Tuesday, April 28, 2009

318-310 Jefferson Ave

This row of six Neo-Grec brownstones was built by the developer James Steward. The architect Isaac Reynolds designed these three story houses set above high basements to have two sided brownstone masonry bays that rise full height. The doorways have grooved pilasters surmounted by brackets.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from March 6, 1886

Katherine Cark (Winkler) Jefferson Ave Brooklyn around 1898

A similar group of Neo-Grec brownstones on Hancock Street between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues, outside the current Stuyvesant Heights historic district. The houses are three floors over a basement floor. Several of the houses below retain the original, heavy, Neo-Grec cast-ironwork on the stoop. Both of these blocks are well preserved and in the proposed Bedford Historic District but none of these homes are protected.

1900 census of the 100 block at Hancock Street and 300 block of Jefferson

Monday, April 20, 2009

182 Macon

182 Macon was once owned by the famous Reverend Edward Beecher. The house simple, handsome and dignified with three stories above high basements is crowned by a series of French Second Empire mansard roof that I am sure were once topped by iron cresting. Long gone hand railing at the stoops and roof cornices could have given a better indication of the late date of this structure. The residence still radiate a feeling of quiet intimacy, emphasized by a now modern gate which separate the front yard from the side walks. This home is not protected or on any historic registers.

Part of Brooklyn Daily Eagle Obituary

Edward Beecher was born in East Hampton, New York August 27, 1803 and was slated to follow in the tradition of his father Lyman Beecher. He is the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher. He graduated from Yale and studied briefly at the Andover Seminary. He became the pastor of Park Street Church in Boston in 1826, and in 1830 he became the first president of Illinois College at Jacksonville. The college grew under his leadership and he remained president for fourteen years. The reform spirit took hold of Edward and he organized the first anti-slavery society in Illinois. He resigned his presidency in 1844 after financial misfortune; religious controversies and opposition to his anti-slavery beliefs made the offer of the position of pastor of the Salem Street Church in Boston seem very desirable. He returned to the West in 1855, where he became the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Galesburg, Illinois, where he remained until 1871. That year he moved to Brooklyn and settle on 182 Macon Street where he remained until his death on July 28,1895.

Brooklyn 1880 Census

Friday, April 10, 2009

Who lived in your house?

Decatur Street houses of Stuyvesant Heights

Have you ever wondered about the history of your house, apartment, church or other building in Bedford Stuyvesant? When was it built? Why was it built? Who owned it? What happened to the people who lived there? Is your house famous? Or, my perennial favorite question as a child, does it have any secret tunnels or cubbyholes? Whether you're looking for documentation for historic status or are just plain inquisitive, tracing a property's history and learning about the people who have lived there can be a fascinating and fulfilling project.
We need to show Landmarks Preservation Commission just how historic Bedford Stuyvesant is to New York. I am conducting research on buildings in Bedford Stuyvesant and parts of Crown Heights North which was Bedford Stuyvesant years ago... There are usually two types of information that I search for: 1) architectural facts, such as date of construction, name of architect or builder, construction materials, and physical changes over time; and 2) historical facts, such as information on the original owner and other residents through time, or interesting events associated with the building or area. A house history may consist of either type of research, or be a combination of both.

Bedford Stuyvesant is one of the oldest neighborhood in America let alone Brooklyn and is full of rich history. Much of this history of Bedford Stuyvesant has been lost over the years. Many people who live outside the neighborhood only know of the neighborhoods recent history. Bedford Stuyvesant community has been around since in the 1600's and the history should be preserved.

Please feel free to submit what you know about any building in Bedford Stuyvesant preferably outside any historic district. Also If you would like to know information on your home feel free to e-mail savebedstuy@gmail.com . I would try to find as much information as possible about buildings that are submitted and publish my results on this site. Lets work together and save and preserve our beautiful neighborhood.

275-285 MacDonough Street

For Example on MacDonough Street in the Stuyvesant Heights landmark district the houses above were built between 1885 and 1898. The first home to the far left no. 275 MacDonough is a fine French Neo-Grec house, built in 1888 respectively, for W. A. Walsh. The architect was Isaac D. Reynolds. The two-sided masonry bay extending the full height of the house with recessed panels under the windows and incised ornament on the enframements. The doorway, located have projecting lintels with incised ornament; they are supported on elongated console brackets. The roof cornices are also carried on elongated brackets, carefully related to the windows below them.

