Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Monday, January 31, 2011

Brooklyn's Vast Outdoor "Pot Plantations"

We've all heard tales of the occasional lone marijuana plant found growing on a median strip or leftover patch of ground here in Brooklyn, and presumably there are indoor medicinal grow operations keeping a low profile here and there about the borough.

All images: Brooklyn Public Library Brooklynology blog

But we never knew until now that Brooklyn was home to vast outdoor "pot plantations" in the early 1950s, growing in plain sight, with plants "as tall as Christmas trees," if the latest Brooklynology blog post at the Brooklyn Public Library can be believed.

Apparently, in the summer of 1951 alone, 17,200 pounds of the stuff was dug up and eradicated here in Brooklyn (41,000 pounds across the entire city). There was so much pot growing all over the place that special crews of sanitation workers had to be dispatched to uproot the demon weed, groves of which grew in "lush impudence" according to the Brooklyn Eagle, from which these pictures were taken.

One "marijuana plantation" in a Butler Street vacant lot yielded about 100 pounds of the plant. The cited location, at 82 Butler Street, is in the "West Slope" on the other side of the Gowanus Canal. We will be visiting soon to see if any traces are still to be found -- strictly for research purposes, of course.

In the meantime, don't miss the BPL's meticulously researched article on this fascinating subject.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

L Bonert & T Bennett in 3rd Street

Here's another new finding gleaned from the Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide. The RERBG issue of April 6, 1901 carries news of plans filed by prolific Park Slope builder Louis Bonert for four 4-story, 8-family "tenements" (i.e. multi-family housing), on the south side of 3rd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues. Bonert's architect here is Thomas Bennett, who designed a great many Park Slope apartment houses from around this same time:

"Projected Buildings," RERBG v. 67, no. 1725 (April 6, 1901): p. 634. -468- 3rd st, s s, 247.8 e 5th av, four 4-sty brk tenements, 32.2x90, 8 families; cost, $72,000; L Bonert, 6th av and 3rd st; ar't, T Bennett, 198 53rd st.

The first of the row, all of which still stand in virtually unchanged condition, is shown below:

392 3rd Street - erected 1901
Louis Bonert, builder
Thomas Bennett, architect

Louis Bonert is of course well-known to long-time readers of this blog; we suspect he built more housing in Park Slope than any other developer. We had a hunch these buildings were erected by Bonert, although we never had any concrete evidence before now. In part our suspicion was based on the unusual tripartite windows on the first floor; other examples from Bonert's buildings are found directly across the street.

392 3rd Street - window detail
392 3rd Street - cornice detail

Friday, January 28, 2011

[William Musgrave] Calder Place, Brooklyn

Thanks to the Here's Park Slope blog for calling our attention to the half-block long Calder Place, one of those odd streets created when the Prospect Expressway was bulldozed through the South South Slope in the mid-20th century:

According to Here's Park Slope's research, the street is named for William Musgrave Calder, a prolific Park Slope builder to whom we have devoted a good deal of space on this blog.

It's not much of a street, and indeed except for the scorched-earth tactics of Robert Moses, Mr. Calder might not have a street named after him at all today. We prefer to remember him by the many buildings he erected in Park Slope.

Monday, January 24, 2011

No Comment Department

...a broker with Awaye Realty in Carroll Gardens, said that with each new building the avenue’s popularity had grown. “They’re hard to get started, it’s hard to sell to the first people,” he said. “But all of a sudden, once people see other people living there, it’s pop-pop-pop, like popcorn.” -NY Times profile of the "new 4th Avenue"

4th Avenue demolition

Actually, "other people" have been living in 4th Avenue all along.

They were there before the new towers went up. They were there until their homes were demolished to make way for the new residents.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pohlman & Patrick in 7th Avenue

The architectural firm of Pohlman & Patrick became quite active in Park Slope around the turn of the last century.

