Sunday, November 6, 2011

Free Talk on Bedford Stuyvesant Architecture Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday, November 7, 6:00pm
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Presenters: Suzanne Spellen, columnists and Morgan Munsey, from

The Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood contains an astonishing number of architecturally, historically and culturally significant structures, including rowhouses, mansions, religious buildings, and schools dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although there are currently two designated historic districts in the area, the vast majority of Bedford Stuyvesant’s architectural splendor is unprotected. The recently-formed Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation, a coalition of concerned neighborhood block associations, and the landmarks committee of Brooklyn Community Board 3 are working to correct that and will be on hand to answer questions about their campaign.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Impressionism in Bedford Stuyvesant

Tompkins Square Park 1887

Herbert Von King Park originally called Tompkins Square Spark is one of the oldest parks in Brooklyn. The Square dates back to the 1850's maybe even earlier. In the 1850s this area was called East Brooklyn but today if you look at Google maps the neighborhood is called Tompkins Park North a sub neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant.

Vaux & Olmstead 1871 Plan

Tompkins Park was redesigned in 1871 by the famous Vaux & Olmstead. If you look at there map it depicts the park as a whole and includes pathways, individual trees, and fountains. The streets and avenues surrounding the park are also noted. The layout of Von King Park shown here reflects Vaux and Olmstead’s 1871 design. Like their most famous works, Central Park and Prospect Park, Vaux and Olmstead were meticulous in their design of the park, with every tree, pond, and bench planned. Olmstead wrote: “Every foot of the parks surface, every tree and bush, as well as every arch, roadway, and walk and been placed where it is for a purpose.” Today, because of Vaux and Olmstead’s efforts, the citizens of Bedford-Stuyvesant have the privilege of enjoying a fine urban public recreation area in New York City.
William Merritt Chase "Self Portrait"

By the 1880's the new Tompkins Square Park was maturing and Bedford resident and artist William Merritt Chase painted two works in the park. These two paintings called In Tompkins Park which is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago and Tompkins Park which is at the Colby College Museum of Art, in Maine . The Chase paintings are probably the first color images of Bedford Stuyvesant. William Merritt Chase is responsible for establishing the Chase School, which later would become Parsons The New School for Design.
Tompkins Park 1887

Chase was born in Ninevah, Indiana in 1849. He studied in Indianapolis, then (in 1869) went to New York and studied briefly at the National Academy of Design. In 1872, after working for two years as a still life painter in St. Louis, several leading citizens and art patrons sponsored a five year trip to Munich where he was greatly influenced by the style of the Munich Artists. Upon his return to New York in 1878 he opened his Tenth Street Studio where he developed a style more vibrant and brightly colored, finding in Impressionism a means of conveying the emotion in both landscapes and city scenes. He did most of his later work in and around New York City, producing both urban and pastoral studies, which were realistically portrayed, yet infused with nuances of light, color, and brushwork, and conveyed the subjectivity of his interpretations. Such were the artistic styles and intentions of Chase; he considered himself a realist, but felt that Impressionistic techniques provided a means of expressing emotions - which are a part of the artists' reality.
Chase was a member of the Ten (Ten American Painters), but also devoted much of his time to teaching, first at his New York studio, than at the Students League. He also taught at his summer home in Shinnecock, Long Island, at the Chase School (which he founded), and later at the New York School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His students included Marsden Hartley, Charles Demuth , Edward Hopper , Georgia O'Keeffe , and Charles Sheeler. His achievements as an artist and teacher reflect the impact of the Impressionist movement in American culture; Chase not only pursued artistic innovation, but also brought progress to academic institutions of art. He died in New York in 1916.

William Merritt Chase 1900

Thursday, July 7, 2011

14 - 22 Arlington Place

Arlington Place west side mid 1880s

Arlington Place west side 2011 buildings by Amzi Hill

Arlington Place is one of the most picturesque blocks in all of New York City. It was only fittingLink that Spike Lee would shoot his 1994 movie Crooklyn here. Charles Lockwood author of Bricks and Brownstones once wrote to me and said that "Arlington Place is my favorite block in Bedford Stuyvesant." I do not have a favorite block in Bedford Stuyvesant but Arlington Place would be in my top ten most interesting. The residential building of Arlington Place are designed by only three architects, Isaac D. Reynolds, George Chappell and Amzi Hill. Between 1884 and 1886 Amzi Hill designed the entire west side of Arlington Place between Macon Street and Halsey Street. In 1883 the Brooklyn bridge was up and the many builders came to the then Bedford Section to put up the many commercial and residential buildings that we still see today.
Arlington Place west side 1974
Image: Danny Lyon / National Archives and Records Administration
I want to focus on 14 - 22 Arlington designed by Amzi Hill the modern architect of his day. This group of buildings are in the Queen Ann Style which is "free Renaissance" (non-Gothic Revival) details rather than of a specific formulaic style in its own right. Before these wonderful Queen Anne Brownstones where built once stood the large mansion of Rem Leffert. You can read more about the Lefferts here. Numbers 14 -22 Arlington Place are truly unique homes that are in the ABABA configuration and I think Jenny Lind face is in the building. The pressed metal work along the upper floors are truly amazing and makes a interesting skyline on this side of the block. There are three other groups similar to these Arlington houses in Bedford Stuyvesant and two I know are by different architects. I really hope that the LPC works fast in protecting these 125 year old structures. As you can see from the picture from the 1880s not much has changed on this block.

