Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mystery at 9th St. & 6th Ave.

While we are discussing public meeting halls... does anyone know anything about this building at the southwest corner of 9th Street and 6th Avenue? It certainly looks like it was originally built as a hall, but we're not aware that anyone else has identified it as such.

9th Street & 6th Avenue - s.w. corner
Walter H. C. Hornum, architect - 1892
E. P. Day, owner

According to our research, it was built by one Edwin/Edward P. Day, and indeed it appears to have been a public hall of some kind. The American Architect and Building News lists three separate filings by Mr. Day for this site, all in 1892:

"Building Intelligence; Stores; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 36, no. 852 (Apr. 23, 1892): p. xvii.
– "Sixth Ave., s w cor. Ninth St., four-st’y brick store and lodge-room building, tin roof; cost, $18,000; owner, Edward P. Day, 1280 Third Ave.; architect, Walter C. Horman, 150 East One Hundred and Twenty-fifth St., New York City."

"Building Intelligence; Miscellaneous; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 36, no. 860 (Jun. 18, 1892): p. xxiii.
– "Ninth St., s w cor. Sixth Ave., three-st’y brick public hall, tin or slate roof; cost, $10,000; owner, Edwin P.Day, Third Ave. cor. Fifty-fifth St.; architect, Robert W. Firth, Arbuckle Building."

"Building Intelligence; Miscellaneous; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 37, no. 871 (Sept. 3, 1892): p. 3.
– "Sixth Ave, s w cor. Ninth St., three-st’y brick public hall, tin or slate roof; cost, $10,000 each; owner, Edwin P. Day, Third Ave. and Fifty-fifth St.; architect, Walter H. C. Hornum, 159 East One Hundred and Twenty-fifth St., New York City"

The final variation of the architect's name, Walter H. C. Hornum, is listed in the Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Northwest Historic District Designation Report:

Additional information on Hornum is available in the LPC's Mott Haven East Historic District Desgination Report:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Columbia Hall

Thanks to Here's Park Slope and the Fading Ad Blog for identifying 725 Union Street as the former Columbia Hall. The building still carries its name in faded paint at the top of a side wall:

Columbia Hall - 1891
John D. Muller, owner

Union Street, north side, view west from 5th Avenue

photo: Fading Ad Blog

According to the American Architect and Building News, the hall was built in 1891:

"Building Intelligence; Stores; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 33, no. 812 (Jul. 18, 1891): p. xix.
– "Union St., n s, 69' w Fifth Ave., four-st’y brick store and lodge rooms, tin roof; cost, $13,500; owner, John D. Muller, Fifth Ave. and Union St."

The sheer variety of activities held in this hall is astounding, and reflects what seems to have been a far more social time predating movies, television, and the Internet. The Brooklyn Eagle lists countless dinners, meetings, musicales, lectures, recitations, and sporting events held by the many fraternal and sororal associations of the day:

Apparently the hall included bowling lanes.

"Wheelmen" = bicycle enthusiasts

I.O.R.M. = "Improved Order of Red Men"

Much more recently, the building that was Columbia Hall was until recently the home and studio of visionary artists Alex and Allyson Grey. The artists have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of art as spiritual practice, and are planning to construct the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors at their new home upstate. We ourselves once attended Full Moon parties at 725 Union Street, perhaps the only building in Park Slope that can claim to be the site of the founding of a new religion that has attracted thousands of followers worldwide.

These days, one is likely to encounter Alex Grey's distinctive imagery on one's LSD:

LSD blotter, with unauthorized image by Alex Grey

Sunday, November 21, 2010

5th Avenue Neergaard Pharmacy

Updated: Commenter Francis says below that the peripatetic 5th Avenue Neergaard occupied several other locations before settling into its current spot in 1915. Thanks, Francis!

The Winter, 2011 issue of Borough President Markowitz's "Brooklyn Newspaper" arrived the other day, bringing with it an interesting article about the 5th Avenue Neergaard Pharmacy:

Neergaard Pharmacy
454 5th Avenue
Est. 1888

In a city that never sleeps, Brooklyn’s got the place that’s been awake the longest. The Neergaard Pharmacy on 5th Ave. in Park Slope opened its doors in 1888, when Brooklyn was still its own city. Founded by a Danish immigrant named Julius de Neergaard, the store remained in the de Neergaard family through three generations, until the Tomassetti family purchased it in 1987. Since 1901, Neergaard has been open 24 hours a day, seven days a week—except for a few days during World War I.