According to the Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide, in 1903 the firm designed the group of three mixed-use (flats over stores) buildings on the southwest corner of 7th Avenue and 5th Street for builder Alexander G. Calder:

254-258 7th Avenue
Pohlman & Patrick, architects - 1903
Alexander G. Calder, builder

"Projected Buildings," RERBG v. 71, no. 1830 (April 11, 1903): p. 752.
-527- 7th av, w s, 21 s 5th st, two 3-sty brk stores and dwellings, 19.6x55, 2 families; total cost, $10,000; A Calder, 420 8th st; ar'ts, same as last [Pohlman & Patrick, 1235 3rd av].

"Projected Buildings," RERBG v. 71, no. 1833 (May 2, 1903): p. IX.
-679- 7th av, s w cor 5th st, 4-sty brk stores and dwelling, 21x71, 3 families, steam heat; cost, $25,000; A G Calder, 420 3rd av; ar'ts, Pohlman and Patrick, 1235 3d av.

Calder apparently carved off the rear 20 feet of his 7th Avenue lots, in order to squeeze in an extra lot behind them, facing 5th Street. On this lot Calder built a 4-story, 4-family apartment house, also designed by Pohlman & Patrick, also in 1903:

468 5th Street (left)
Pohlman & Patrick, architects - 1903
Alexander G. Calder, builder

"Projected Buildings," RERBG v. 71, no. 1833 (May 2, 1903): p. IX.
-697- 5th st, s s, 83.3 w 7th av, 4-sty brk tenement, 20x71, steam heat; cost, $9,000; A G Calder, 420 8th st; ar'ts, Pohlman & Patrick, 1235 3d av.

The Neoclassical apartment building from 1903 creates an arresting contrast to the much earlier (circa 1870s) Italianate brownstone row houses beside it in 5th Street.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Once, Paumanok!

We're going off-topic with this post, since it has nothing to do either with historic preservation or with Park Slope. But, if one spends enough time in the Brooklyn Eagle, that telescope into the past, one finds some really cool stuff...

Like this 1855 advertisement for the self-published first edition of "Leaves of Grass":

Brooklyn Eagle, June 29, 1855, p. 3

A few weeks later, the Eagle published a review of this "extraordinary book":

Brooklyn Eagle, September 15, 1855, p. 2

We have a dim recollection of our American Lit professor saying that Whitman wrote anonymous (and approving) reviews of his own book. It's hard to tell because of the florid 19th-century style, but one can almost imagine that these could be Whitman's own words:

One could certainly do worse than to "loafe" a while amongst Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lost Park Slope: Gen. Christensen House

Like us, blogger IMBY has also been poking around in Columbia University's online Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide.

IMBY recently discovered an interesting RERBG article about Park Slope's 8th Avenue from 1912. The article features several photographs, including a view looking north from President Street before the tall apartment buildings were constructed on the west side of that block:

8th Avenue, view north from President Street, 1912
Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide, May 18, 1912, p. 1

The buildings on the east side of 8th Avenue (right side in the photo above) are unchanged to the present day. But the buildings on the west side have been replaced by tall apartment buildings.

The RERBG article indicates that the house at the northwest corner of 8th Avenue and President Street, visible to the left in the photograph above, was originally the residence of Civil War General C. T. Christensen.

An idea of General Christensen's prominence can be gleaned from a New York Times article of 1903, noting both his 5oth wedding anniversary and the marriage of Violet, one of his daughters. The article notes that General Christensen "was for many years identified prominently with the military, social, and business life of Brooklyn. He was a long time President of the Brooklyn Trust Company, and prior to that he was connected with the banking house of Drexel, Morgan, & Co.":

New York Times, March 20, 1903, p. 9

It seems that Gen. and Mrs. Christensen were blessed with many daughters. An 1889 article from the Brooklyn Eagle recounts the presentation of the Misses Laura and Hope Christensen "as candidates for the favors of society" at their home on the corner of 8th Avenue and President Street:

Brooklyn Eagle, January 31, 1889, p. 5 ("Two Fair Debutantes")

Below is a view of the corner today. The Park Slope Historic District's Designation Report states that the apartment house on the northwest corner of President Street and 8th Avenue was constructed in 1928, so General Christensen's house must have been pulled down not long before then:

8th Avenue and President Street, west side
Park Slope Historic District

Many of the tall apartment houses in 8th Avenue are similar "second growth" buildings, erected on soft development sites originally occupied by large mansions with spacious gardens.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Can Preservation Maintain Affordable Housing?