No. 277, an individually built French Neo-Grec house, was erected in 1888 for Rev. George F Pentecost of Tompkins Avenue Congregational Church and designed by J. C. Markham. Like its neighbors at the west, nos 273 & 275, it has a two sided masonry bay window extending the full height of the house. The handsome billet moldings at the bottom of the door and window lintels are distinctive decorative feature.

No. 279-283. These three houses, which combine late Romanesque Revival style with the classical trends of the 1890s, were designed by the Brooklyn architect Frederick D. Vrooman and built in 1895 by John F. Saddington. All three houses have rounded offset facades which make the transition from the recessed row of houses at the west to the corner house (no. 285) which is brought forward to the sidewalk line. Rough-cut stone-work at the basement and second floor lends a rugged quality to these houses, in strong contrast to the smooth intervening wall. The third floors, faced with sheet metal stamped with shallow Corinthian pilasters, have richly ornamented convex roof cornices above them. The wrought iron handrainling at the stoops and cast iron newel post show Romanesque influence.

No 285 at the corner of MacDonough and Lewis is a yellow brick Italian Renaissance style house was built in 1898 by John Seddington in collaboration with Vrooman. It is four stories high above a low basement. The brickwork on the exterior of this house is laid to resemble rusticated stonework.

This is the 1900 census which shows the first people that lived in these homes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eubie Blake's house at 284A Stuyvesant Ave.

Eubie Blake Neo-Grec home at 284A Stuyvesant Avenue home is out side the historic Stuyvesant Heights District and not protected at this time. This house with its high stoop most likely had massive heavy cast-iron handrails at one time. Leading up the stoop the large double-leaf wood doors welcome you into this lovely brownstone. The massive door hood and enframement with angular decorative elements resting on brackets gives this small home grandeur. I can truly imagine this brownstone being full of great music.
James Hubert “Eubie” Blake (February 7, 1887 - February 12, 1983) was a composer and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music, as well as a lyricist. With his long time collaborator Noble Sissle, Blake wrote the Broadway musical Shuffle Along in 1921; this was the first Broadway musical ever to be written and directed by African Americans. Blake’s hit compositions included “Bandana Days”, “Charleston Rag”, “Love Will Find A Way”, “Memories of You”, and “I’m Just Wild About Harry”. In 1978, the musical Eubie! opened on Broadway.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Teddy Bear was born in Bedford Stuyvesant

This row of well preserved brick buildings with street level retail is located on Tompkins Avenue where Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights meet. Tompkins Avenue is what separates Bedford from Stuyvesant Heights. These fine buildings are not protected by landmarks but walking down Tompkins Avenue you get a glimpse of what it was like to walk down a commercial corridor at the turn of the century. The brick buildings with inset brownstone details and handsome iron cornices has not changed much in the last one hundred years. This one time very busy commercial corridor gave birth to a famous American icon. 404 Tompkins Avenue is the 1902 birthplace of the Teddy bear.

Teddy bears are a symbol of cuddly gentleness and security the world over. It is well known that the teddy bear is named for President Theodore Roosevelt. Less well known are the inventors of the teddy bear, Rose and Morris Michtom, two Russian Jewish immigrants who lived in Brooklyn.

The American bear as a symbol of gentleness is filled with ironies. For generations, bears prompted fear, not affection. The teddy bear’s namesake, Theodore Roosevelt, was a ferocious warrior and big game hunter – a man who killed for sport. However, an unlikely alliance between the rugged, native-born American Protestant president and the inventive, immigrant Jewish couple from Brooklyn created one of the most lovable and enduring American icons.

The story begins in 1902. The states of Mississippi and Louisiana disagreed over the location of their common boundary, which bisected some of the least well-developed land in the United States. The governors of both states invited President Roosevelt to arbitrate the dispute. Roosevelt decided to combine his tour of the disputed territory with a five-day black bear hunt.