Today, Neergaard is the oldest independently owned pharmacy in Brooklyn, and one of the oldest in the City— and one of the few pharmacies that are open 24 hours a day. “Doctors know they can send patients here at all hours,” store manager Tom Sutherland said. Neergaard is also uniquely set up to serve Brooklyn’s growing senior population, and even includes a surgical shop that sells everything from walkers to wheelchairs (Neergaard also operates a 7th Ave. location that is not open 24 hours).

From the crash of a United Airlines jet in Park Slope in 1960 (a Neergaard employee is visible in the photo The New York Times ran the next day), to the attacks of September 11, 2001 (Brooklynites who walked home from Manhattan queued up for masks and other supplies), Neergaard has been there through the city’s most perilous times.

“We endured through the Great Depression and two world wars and we’ve always kept up with the times,” Sutherland said. “Park Slope is still the place to be.”

Neergaard Pharmacy, 454 5th Ave. Open 24 hours every day; (718) 768-0600; or visit www.neergaardpharmacies.com

The 5th Avenue Neergaard Pharmacy actually occupies two adjacent brownstone-front buildings, part of a row of 5 very old buildings on that block. All we know about them is that they appear on the 1880 Bromley Brooklyn Atlas, so they must have been standing by that time.

5th Avenue, 9th to 10th Streets, west side - circa 1870s

Further uphill, at 234 8th Avenue in the Park Slope Historic District, stands another building with a connection to the pharmacological Neergaard family:

234 8th Avenue - Park Slope Historic District
Charles F. Neergaard Residence
Aymar Embury, architect - 1913

Regarding 234 8th Avenue, the Park Slope Historic District's Designation Report tells us:

It was built in 1913 and designed by the well-known architect Aymar Embury, 132 Madison Ave., New York, as a private residence for Charles F. Neergaard. His grandfather, John W. Neergaard, was a founder of the New York College of Pharmacy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flatbush Pavilion, 1981

Many thanks to faithful reader "LGR," who brings our attention to a 1981 photograph of the Flatbush Pavilion (a.k.a. Cinema Plaza):

Flatbush Pavilion Theater - 1981
photo: American Classic Images

It is instructive to note the condition of the marquee in 1981, above, compared to the recent views below. All the detailing seems to have been shaved off:

Flatbush Pavilion Theater - 2008

Flatbush Pavilion Theater - now
photo: Google Street View

"LGR" also asks: "Does anyone happen to know where on Flatbush the mezzanine exit from the subway actually let? I simply cannot recall from my hazy youth, but it must have been around here."

Our understanding is that the mezzanine exit was through the closed door with the ornate surround, between Antonio's Pizzeria and American Apparel, shown below. The Park Slope Civic Council has been exploring the possibility of reopening this closed entrance to the 7th Avenue station:

Former entrance - 7th Avenue station
photo: Google Street View

Note that in the 1981 photograph at the top, the door seems still to have been in use. Also note that the classic Antonio's Pizzeria sign seems to be unchanged since 1981!

The StationReporter description for the 7th Avenue station notes that there is an emergency exit at the extreme southern end of the southbound platform. Thus one would expect to find an unmarked door, somewhere on the west side of Flatbush, to the south of the current station entrance. A possible candidate might be the white door with no knob, below:

Emergency exit door?
photo: Google Street View

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

7th Avenue - Single & Double Flats Over Stores

370 - 382 7th Avenue (row of 5 buildings) - 1887
J. Brown, owner
Charles G. Jones, architect
William Brown, builder

382 7th Avenue

382 7th Avenue - detail

Cover, building plans, 370 - 382 7th Avenue

Detail, building plans - 370 - 382 7th Avenue

The description above reads: "Stores on First Floor and three families over in single houses and six in double"

A "single house" refers to a small apartment house with one residence per floor. A "double house" has two apartments per floor.

Brooklyn Eagle, April 16, 1887, p. 1 ("More Permits")

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In Case You Missed It: Flatbush Pavilion

In case you missed it... a note about the Flatbush Pavilion, from an article in today's Times about conversions of old theaters to other uses.

