed to formally consider on a plan to enlarge Brooklyn’s Park Slope Historic District by 582 buildings, and held public hearings on proposals to designate seven sites on Staten Island as individual landmarks...

The proposed Park Slope Historic District Extension would encompass 564 rowhouses and apartment buildings, mostly constructed in the 1880s, on both sides of 7th and 8th avenues between 7th and 15th streets and the west side of Bartell Pritchard Square, adjoining Prospect Park. The existing Park Slope Historic District, designated in 1973, consists of 1,975 buildings and is the third largest historic district in the City. A date for a public hearing was not immediately announced...

Joint Press Release from CMs Lander & Levin

Today the Landmarks Preservation Commission took the first formal step in the process of expanding the Park Slope Historic District by "calendaring" a public hearing on the proposed expansion. The boundaries of the historic district have not changed since the original district was designated on July 17, 1973.

Council Members Brad Lander (39th district) and Stephen Levin (33rd district), who represent Park Slope in City Hall, issued the following joint press release today to mark this important step. Thanks guys!

August 10, 2010

Thanks to the hard work of Park Slope residents, the Park Slope Civic Council, and local elected officials, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted earlier today to put a public hearing on the calendar (date to be determined) to seriously consider the expansion of the Park Slope Historic District. The proposed expansion would add the blocks between Seventh and Eight Avenues, from Seventh Street through 14th Street , as well as areas adjacent to Bartel Pritchard Square (the full proposed boundaries are available on the LPC website).

Park Slope’s City Councilmember Brad Lander chairs the City Council’s Land Use Subcommittee on Landmarks. Both he and City Councilmember Steve Levin (33rd district, which also includes Park Slope) were thrilled about the decision and will notify the community as soon as they know the date of the hearing.

The current Park Slope Historic District was created in the 1970s, and includes most of the brownstone blocks on Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West, and additional blocks in Northern Park Slope.

Area residents, led by the Park Slope Civic Council, began organizing for this expansion in the spring of 2007, out of concern that too much new development was undermining the distinctive architectural character of the community, and placing treasured buildings at risk. The Civic Council organized a postcard campaign and several public meetings, in which hundreds of residents expressed their support. The LPC then conducted field surveys, and held their own public meeting in the community in June, which was attended by several hundred local residents.

Peter Bray, the Chair of the Park Slope Civic Council’s Historic District Committee, which was the organizing force behind this expansion, said “the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s action is an important step towards the Park Slope Civic Council’s goal of preserving Park Slope and particularly its character that attracts people to live, work and shop here. We value this character precisely because it is not like everywhere else. Park Slope is blessed with history, great architecture, and a human scale. Without landmarking, Park Slope is vulnerable to the cookie-cutter development that has made other city neighborhoods unrecognizable to their residents. We are looking forward to working with the Commission and our elected officials on future expansion phases beyond this South Slope expansion.”

Councilmembers Brad Lander and Stephen Levin who represent Park Slope, thanked the Landmarks Preservation Commission for their hours of field work and the Park Slope Civic Council for organizing the expansion effort.

Councilmember Lander said, “Park Slope is a truly great neighborhood, and expanding the historic district will help make sure it stays that way. I thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission for voting to calendar a public hearing on the expansion, and commend the Park Slope Civic Council for their hard work and effective organizing over the past several years. While a historic district asks for a little bit more of building owners, it helps make sure the neighborhood retains the architectural character that helps make it a great place. I look forward to supporting this and future efforts to strengthen preservation in Park Slope.” Lander chairs the City Council’s Land Use Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses, which would ultimately hear and vote on the expansion, if it is approved by the LPC after the public hearing.

Councilmember Levin said, “I have been working closely with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Councilmember Lander, and the Park Slope Civic Council to expand the Landmark Historic District in Park Slope. The expansion of the Historic District, as the PSCC has demonstrated, will be beneficial for both residents and retailers in the proposed area. The Historic District will protect the very core of what makes Park Slope a great place to live, visit, shop in, and enjoy. Landmark designations also help to increase property value for homeowners in the area. Not only has the PSCC been mindful of all parties that would potentially be effected by landmarking, they have shown the willingness to cooperate and compromise with those groups in the future. I have always supported small businesses and understood that they could potentially have to take on a large burden when their property (whether rented or owned) is designated as a landmark. The PSCC has demonstrated awareness of those burdens and has expressed the desire and readiness to incorporate flexibility within landmarking regulations for small business.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will now move forward to set a date for the public hearing on the expansion. After the hearing, the LPC will vote on whether to approve the expansion. If approved by the LPC, the expansion would then be considered by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Armory: "A Testament to Middle-Class Fears"

A recent NY Times article about a forthcoming book by historian Michael A. Bellesiles brought to mind an aspect of the city's armories such as our own 14th Regiment Armory here in Park Slope:

14th Regiment Armory, Park Slope
National/State Historic Register Designation Report, 1994

No one seems certain what to do with these dinosaurs from the 19th c. Current uses and proposals range from homeless shelters to recreational spaces to urban malls. They are often festooned with commemorative markers dedicated to those who served their country in foreign wars or the American Civil War.

But it should not be forgotten that the most important original function of these behemoths was to intimidate and control the local population. Built in response to domestic social unrest in the late 19th c., a time when huge numbers of immigrants were pouring into the country, bringing along such "foreign" ideas as socialism and anarchism, armories served as a kind of "Department of Homeland Security" of their day.

From the NY Times article:

NEW HAVEN - On this hot summer day, Michael A. Bellesiles is sitting outside the abandoned red brick armory here. It is, he said, a much friendlier building than the one that occupied this spot in 1877. In the middle of what was then a working-class neighborhood northwest of Yale, the old Gothic armory, made of stone with no windows on the first floor, was meant to withstand the American precursor of a Molotov cocktail, he explained: "It was a testament to middle-class fears."

The year 1877, when record peacetime bloodshed led to a new wave of armory construction, is the subject of Mr. Bellesiles's new book. There was a shocking rise in urban homicide and other crimes, a bitter national railroad strike and the forced relocation of the Great Plains Indians, as well as violent unrest over immigrants and the post-slavery status of blacks. To Mr. Bellesiles, the year is the point when class conflict replaced race as the most pressing social and political issue.
-Patricia Cohen, NY Times

14th Regiment Armory, Park Slope - postcard
Brooklyn Public Library - Brooklyn Collection

The role of armories as a function of domestic social control is also supported by their entry in the Encyclopedia of New York City, where we read:

A great number of armories were built by the nineteenth century, largely in response to events that took place in New York City after the Civil War and to the fears of social unrest that they provoked among the middle and upper classes; these included increasing numbers of foreign immigrants (many of them unskilled laborers from eastern and southern Europe), the draft riots of 1863, the panic of 1873 and the ensuing six-year depression, and the Tompkins Square Riot of 1874. -Pamela W. Hawkes, "Armories" entry

Armories were supposed to look intimidating, and they do. In the 19th c. they must have seemed impregnable in the way of a medieval castle, and they feature fortress-like features such as towers, a portcullis, and crenellation. In short their appearance was both functional, housing the State Militia troops ever ready to suppress domestic disturbances, and symbolic, representing the awesome, compulsory power of the State over the individual.

The 14th Regiment of New York's State Militia, for whom Park Slope's armory was built, saw service in the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and in World War I. In addition, the regiment was called out during the Brooklyn motormen's strike of 1895 (a topic for future research).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lost Park Slope

Okay folks, time for another round of "Lost Park Slope."

Can anyone tell us anything about this building that once stood in Park Slope - where it was, who lived in it, who designed it and when, etc?:

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.