The president’s foray attracted a large contingent of journalists, who reported on Roosevelt’s every move. Even more compelling to the reporters than the boundary dispute was the president’s pursuit of a trophy bear. For four days, the press reported little about Roosevelt’s arbitration of the boundary dispute and harped on the ability of the area’s bears to elude his crosshairs. On the fifth and last day of the junket, apparently to redeem the president’s reputation, one of his hunting companions caught and tied a bear cub to a tree so that the president could shoot it. When he came upon the cub, Roosevelt refused to kill it, saying that he only took prey that had a sporting chance to defend itself.

Roosevelt’s demurrer took the nation by storm. The leading American cartoonist, Clifford Berryman, published a cartoon showing Roosevelt turning his back on the young bear, tied by its neck, and public response to the president’s self-restraint was overwhelmingly favorable. The next day, the Washington Post published a second cartoon, depicting the bear as a more placid beast, cementing the docile image of the young bear even more firmly in the public imagination.

Enter the Michtoms. Morris had arrived penniless in New York in 1887, when only in his teens, a refugee from pogroms. He married Rose and opened a small store that sold notions, candy and other penny items. In the evening, to help make ends meet, Rose sewed toys that they sold in the shop. Like millions of other Americans, the Michtoms avidly followed press accounts of Roosevelt’s journey into the Louisiana backcountry. Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot the defenseless bear touched the Michtoms. Morris suggested to Rose that she sew a replica of the bear represented in Berryman’s cartoons.

That night, Rose cut and stuffed a piece of plush velvet into the shape of a bear, sewed on shoe button eyes and handed it to Morris to display in the shop window. He labeled it, "Teddy’s bear." To his surprise, not only did someone enter the store asking to buy the bear, but twelve other potential customers also asked to purchase it. Aware that he might offend the president by using his name without permission, the Michtoms mailed the original bear to the White House, offering it as a gift to the president’s children and asking Roosevelt for the use of his name. He told the Michtoms he doubted his name would help its sales but they were free to use it if they wanted.

The rest is an amazing – yet characteristic – American Jewish immigrant success story. The Michtoms sewed teddy bears and placed them in the window of their shop, but demand was so great they couldn’t keep up. The couple concluded that there was more profit in teddy bears than in penny candy and dedicated full time to producing them. Because of the doll’s popularity, Roosevelt and the Republican Party adopted it as their symbol in the election of 1904, and Michtom bears were placed on display at every public White House function.

The Michtoms’ labor grew into the Ideal Toy Company, which remained in family hands until the 1970s. Ideal Toys sold millions of teddies throughout the world; yet, their good fortune did not spoil the Michtoms. Ever mindful of their humble origins, supported the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Jewish National Fund, the National Labor Campaign for Palestine and numerous other Jewish causes. While Ideal Toys could not secure a patent on the teddy bear and many imitators entered the market, the Michtoms created an American — and worldwide — icon. Their original teddy bear, treasured and saved by Teddy Roosevelt’s grandchildren, is now displayed at the Smithsonian.

Source: American Jewish Historical Society
You can read more here: Teddy Bear

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

209 Jefferson Ave.

The first Woolworth's store was founded with a loan of $300, in 1878 by Frank Winfield Woolworth. Frank W. Woolworth was born on April 13, 1852, on a farm near Rodman in Jefferson County, New York. In 1875 a “99-cent store” opened in Watertown, and a merchant there decided to try the idea in Port Huron, Michigan. He took Woolworth along as a clerk and paid him a starting wage of $10 a week. When Woolworth proved to be a poor salesman, his salary was cut to $8.50 a week. He soon took ill, suffering a breakdown, and returned to Watertown. Back in Watertown, he met a waitress, Jennie Creighton, and married her in 1876. They had three daughters. One of Woolworth’s granddaughters was Barbara Hutton, a socialite who achieved notoriety for her many marriages.