Arlington Place west side

We will be giving a walking tour this weekend of Bedford Corners and a small portion of Stuyvesant Heights. You can read more about that here.

Arlington Place looking towards Halsey 2010

1900 Census Arlington Place

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

259 Jefferson Avenue

259 Jefferson Avenue
In 1886 architect John G. Prague designed a beautiful Queen Anne/ Romanesque Revival home at 259 Jefferson Avenue in the then Bedford Section of Brooklyn. I will be talking about the great architectural contribution of J. G. Prague in future post but I want to focus on the first owners of 259 Jefferson. This block of Jefferson Avenue is known for Mr. Frank Woolworth but there was another big resident living a few houses down.
Many people today do not know who William Joseph and Bridget Theresa McGrover Howard are but this couple moved into there beautiful Jefferson home in 1886 along with young daughters Loretta and Gertrude. The Howard's would go on to have three more children while living at 259 Jefferson, Elizabeth, William and Genevieve. William Howard is the founder and builder of Howard Beach in Queens, NY.

Bridget Theresa McGrover
1853 - 1937

William J. Howard, a Brooklyn glove manufacturer who operated a 150 acre goat farm on meadow land near Aqueduct Racetrack as a source of skin for kids' gloves. In 1897, he bought more land and filled it in and the following year, built 18 cottages and opened a hotel near the water, which he operated until it was destroyed by fire in October 1907. He gradually bought more land and formed the Howard Estates Development Company in 1909. He dredged and filled the land until he was able to accumulate 500 acres by 1914. He laid out several streets, water mains and gas mains, and built 35 houses. William Howard died in 1919 at his Jefferson Ave home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Free Walking Tour of Bedford Corners

Residents of Bedford Stuyvesant please come out to the Morris, Hill and Sparrow first walking tour of 2011.

The Alhambra

The Alhambra in 2010 photo by Jim.henderson

The Alhambra in 1890 Architect Montrose W. Morris

One of the most magnificent apartment houses in New York City is The Alhambra. The name Alhambra means literally "the red one" which comes from Morrish Spain. In Spain Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex constructed during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus, occupying the top of the hill of the Assabica on the southeastern border of the city of Granada in the Autonomous Community of Andalusia. In the old Bedford section of Brooklyn The Alhambra is a grand apartment erected in 1889 by Louis F. Seitz. It faces Nostrand avenue, and has a frontage of two hundred feet and a depth of seventy feet which is on Macon and Halsey Street. Six large octagon towers ornament the edifice; two of them being in the center and one at each of the four corners. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the originally ground floor center of the building had a lofty stone arch that welcomed you as you entered a vista of an open court with fountains, gardens, croquet and tennis grounds. Similar arches on Macon and Halsey Street remain today. One of the most noticeable features of the front is a center pavilion of arcade balconies which use to give views of the long gone gardens.
The architect and Bedford resident was twenty-eight year old Montrose Morris who was a big fan of the Romanesque style at the time. Morris brought this style to Bedford Stuyvesant in 1885 with his own house on Hancock Street. Morris use elaborately delicate red Terra-cotta carvings, rock-face Stone and light-colored brick, and is beautified by chimneys, lofty gables, recessed balconies, arched windows and tiled covered roofs. The original building housed 30 families of upper and upper middle class status.

1890's Montrose W. Morris apartment interior

Individually Landmarked in 1986 the once vacant building of the 1980's has come almost full circle. The beautiful jewel fell into complete disrepair including a great fire in 1994. Thanks to developer and preservationist Tom Anderson of Anderson Associates the building was repaired and restored in the late 1990's/2000.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bedford Stuyvesant Historic Districts Map

Stuyvesant Heights Houses done by architect Axel Hedman (1861-1943) Born in Sweden, emigrated to USA in 1880, lived and worked in Brooklyn rest of his life.

