Thursday, December 31, 2015

Milton Street Row Houses - Greenpoint

Milton Street falls within the Greenpoint Historic District and as such includes some noteworthy architecture. According to the AIA Guide to New York “Milton Street encapsulates the history of Greenpoint’s urban row housing with a display of styles”.[1] In addition to the row houses there are a couple of churches and an apartment building. For the sake of brevity, I will only write this post on the North side of Milton Street. The south side will come later.

Two, three story red brick row houses
93 & 95 Milton Street
Two, three story red brick row houses
97 & 99 Milton Street
Two, three story red brick row houses
101 & 103 Milton Street
Two, three story red brick row houses
105 & 107 Milton Street
Two, three story red brick row houses
109 Milton Street
93-109 Milton Street:
The buildings in the above photos were designed and built by James R. Sparrow in 1873-1874. The buildings were designed in the then popular Renaissance Revival Style.[2] They adhere to the design principal of unity by maintaining a uniform height, fenestration and design style with matching details. Each façade was once painted in its own color to discern its individual identity.[1] According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission Report, the houses were likely built as two-family residences.  Most of the homes were sold to craftsmen that worked in the local trades. However, the buildings at 105-109 Milton Street were kept by the Sparrow Family as an investment. Most of the cast iron fences, as well as the stoop balustrades are original.[2]

One, three story red brick row house
111 Milton Street
111 Milton Street:
No. 111 is a neo-Grec style residence built circa 1881-82 by Thomas C. Smith.[2] Smith lived at the small mansion at 138 Milton Street. The Smith home is now the Greenpoint Reformed Church. Smith was the primary developer of Milton Street and designed the majority of the homes that still line the block.[3] I have more on Smith and his former home in an earlier post on the Greenpoint Reformed Church.
One two story row house with bay windows
115 Milton Street
115 Milton Street:
This two-story brick building is a Neo-Classical row house built by Dr. Charles A. Walters ca. 1894. The property was developed as an investment by Walters who lived next door at No. 111.[2]

One, three story red brick row house
117 Milton Street
117 Milton Street:
Thomas C. Smith built the Italianate style house pictured above. The house is a brick structure built atop a rusticated brownstone basement. The house has retained its original stoop balustrade and garden railing, as well as its window guards at the basement.[2]

Two story red brick duplex - row house
119 & 121 Milton Street
Two story red brick duplex - row house
123 & 125 Milton Street
119-125 Milton Street:
The houses are a row of four brick neo-Grec style residences built in 1876 by Thomas C. Smith. They are in two pairs designed to appear like two larger homes.[2]  Unfortunately, the façade of the house at 125 Milton Street has been disfigured and no longer resembles its original historic design. I am not sure why the facade was changed but it now looks like a bad repair job on a damaged building, leaving little historic value. Also, the cornice that spans 123 and 125 has been painted a different color for each address which looks like a mistake.

Two row houses
127 & 129 Milton Street
127 & 129 Milton Street:
Built circa 1876, these homes were also designed and constructed by Thomas C Smith. Due to “renovations” No. 127 no longer has its 19th century character. In the photo it is hiding behind the evergreen shrub but don't worry, you're not missing much. As a reference to what it would have looked like, No. 129 has remained largely unaltered, retaining its Italianate style.[2]

Red brick duplex row house with french style mansard roof
131 & 133 Milton Street
131 & 133 Milton Street:
The next pair of houses adds to the Smith collection of Milton Street structures. Differing from the last two, these were designed in the French influenced Second Empire style. Although No. 131 has been modified, both buildings retain their mansard roof and original iron work.[2]

Two red brick row houses
135 & 137 Milton Street
135 & 137 Milton Street:
More Smith homes… The houses were built in 1878 in the neo-Grec style.  The buildings had a two story bay that rose from the basement to the second floor at the side of each entrance which have since been removed. At No. 135 there is a picture window where the bay used to be and 137’s bay location has been covered with aluminum siding.[2]

Row of several similar red brick row houses with loggias
139-151 Milton Street
139-151 Milton Street:
This brings me to my favorite of all of Thomas C. Smith’s houses. This row of Queen Ann style residential structures maintains a unique identity on the street due to its small arched and recessed loggias.[1][2] The homes are unified by the loggias, as well as the types of brick used, lintels and galvanized-iron roof cornices.[2] If I could buy any building on the block it would be one of this group.