1889/90 New York Directory

In 1886 Woolworth moved to a newly built house on 209 Jefferson Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, to be near wholesale suppliers. Taking advantage of the wide variety of goods available there, he assumed responsibility for purchasing merchandise for all of his stores. He added candy and was able to purchase it directly from the manufacturers. He also planned all of the window and counter displays for the chain. An admirer of the red color of A&P grocery stores, he designed the characteristic red store fronts for the Woolworth stores, adding the company name in gold letters.Despite growing to be one of the largest retail chains in the world through most of the 20th century, increased competition led to its decline beginning in the 1980s. In 1997, F. W. Woolworth Company converted itself into a sporting goods retailer, closing its remaining retail stores operating under the "Woolworth's" brand name and renaming itself Venator Group. By 2001, the company focused exclusively on the sporting goods market, changing its name to the present Foot Locker Inc.
209 Jefferson Avenue is a beautiful Neo-Grec brownstone that was built in 1886. The interior of this home has been changed a bit but many details from F.W. Woolworth time are still present. This home still has the beautiful herringbone floors and to my surprise a rather larger extension on the rear. A few houses on this row still have the original single storm protective door followed by the large double entry doors. This rather large row of identical Neo-Grec brownstones are rather nicely preserved on a beautiful treeline block that is not landmarked. Hopefully soon this house will be apart of the Bedford Historic District.Frank W. Woolworth

74 Halsey Street

This very unusual Halsey Street house first owned by the builder John D. and Annie Godwin was most likely built in the late 1880s. The Bedford Section as it was called in those days was experiencing a rather large building boom due to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge. At the time Brooklyn was trying to compete in buildings fine homes not only with its neighboring city across the east river but also cities across the pond such as London and Paris.
74 Halsey Street is a Queen Anne house with Romanesque details that has remained intact over the past 120 years. The pair of rusticated stone arches of the parlor floor window has this theme continues onto the top floor but with toothed brickworked bandcourses supported on brick corbels. The second floor bay window that supports a balcony above adds interesting depth to the facade of this house. The major element that makes this home stand out is the handsome wrough iron railings that escort you along the high stoop. You can read more about this house in the AIA guide to New York City. Hopefully this fine house soon will be in the new landmarked Bedford Historic District

Monday, March 30, 2009

571-579 Jefferson Ave in Stuyvesant Heights

These Jefferson Avenue beauties are in Stuyvesant Heights (but outside the current historic district) have a very unique identity of there own. Similar to a row built on Garfield Pl in Park Slope the Romanesque style townhouses were most likely constructed just before the turn of the twentieth century. Typical of the Romanesque style you have rounded arched doorways and round top windows. The combination's of texture and material with rough-hewn blocks and stone details of intertwined leafwork often called "Byzantine Leafwork" are very different of earlier brownstone facades . The asymmetrical massed roofline gives this block a different feel as you walk along Jefferson Avenue. This Brooklyn daily eagle article from 1900 shows the white painted house on the far left for sale.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fresh Prince of Bed-Stuy?

Before the days of rows of brownstones and large apartments buildings with retail below stood the large mansion of Rem Leffert. This June 25, 1893 New York Times article paints a beautiful picture of the Bedford Corners area around of yesterday. Today Arlington Place just off Fulton Street is a great little block which Spike Lee made famous in the movie Crooklyn. It would have been nice if this house could have been saved and moved to another location in the Bedford area.
Clove Road was the old road where Thomas Lambertse, May 14, 1700, sold his Bedford farm to Leffert Pieterse. Jacobus Lefferts, a son of Leffert Pieterse of Flatbush, was born 1686, and settled on this farm. On October 7, 1716, he married Jannetje Blom, daughter of Claes Barentse Blom, whom later had come to the U. S. in 1662. Blom sold to Jacobus Lefferts, who by trade was a carpenter, for the sum of 800 pounds. In 1725, his farm of 40 morgen at Bedford, bounded on the west side by land of Johannes Bergen (later of John Reyerson). Jacobus Lefferts lived in the farmhouse on the south west corner of Glove & Jamaica Roads, built about 1759 by Andries Andriese. It came with all the land in possession of Jacobus Lefferts. The house was surrounded by locust trees and it's roof gave shelter to Major Andre & General Greg. Jacobus died in 1768. His son, Leffer Lefferts then lived in the house. He was born 1727, and died 1804. His house was taken down in 1877. Judge Lefferts, son of Jacobus Lefferts & brother of Leffert Lefferts (1727-1804) was born in 1736 and died 1819. He lived on the northeast corner of Jamaica & Cripplebush Roads in the house formerly occupied by his father-in-law, Rem Remsen. Barents son, Rem Lefferts bought the house and put a new front on it in 1838. The house was built in the 18th century by Jeromus Remsen and was known at one time as John Lefferts house. The site was later known as Arlington Pl. & Fulton Street.

