Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Brooklyn Masonic Temple - Fort Greene

Brooklyn Masonic Temple at Clermont and Lafayette taken from the opposite corner
Brooklyn Masonic Temple - Corner of Clermont Avenue and Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn Masonic Temple as seen from the Brooklyn Flea across the street
Brooklyn Masonic Temple from Brooklyn Flea
Creating part of the backdrop for the Brooklyn Flea's Fort Greene summer location is the Brooklyn Masonic Temple (1906). The Classical Revival style design by Lord & Hewlett and Pell & Corbett received critical acclaim from Architecture Magazine which stated that the building was "quite the most dignified and impressive piece of architecture which has been done in the past two years" and "as beautifully thought out in every particular as it is perfect in general conception."[1] The design of the building was based on that of King Solomon's Temple, as well as Greek temples of the ionic order.[2][3] The structure is built of marble, brick and colored terra cotta and the original structural components and ornament remain mostly intact. Today the building serves as the headquarters for the Masonic Grand Council, as well as an event space for rent. The interior houses two banquet halls, one that has a 280 person capacity and another that can serve up to 700 people.[3]

The architects of the firm of Lord and Hewlett were Austin Lord (1860-1922) and J. Monroe Hewlette (1868-1941). Lord was formerly employed by the well known firm McKim, Mead & White and was one of the firm's architects who worked on the Brooklyn Museum, as well as the building designs for Columbia University. Hewlette, a Brooklyn native, was educated at Polytechnic institute, Columbia University and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Although executed by one of Hewlett's parters (Charles Basing), the concept for the fresco on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal was based on cartoons Hewlett had created.[1]

Brooklyn Masonic Temple main entrance on Clermont Avenue
Brooklyn Masonic Temple Main Entrance
Pictured above is the Brooklyn Masonic Temple's Main entrance flanked by lamp standards cast by Mitchell Vance and Co. The lamps are ornamented with Egyptoid foliate forms.[4]

Brooklyn Masonic Temple colored terra cotta ornament
Brooklyn Masonic Temple Ornament
The colored ornament on the freeze and between the columns is made of glazed terra cotta.[1]


  1. Morrone, Francis An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn. Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2001.
  2. White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010.
  3. "Masonic Temple - Hall for Hire and Home to Mason's Meetings" placeMatters. online.
  4. New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Fort Greene Historic District Designation Report. New York, 26, September 1978.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Carroll Street Bridge - Park Slope to Carroll Gardens

Carroll Street Bridge with Carroll Gardens neighborhood in the background
Carroll Street Bridge from Park Slope Side
Carroll Street Bridge with Park Slope neighborhood in the background.
Carroll Street Bridge from Carroll Gardens Side
Designed by Robert Van Buren, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Department of City Works, the Carroll Street Bridge was built between 1888 and 1889.[1] Spanning the Gowanus Canal, the bridge is the oldest example of a retractile bridge in the Untied States and the second oldest bridge in the borough of Brooklyn.[1][2] Known by a variety of names including, pull-back draw, traversing and sliding draw, retractile bridges are designed to span narrow navigable channels where other types of movable bridges are not feasible. Retractile bridges are rarely used and there are not many still in existence. They are designed to move out of the way of ships by sliding horizontally along a diagonal path into a location adjacent to the roadway.[1]

Pocket of space next to roadbed for storing the bridge while in the open position.
Pocket for Housing the Carroll Street Bridge While in the Open Position
The Carroll Street Bridge is drawn open using an electric (was steam) powered motor and cables to pull it along a set of tracks into a "pocket" adjacent to the roadbed.[3]

Carroll Street Bridge one story red brick operator's house.
Carroll Street Bridge Operator's House
Carroll Street Bridge information plaque featured on wall above entrance to operator's house.
Carroll Street Bridge Plaque on Operator's House
The Carroll Street Bridge served the communities of Park Slope and Carroll Gardens from 1889 to 1985 when it was left open due to maintenance issues. In 1989 the bridge and bridge house were rebuilt to their original specifications and service was reinstated. The original aesthetic of the structural span was restored during the bridge's overhaul and its character has been retained throughout subsequent maintenance work due to its designation as a New York City Landmark in 1987.[3]

In an interview conducted by Community School District 15 around the time the bridge was reopened in 1989, one long time resident recalls her memories of the Carroll Street Bridge. Connie Anello grew up one block from the bridge. "As a child she remembers youngsters swimming and fishing in the canal." The kids used the bridge as a platform to dive and fish from![4] It is hard to image diving and fishing in the Gowanus since it is now a Superfund site and considered one of the most polluted waterways in the country.