Red brick gothic revival style Lutheran Church
St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church
153-157 Milton Street:
St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church

Large neoclassical low rise apartment building constructed of red brick on a limestone first floor
159, 161 & 163 Milton Street
159, 161 & 163 Milton Street:
This building split between three addresses/entrances is a neoclassical structure constructed between 1904 and 1909.[2] The building is constructed of red brick on a first floor built of limestone.

  1. White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010.
  2. NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report 14 September, 1982
  3. Spellen, Suzanne "Building of the Day: 138 Milton Street" 5 October, 2015

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Lundy's - Lundy Brothers Restaurant

Black and white postcard of Lundy Brothers Restaurant in 1950
Lundy's Historic Postcard ca. 1950 (image source: BrooklynPix)
Photo of Lundy's main facade from across the street, similar view to historic postcard
Lundy's Today
Neighborhood: Sheepshead Bay
Address: 1901 - 1929 Emmons Avenue

Before I get into the history of Lundy’s I should mention that the historic postcard above was purchased from Brooklyn Pix, operated by Brian Merlis. Should you want a thorough history of Brooklyn Neighborhoods I recommend checking out the series of Brooklyn Books he has co-authored with Riccardo Gomes. Their current book is Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and can be purchased at Word Bookstore in Greenpoint or online.

To see what Lundy's looked like while it sat abandoned visit

Perspective photo of side of Lundy's along sidewalk
According to the Village Voice, Lundy’s Restaurant was “the city’s most humongous – and one of the best – seafood restaurants”. The restaurant began as a clam bar but evolved over time to become the largest dining establishment in the country during its peak, employing a staff of 385 people and serving as many as 5,000 meals a day.[1][3] Although the restaurant’s original incarnation opened in 1907 the building that is synonymous with the business was constructed in 1934. The establishment closed in 1981, reopened in 1995 utilizing half its original space and closed again in 2007.[1][2] Today, the building houses an upscale end food market.

Lundy' main facade from across the street
The 1934 Lundy Brothers building was designed by architects Bloch & Hesse in Spanish Mission style for restaurateur Fredrick William Irving Lundy (1895-1977).[2][3] Bloch & Hesse architects specialized in restaurant design.[3] The structure’s style was described by the AIA Guide to New York City as strangely appropriate.[2] Upon viewing the building in person, it does somehow feel appropriately designed regardless of its seeming lack of context with the rest of the neighborhood. The Mission Style is more closely associated with California and the Southwest and is rarely seen in the New York metro area. The building encompasses an entire block and features “sand-colored stuccoed walls, low sloping red mission tile roofs, arched entrances, arcuated corbel tables, decorative iron work and leaded glass windows”. Lundy’s is thought to be the last remaining New York City restaurant building associated with the Mission Style.[3]

Panoramic view of Lundy's shot from directly across the street in the middle of the block
Lundy's Panorama

  1. Sietsema, Robert "Five Dead and Gone Classic Brooklyn Restaurants" 31 March, 2011
  2. White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010
  3. Harris, Gale F.W.I.L. "Lundy Brothers Restaurant Building" New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Report 3 March 1992

Monday, December 14, 2015

Greenpoint Reformed Church

Greenpoint Reformed Church from Milton Street
Greenpoint Reformed Church
Neighborhood: Greenpoint
Address: 138 Milton Street

The Greenpoint Reformed Church is an odd one. Among the many churches still in operation in Greenpoint, it is not a Romanesque or Gothic Revival structure built on a grand scale; it is a humble mid 19th century mansion. That is not to say it’s not a beautiful building. If it were still being utilized as a residence here in North Brooklyn it would be a symbol of wealth. So, how did the church begin and how did it end up in a house?