Click on this here to see the map

Friday, January 28, 2011

Summer walking tour 2010

Morris Hill and Sparrow walking tour of Bedford Stuyvesant.

Victorian Bedford Corners, The Kelly Mansion early 1890s

Montrose W. Morris designed John C. Kelly House on Hancock Street. Homes like this is why the Brooklyn Daily Eagle called this the choice Bedford Section of Brooklyn.

595-605 Jefferson Avenue Stuyvesant North

In 1904 Willfur Burr had architect Benjamin Driesler design these handsome six two story and basement limestone on Jefferson Ave between Lewis and Stuyvesant. Benjamin Driesler was a Bavarian, German born architect that came to the US in 1881. According to the Prospect Heights designation report his office was located at Avenue C and Flatbush Avenue later moving to Avenue F. Driesler was marketing his designs for "modest, modern, model homes" to individuals and professional builders. Driesler designed 400 homes in New York in fifteen months. Many of homes are found in Kensington, Ditmas Park and Fiske Terrace-Midwood Park to name a few. These homes in what we are calling the Stuyvesant Heights North section which is not landmarked and protected.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge/originally Reformed Episcopal Church of the Reconciliation

At the corner SE corner of Nostrand Avenue and Jefferson Avenue Heins & LaFarge's Reformed Episcopal Church of the Reconciliation (1890), now the Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons.

The old Reformed church place with its octagonal corner tower rising above in terra-cotta. Once a place that people like Frank Woolworth walked past everyday is now a Masonic temple. This building is not protected but is in the Proposed Bedford Corners Section of Bedford Stuyvesant.
Christopher Grant LaFarge, eminent American architect, who, with his partner, the late George L. Hines, served as architects. “Architects of the NYC Subway, Hines and LaFarge: formed their partnership in 1886. In 1899, Heins was appointed New York State architect by Governor Theodore Roosevelt and he designed state buildings until his death in 1907.
According to Wikipedia the New York-based architectural firm of Heins & LaFarge, composed of Philadelphia-born architect George Lewis Heins (1860–1907) and Christopher Grant LaFarge (1862–1938) - the eldest son of the artist John LaFarge, famous especially for his stained glass panels - were responsible most notably for the original Romanesque-Byzantine east end and crossing of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, and for the original Astor Court buildings of the Bronx Zoo, which formed a complete ensemble reflecting the esthetic of the City Beautiful movement. Heins & Lafarge provided the architecture and details for the Interborough Rapid Transit, the first subway system of New York.

The two young men met at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and trained together in the Boston offices of Henry Hobson Richardson. In 1886, they opened their office. Heins was the man on the site; LaFarge was the principal designer.
In 1888, a design competition for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the most prominent project of its kind in the US, was entered by 68 architectural firms, and won in 1891 by Heins & LaFarge, with an eclectic design, based on Romanesque forms but with many Byzantine and Gothic elements, dominated by a massive spired tower over the crossing. The cornerstone was laid December 27, 1892, but unexpectedly, massive excavation was required before bedrock was hit. Heins & LaFarge completed the east end and the crossing, temporarily roofed by Rafael Guastavino with a tiled dome (still standing). The Chapel of St. Columba was consecrated in 1911, but the death of Heins impelled the Cathedral trustees to hire a new architect Ralph Adams Cram, whose nave and west front would be continued in French Gothic style.
The other prime commission in New York City was the Fourth Presbyterian Church (1893–94), now Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, at West End Avenue and West 91st Street on the Upper West Side, a tribute to their joint master. The rusticated masonry façade with a sparing use of Venetian Gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque details and the square corner bell tower with a crenellated parapet embellished with gargoyle gutter-spouts reveal Richardson's training. Fine stained glass may be from Tiffany studios, or may be by John LaFarge, the architect's father, which would make them even rarer.