Monday, March 16, 2009

176-180 Hancock Street

Queen Anne Style buildings in America came into vogue in the 1880s, replacing the French-derived Second Empire as the "style of the moment." The popularity of high Queen Anne Style waned in the early 1900s. In the book Bricks and Brownstones by Charles Lockwood during the 1880s and the life of Queen Anne style, the architectural fashion that each row house have a measure of individuality and the streetscape a visually exciting appearance reached its culmination. The present "epoch of Queen Anne is a delightful insurrection against the monotonous era of rectangular building," declared one magazine in the early 1880s.
These three brownstones completed in 1886 on Hancock Street in the Bedford Historic District were built by brothers Messa, and George G. Hallock . Alfred T. Lawrence built 180 for his family. You find these families still living in these these Queen Anne Brownstones according to the 1900 census but the Hallock brother are deceased. George Hallock was 51 years old in 1896 when he passed away at his residence 196 Hancock. Unfortunately none of these great houses are landmarked protected at the present time.

Please click on the census to view larger image.

68 Macon Street

This beautiful brick semi detached was probably built sometime in 1890s. The mix of neo-Romanesque and Queen Anne style architecture makes this house stand out from many others on this beautiful treeline Macon Street block. Located in the non landmark section of Bedford Stuyvesant his house was owned by the Stephen and Amelia Hoff at the turn of the 20th century. Before the Hoff's moved into this house it was rented out to the Walter family according to the 1900 census. The 1899 ad posted above from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle shows this house with the conservatory (which is still intact today) is in the "select" neighborhood of Bedford. Hopefully this pre-turn of the century home will be protected soon by being in the Bedford Historic District.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

John C. Kelly House 247 Hancock St.

Often called the Queen of Hancock Street this Montrose Morris house was built in the 1880s for water meter king John C. Kelly. This Romanesque and Queen Anne design house was model after the W. H. Vanderbilt house on fifth Ave. in Manhattan. This house is not on a landmarked blocked which is full of Montrose Morris designed homes. We hope that this wonderful Brooklyn block becomes part of the Bedford Historic District.

Bedford Stuyvesant

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bedford-Stuyvesant is the amalgam of two middle-class communities of the old City of Brooklyn: Bedford, the western por­tion, and Stuyvesant Heights, to the east. Today's Bedford ­Stuyvesant is one of the city's two major black enclaves; the other is its peer, Harlem. Often called Bed-Stuy it differs from its Manhattan counterpart in its much larger percentage of home owners, although Harlem is rapidly following its lead in gentrifying its own blocks. The southern and western portions comprise masonry row housing of distinguished architectural quality and vigorous churches whose spires contribute to the area's fre­quently lacy skyline. At one time the northeastern reaches have considerable numbers of wooden tenements, containing some of the nation's worst slums now have new buildings rising everyday. But on the whole, Bed-Stuy has a reputation that doesn't fit with reality: a stable community with hundreds of blocks of well-kept town houses.Where Bedford-Stuyvesant has distinguished architecture, it is very good. Its facades of brownstones and brickfronts create a magnificent town scape as good as-and sometimes better than-many fashionable areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Parts of Chauncey, Decatur, MacDonough, Jefferson, Halsey and Macon Streets, and the southern end of Stuyvesant Avenue, are superb. Hancock Street, between Nostrand and Tompkins Avenues, was considered a showplace in its time (why not now too?). Alice and Agate Courts, short cul-de-sacs isolated from the macro­cosm of the street system, are particularly special places in the seemingly endless, anonymous grid.
Bed-Stuy comprises roughly 2,000 acres and houses 400,000 people, making it among the 30 largest American cities.