At last week's Park Slope Civic Council meeting, discussion turned to 4th Avenue's new development, and more specifically to what have come to be recognized as the missed opportunities therein.

Trustees and guests expressed the by now familiar observations about blank walls, driveways, and ventilation grates that annihilate the pedestrian experience, the lack of street-level commercial space, and the general hostility of the new buildings to street life.

Along with the above points, one of the PSCC Trustees made the astute observation that the new buildings in 4th Avenue were built on the rubble of earlier, older buildings that once stood on the same sites... and that all of the earlier housing was undoubtedly more affordable than what replaced it.

4th Avenue demolition

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pohlman & Patrick in President Street

The American Architect and Building News yields the architects' names for Louis Bonert's 1902 row of four 3-story, 6-family apartment houses on the south side of President Street between 6th and 7th Avenues:

"Building Intelligence; Houses; Brooklyn, N. Y.," AABN vol. 76, no. 1394 (Sept. 13, 1902): p. xii.
– "President St., near 7th Ave., 4 three-st’y brick dwells., 31' 9" x 83' 6"; $44,000; own., Louis Bonnert [sic - Bonert], 319 Sixth Ave., arch., Pohlman & Patrick, 322 Fifty-third St."

782-788 President Street
Louis Bonert, builder
Pohlman & Patrick, architects - 1902

We visited this row two years ago during our lengthy review of the great many Park Slope buildings constructed by prolific builder and local resident Louis Bonert.

At that time, however, we had not yet identified the architects of the row. It can now be credited to the firm of Pohlman and Patrick.

782 President Street
Louis Bonert, builder
Pohlman & Patrick, architects - 1902

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Carroll Street, N S, 6th to 7th Aves

We continue to obtain significant new discoveries from the recently-uncovered (to us) Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide at Columbia University.

We've focused mainly on the very late 1890s, and into the 1900s, since that's when the Brooklyn listings from the American Architect & Building News trail off. Also the online Brooklyn Eagle comes to an abrupt halt at the end of 1902.

One such find is the long row of eight 8-family apartment houses on the north side of Carroll Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. According to the RERBG, the row was constructed in 1898 by owner/architect/builder Jeremiah J. Gilligan:

703-719 Carroll Street
Jeremiah J. Gilligan, owner/architect/builder - 1898

"New Buildings," RERBG v. 61, no. 1568 (April 2, 1898): p. 636.
-527- Carroll st, n s, 230 w 7th av, eight 4-sty brk flats, 27x66, 8 families; total cost, $80,000; ow'r, ar't and b'r, John[sic] J. Gilligan, 188 Park pl.

This iconic Park Slope streetscape ends in a church steeple regardless of whether viewed from the east, as above, toward St. Francis Xavier Church, or from the west, as below, toward the Old First Dutch Reformed Church. The block is equally beautiful in either direction!

The buildings are highly similar, with minor variations from one to another, and highlight the growing preponderance of small apartment houses in Park Slope in the closing years of the 19th century.

709 Carroll Street

Note that the RERBG lists the developer as "John J. Gilligan", whereas a similarly named "Jeremiah J. Gilligan" is cited in the Landmarks Preservation Commission's Prospect Heights Historic District Designation Report:

We think these are one and the same person; the RERBG listing cites John J. Gilligan's address as "188 Park Place", which matches the 1897 Lain's Brooklyn Directory address for Jeremiah Gilligan:
GILLIGAN  Jeremiah  bldr.     188  Park pl
So we suspect a typographical or transcription error in the RERBG listing above.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Complete Blockfront in 8th Avenue

Yesterday's post introduced the architectural firm of Pohlman & Patrick and cited evidence associating three apartment houses at the northwest corner of 9th Street and 8th Avenue with the firm.

The buildings are visually associated with the other two buildings on the same side of 8th Avenue, all the way to 8th Street. But we had no evidence positively associating the rest of the block with owner John Wilson or architects Pohlman or Patrick.

Until now.