An exercise in a somewhat subdued Richardsonian manner, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn, is Heins & LaFarge's Reformed Episcopal Church of the Reconciliation (1890), now the Most Worshipful Enoch Grand Lodge of the Order of Masons. It too has a corner tower that is octagonal and embedded in the volume of the church in a most Richardsonian manner, though the materials used are tame, brick, now painted, rather than Richardsonian rustication.
In Washington DC, the church, now Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, was begun in 1893, to designs of LaFarge. It is a brick structure of an abbreviated Latin cross floorplan with such a prominent crossing dome, raised on an octagonal drum lit by ranges of arch-headed windows, that has something of the aspect of a centrally-planned Greek cross. The interior is rich with frescoes and mosaics and inlaid marble floors in full American Renaissance manner. The first mass was celebrated on June 2, 1895, and the completed church was dedicated in 1913.
In 1899, Heins was appointed New York State architect by Governor Theodore Roosevelt, and he designed interiors for the first buildings at the State University of New York, Albany: the Auditorium and the Science and Administration Buildings.
LaFarge, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) often served on advisory committees for the schools of architecture at Columbia University, M.I.T. and Princeton University, and also as trustee and secretary for the American Academy in Rome.
Roosevelt was also a prime mover behind the creation of the New York Zoological Society, for whom the partners designed the original nucleus of buildings (1899–1910, now called the Astor Court) as a series of pavilions symmetrically grouped round the large sea lion pool, all in a sturdy brick and limestone Roman Ionic and Doric, with the heads of elephants and rhinos, lions and zebras projecting festively from panels and friezes. The central Administration Building (1910), offering an arched passageway to the zoo's outdoor spaces, has complicated domed spaces formed of Guastavino tile.
University commissions were also in their oeuvre. At Yale, their rusticated Richardsonian Romanesque design for a chapter building of St. Anthony Hall, also known as the Delta Psi fraternity, stood from 1894 to 1913. Their ornamental iron gates were re-used in the 1913 successor by Charles C. Haight. In 1899 Heins & LaFarge built the Houghton Memorial Chapel at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, Richardsonian in its recessed entrance, dominating central tower and interpenetrating Romanesque massing. Also in 1899, at the United States Military Academy, West Point, they erected the Roman Catholic chapel of the Most Holy Trinity, also hearkening back to their Richardson apprenticeship with an essay in rusticated granite, with a battlemented corner tower and a heavy arcaded porch. It was enlarged in 1959.
In 1903 Heins & LaFarge were commissioned to design the Municipal Building for Washington DC.
In 1904 they were commissioned to design the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St James in Seattle by Bishop Edward J. O’Dea, whose diocese had purchased property on Seattle’s First Hill and demanded a cathedral “that must surpass anything in the West.” The Italian quattrocento design features tall, paired campanili at the west end and a central dome. The firm sent two young architects, W. Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Coté, to oversee construction on the site, who went on to establish a thriving architectural practice in Seattle. The cornerstone ceremony took place on November 12, 1905. The cathedral was completed in 1907 and solemnly dedicated on December 22, 1907. Unhappily, under the weight of two feet of wet snow the dome collapsed on the afternoon of February 2, 1916, dropping 400 tons of masonry eighty feet into the empty cathedral, shattering every window and leaving a gaping hole that exposed it to the elements. The cathedral reopened on March 18, 1917, but with a flat roof over the crossing. The central repositioning of the altar in response to reforms of the Second Vatican Council has finally brought it into the position envisaged by the architects.
Beginning in 1901, Heins & LaFarge designed subway stations and buildings for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company under the direction of the chief engineer, William Barclay Parsons.[4] When the Interborough Rapid Transit opened on October 27, 1904, its showpiece station was City Hall, designed by Heins & LaFarge using uninterrupted sweeping Guastavino-tiled arches and vaults which incorporated shaped skylights and mosaics and polychrome terracotta panels. Throughout the original stations the polychrome faience panels (from Grueby Faience Company, Boston, and Atlantic Terra Cotta Company of Staten Island and New Jersey) were designed by the firm. The partners' control house for the IRT is at Bowling Green at the corner of Battery Park in the Dutch Renaissance manner reminiscent of New Amsterdam. A few Heins & Lafarge subway entrances survive, notably at 72nd Street. Lafarge was replaced by Squire J. Vickers as architect in charge in 1908.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Map of the Stuyvesant Heights Expanded District. Calendared

HDC Annouces the Six To Celebrate!

Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

The Historic District Council are pleased to announce the first annual Six to Celebrate, a list of historic New York City neighborhoods that merit preservation attention. This is New York’s only citywide list of preservation priorities.

The Six were chosen from applications submitted by neighborhood groups around the city on the basis of the architectural and historic merit of the area; the level of threat to the neighborhood; strength and willingness of the local advocates, and where HDC’s citywide preservation perspective and assistance could be the most meaningful. Throughout 2011, HDC will work with these neighborhood partners to set and reach preservation goals through strategic plan

The Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood contains an astonishing number of architecturally, historically and culturally significant structures, including rowhouses, mansions, religious buildings, and schools dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although there are currently two designated historic districts in the area, the vast majority of Bedford Stuyvesant’s architectural splendor is unprotected. The recently-formed Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation, a coalition of concerned neighborhood block associations, and the landmarks committee of Brooklyn Community Board 3 are working to correct that.

Other areas in New York City are:

The Bowery, Manhattan , Gowanus, Brooklyn, Inwood, Manhattan, Jackson Heights, Queens and Mount Morris Park, Manhattan