  1. McCahon, Mary E. "Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal" Last of the River South of the Sound.
  2. Seaton, Charles "Carroll St. Span to get b'day fixup" Daily News. 2, February 1989.
  3. "Carroll Street Bridge" A New York Centennial Bridge. NYCDOT Flier. 23, September 1989.
  4. Anello, Connie. Community School District 15 student interview. 1989. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Montauk Club in Park Slope

The Montauk Club's south facade
Montauk Club South Facade
The Montauk Club from the corner of Lincoln Place and Plaza Street West
Montauk Club from Corner
Located on 8th Avenue and Lincoln Place, the Montauk Club (1889) was a Victorian era gentlemen's club designed by architect Francis H. Kimball. The Montauk was one of the only  gentleman's clubs of the era to included separate facilities for its members wives. Originally the top two floors contained bedrooms and the first, second and third floors were for dining and entertaining. There was also a bowling alley in the basement.[1] The Montauk is one of the few surviving clubs from its time and it continues to serve its members, as well as the Park Slope community by hosting "talks by local authors, jazz performances, Prohibition era cocktail functions and Victorian era salon parties". The clubhouse also provides a venue for personal and business entertaining.[2]

Facade of the Pennsylvania Convention Center - Terminal Headhouse
Pennsylvania Convention Center - Philadelphia
(Designed by Francis H. Kimball)
The builders:
Francis H. Kimball had worked for London architect William Burges and had many noteworthy buildings credited to his name including the Pennsylvania Convention Center - Reading Terminal Headhouse in Philadelphia (pictured above), Manhattan Life Insurance Building and the Empire Building.[1][3] He was also partially responsible for establishing a "New York School" of architecture during the same time that architects like Louis Sullivan were establishing the well known "Chicago School" of architecture.[3] In addition to the building's well known architect it is worth noting that the stone mason responsible for the Montauk Club's construction was Charles T. Mills, the most highly regarded stone mason in New York City at the time. Some of the buildings Mills was responsible for constructing include: the DeLamar House, University Club of New York and Pierpont Morgan Library.[1]

Montauk Club loggia with terra cotta frieze above
Montauk Club Loggia with Montauk Indian Frieze Above
Panoramic image of the terra cotta Montauk Indian narrative ornamentation
Montauk Club - Montauk Indian Terracotta Ornament
The building:
The building's design is based on the Venetian floral Gothic style. The quatrefoil spandrels, inflected arch windows, balustraded balconies and loggias all harken back to Venetian Gothic architecture. When I fist saw the Montauk Club building, I was reminded of the Palazzo Pisani Moretta (pictured below) and other buildings I photographed while in Venice. Venice's Ca' d'Oro and Palazzo Pisani Moretta have been cited as models for the Montauk's design. The building materials used to construct the Montauk Club are brownstone and brick with terracotta ornamentation. Much of the building's ornaments depict scenes that illustrate the lives of the Montauk Indians.[1] 

Reference image of the Palazzo Pisani Moretta in Venice Italy
Palazzo Pisani Moretta - Venice, Italy
Included here is a photo of the Palazzo Pisani Moretta for comparison. Note the quatrefoil motif and similar roof line.


  1. Morrone, Francis An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn. Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2001
  2. "The Montauk Club" Montaukclub.com.
  3. "Kimball Symposium" The Skyscraper Museum. Online. 2007 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Old Stone House / Vechte-Cortelyou House

Old Stone House / Vechte-Cortelyou House West Facade
Old Stone House / Vechte-Cortelyou House East Facade
Old Stone House / Vechte-Cortelyou House South Facade
Old Stone House / Vechte-Cortelyou House North Facade
The Old Stone House in Washington Park - J.J. Byrne Playground was once far more than a Department of Park's and Recreation museum and comfort station. The house was the home of an early Dutch settler, as well as the site of an epic battle between the British and revolutionaries in America's fight for independence. The house itself is not the original but a replica rebuilt from the buried ruins of the house.[1]

The original farmhouse was built by Dutch settler Claes Arentson Vechte in 1699 adjacent to the Gowanus Creek near the current replica. The house was passed from generation to generation within the Vechte family until Nicholas R. Cowenhoven sold it to Jacques Cortelyou in 1797.[1] The house was sold again in 1852 and was used as a clubhouse for a skating club and later the first clubhouse for the Brooklyn Baseball Club, the team that would become the Brooklyn Dodgers. During the tenure of the Brooklyn Baseball Club, the adjacent site, Washington Park, hosted the 1889 and 1890 World Series.[2] In 1897 the house was razed, then buried.[1]

During the Revolutionary War the house was used by the British as a staging area to shell retreating American troops with artillery. After the collapse of American positions on August  27th 1776 in the Battle of Brooklyn the British commandeered the house and began firing on the Maryland Brigade.[1] The American troops led by General Alexander Sterling counterattacked six times, overtaking the house on two occasions only to be repulsed.[3] Casualties were high with almost three quarters of the brigade killed; however their valiant effort allowed Washington's Army to escape across the Gowanus marshes to fight another day.[1][2]


  1. "J.J. Byrne Playground" New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Online
  2. "Old Stone House" Historic House Trust online.
  3. "The Old Stone House" New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Interpretive Sign