Tonight's research in the Real Estate Record & Builders' Guide yields plans filed in 1904 by the same owner, John Wilson, and Henry Pohlman, architect, for two more very similar apartment houses, completing the blockfront from 9th Street to 8th Street:

"Projected Buildings," RERBG v. 73, no. 1878 (March 12, 1904): p. 602.
-306- 8th av, w s, 32.3 s 8th st, 4-sty brk tenement, 27.6x83, 8 families, steam heat; cost, $20,000; John Wilson, 456 14th st; ar't, H Pohlman, 6005 5th av.
-307- 8th av, s w cor 8th st, similar tenement, 22.9x88.1; cost, $25,000; ow'r and ar't, same as last.

808-804 8th Avenue
John Wilson, owner
Henry Pohlman, architect - 1904

Interestingly, Henry Pohlman is cited as the only architect. Perhaps his partnership in the firm of Pohlman & Patrick had been dissolved by this time?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Introducing Pohlman & Patrick, Architects

We've been scanning the Real Estate Record and Builders' Guide of late, concentrating in the very early 1900s. The online Brooklyn Eagle ends at 1902, and the American Architect and Building News listings grow sparse around this same time. But the RERBG is yielding many interesting "hits" for Park Slope.

For example, we are running into a number of apartment buildings from the firm of Pohlman and Patrick, whose name also appears in the Prospect Heights Historic District Designation Report:

We thought the name "Pohlman" sounded familiar, so we checked Park Slope's Designation Report, and indeed in 1903 Henry Pohlman designed what we consider to be some of Park Slope's finest apartment houses, at Garfield Place and 8th Avenue:

"Serine" Apartments
Henry Pohlman, architect - 1903
Park Slope Historic District

Park Slope's Designation Report says these buildings exemplify "the ubiquitous eight-family apartment house":

Also in 1903, Pohlman designed the similar apartment houses on the northwest corner of 9th Street and 8th Avenue in "the popular turn of the century neo-Italian Renaissance style":

820 8th Avenue
Pohlman & Patrick, architects - 1903
John Wilson, owner

"The Real Estate Market: New Buildings," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Apr. 29, 1903): p. 18.
– "EIGHTH AVENUE, west side, 32 ½' from Ninth Street, two four story brick tenements, 27 ½' x 58', for eight families each, tin roof, cost $40,000, John Wilson, owner; Pohlman & Patrick, architects."

"Projected Buildings," RERBG v. 71, no. 1832 (April 25, 1903): p. 852.
-635- 8th av, n w cor 9th st, 4-sty brk flats, 26.3x88.1, 9 families, steam heat; cost, $25,000; J Wilson, 456 14th st; ar'ts, Pohlman & Patrick, 1235 3rd av.

"Projected Buildings," RERBG v. 71, no. 1833 (May 2, 1903): p. IX.
-683- 8th av, w s, 32.3 s [sic-n?] 9th st, two 4-sty brk tenements, &c, 27.6x84, 8 families, steam heat; total cost, $40,000; John Wilson, 456 14th st; ar'ts, Pohlman & Patrick, 1235 3d av.

"Lorraine" Apartments
Pohlman & Patrick, architects - 1903
John Wilson, owner

820 8th Avenue also boasts some attractive "basket-style" fire escapes on the 9th Street facade:

We will be seeing more from the firm of Pohlman and Patrick shortly.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

MCNY's Special Collections

The Museum of the City of New York's recent launch of its online collection of historic photographs of New York City received considerable notice in the local blogosphere.

We scanned through the entire collection, or what was online about two weeks ago, and found almost no images from Park Slope, which was disappointing. We'll feature some of the few highlights in upcoming posts.

Some of the photographs offer rather alarming contrasts with the present.

Consider the following view of the west side of 4th Avenue, between Butler and Douglass Streets. The photograph was taken in 1936 by Berenice Abbott:

4th Avenue, west side, btwn Butler & Douglass Streets
Berenice Abbott, photographer - 1936
Museum of the City of New York collection

The MCNY photo caption reads:

Abandoned old-law tenements at 154 Fourth Avenue between Butler and Douglass Streets.

Below is the same view from Google Street View; we believe a new "luxury" condominium tower is now rising on the same site:

Same location, Google Street View, 2010