The Church
The church began in 1848 as the Reformed Dutch Church of Green Point in a building located on the north side of Java Street near Franklin Avenue. The building was a gift of Magdalena Meserole. The expanding congregation eventually required a larger house of worship, at which point they commissioned architect William Ditmars to design a new structure on Kent Street. Built in 1870, the building remains to this day; however, the Reformed Dutch Church of Greenpoint congregation moved to the Thomas C. Smith mansion on Milton Street in 1944 where it remains under a slightly different name.[1] The church purchased the building from the YMCA, the organization that owned it after the Smith Family.[2] Once the church moved it was renamed to Greenpoint Reformed Church.[1] 

The House
The mansion that currently houses the church was the residence of Thomas C. Smith, a prominent Greenpoint resident, successful businessman and builder.[2] The Italianate Greek Revival style house was built in 1867.[3] At that time, architecture did not exist as the organized profession we know today. So, as a builder, Smith designed and constructed his house. He also built many of the other homes on Milton Street.[3][4] The house’s architectural characteristics are described in a section of the Landmarks Preservation Commission Reprt:

Built of brick, No. 136-138 is a freestanding, two story house, which is three bays wide. The full-height central bay projects, creating a pavilion. The entrance is protected by a portico with two smooth Tuscan columns carrying a modillioned pediment with raking cornice. Pilasters echo the columns where the pediment meets the façade. Above the entrance is a double window enframed by a simple sill and pilasters carrying a bracketed lintel. Projecting double window bays with architrave moldings and modillioned cornices flank the entrance at the ground floor. Above these are double windows with corbelled sills and cap-molded lintels. A cornice carried on neo-Grec brackets crowns the house.[4]

Black and White Union Porcelain Works Logo
Colorful, ornate antique vase made by Union Porcelain Works

Thomas Smith & Union Porcelain Works
In addition to being a builder, Thomas Smith was a producer of various porcelain wares. Smith had acquired a small porcelain doorknob manufacturing company to satisfy a debt. After the acquisition he studied the porcelain industry in England and France, then returned to retool the fledgling company to make it “the first hard porcelain factory in the United States”. He named the new enterprise Union Porcelain Works. The company manufactured restaurantware, industrial parts, tiles and other products. Union Porcelain Works closed in 1922 and the factory no longer exists but you can still see some of the company’s products at the Brooklyn Museum.[2]

Looking down Milton Street toward the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua
Milton Street After Filming the Knick
Portico of Greenpoint Reformed Church with Minetta Negro Infirmary Sign
Greenpoint Reformed Church as Minetta Negro Infirmary
On a side note, the church was converted into the Minetta Negro Infirmary for Steven Soderbergh's mini series The Knick featuring Clive Owen. The series is about the people of New York's Harlem based Knickerbocker Hospital around the turn of the last century.[5] I happened to come by to photograph the Church of Saint Anthony a couple of years ago, the day after the shoot and took some extra photos of the Greenpoint Reformed Church. The streets were still dusty from being covered with a sandy soil to create a dirt road and the church still featured the infirmary sign.

  1. Brian Merlis & Riccardo Gomes Brooklyn's Historic Greenpoint Gomerl Publishing, NJ 2015
  2. Spellen, Suzanne "Building of the Day: 138 Milton Street" 5 October, 2015
  3. White, Norval, Willensky, Elliot, and Leadon, Fran AIA Guide to New York. Oxford University Press, 2010
  4. NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report 14 September, 1982
  5. Jen G. "Greenpoint Filming The Knick: Horses on Milton St - Today" 23 October, 2013