Note that in an earlier post, we incorrectly confused the Flatbush Pavilion with the nearby Plaza Theater, whose entrance was around the corner on Park Place. Commenter LGR pointed out our error at that time; you were right and we were wrong!

Flatbush Pavilion, 1912

Flatbush Pavilion
Park Slope, Brooklyn

ORIGINAL Built in 1912 by John Bunny, a silent-film star who was called Film’s First King of Comedy, it was known as the Bunny Theater until it closed in 1929. After a series of reincarnations — it has been called the Plaza Theater and the Plaza Twin — the Flatbush Pavilion opened in 2001 and ended its run as one of the oldest surviving movie theaters in the city when it closed in 2004.

REMAKE The old lobby’s floor has been redone in glossy blue epoxy and the tin ceiling has been restored, but where the screen once stood there is a stage, populated by mannequins clad in American Apparel leotards and leggings. The former projection booth is now a sound studio for the brand’s Internet radio station, Viva Radio, which has encouraged the rearranging of the letters on the marquee to create poems, jokes or advertisements.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Paul Auster on Disappearing Park Slope

photo: Brownstoner

In case you missed it... from an interview with author Paul Auster published in this week's L Magazine:

What are some of your favorite spots in Park Slope? Bookstores? Coffee Shops? Bars?

We have two bookstores left in Park Slope. We used to have more. Right now we have the Barnes and Noble that's been there for about, I don't know how many years—ten years? Twelve years? And then the
Community Bookstore, which is an essential part of the neighborhood. And I know they're hanging by the skin of their teeth. But they're still there and I don't think they're gonna go out of business 'cause I think they have many loyal customers who prefer to shop there, because people know how important it is to keep an independent store here.

Bars? There used to be Snooky's! I used to like to go there. But that's gone... A lot of old people, you know, the real old-time Park Slope drunks used to hang out in Snooky's. I always had a fondness for that place... And then, for a number of years, there was this terrific little restaurant called the Second Street Cafe, and I used to go there for lunch often, and that too has closed down. So, it's a bit sad that places are disappearing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Postscript: Public Hearing

We like to complain, like many others, about the "unresponsive" Landmarks Preservation Commission; we like to complain that "they" should have done more to protect Park Slope in the 37 years since our original Historic District was created.

But the fact is, the LPC is not going to come into a community that is not organized and that may not be wholeheartedly behind the landmarking effort. They have too much to do, and too many neighborhoods who are fully organized, to waste time.

So in contrast to the standard complaint that "they" should have paid more attention to Park Slope in the past, we had the distinct impression, during the recent Public Hearing, that the LPC has been waiting all this time for "us" finally to get organized and to meet them halfway!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reportback: Public Hearing

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing last week for the proposed Park Slope Historic District Extension.

We were scheduled for around 1pm, but the Commission was running about two hours late. By the time the Park Slope agenda item was heard, many of our supporters had had to leave, but around 25 people or so remained. All but one spoke in favor of the extension. The one exception was a property owner who cited "philosophical, sociological, and aesthetic" reasons for his opposition.

Both Council Members Brad Lander and Steve Levin were present and expressed strong support for the extension. Marty Markowitz was on hand earlier in the day, wearing one of our "Park Slope Historic District: Expand It!" buttons, but had had to leave, so his representative expressed the Borough President's support. Representatives of Joan Millman, Jim Brennan, and Velmanette Montgomery delivered supporting remarks.

Bob Levine, co-chair of Brooklyn Community Board 6, testified that his committee had held its own public hearing and had voted to support the extension.

The big surprise, to this attendee, was when the chair of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce/7th Avenue Merchants rose to state that his group also supported the extension!

At the end of the hearing, LPC Chair Robert Tierney waved a big stack of additional letters from those who had expressed their support in writing. We've heard that the written support included letters from both New York Methodist Hospital and the Fifth Avenue Committee!

The Park Slope Civic Council offers heartfelt thanks to everyone took the time to speak out or to write in support of the extension. It is really great to see the neighborhood pulling as one for this cause.

Basically nothing was decided by the LPC at this time. It was just a public hearing. We understand that the building research has not even begun yet, so actual designation is still a long way off.