Singing the Praises of Crown Heights North

From the New York Sun

The Richest Architecture in Brooklyn
Abroad in New York
March 23, 2007

It looks like the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will soon designate its 79th historic district, “Crown Heights North.” It is an area of such distinction that it comes as a surprise it’s not already designated. As with many such districts, the proposed boundaries are irregular. It’s bounded on the north by Pacific and Dean streets, on the west by Bedford and Brooklyn avenues, on the south by Dean Street and Prospect Place, and on the east by Brooklyn and Kingston avenues.

A stroll through the proposed district shows remnants of a bygone gentility, when this was one of New York’s most affluent areas. Grant Square, at Bedford Avenue and Dean Street, features a very fine equestrian statue of Ulysses S. Grant by William Ordway Partridge, from 1896 — two years before Brooklyn became part of New York City. The statue belongs to the same intensely naturalistic school as Henry Shrady’s George Washington in Williamsburg’s Continental Army Plaza. Partridge’s statue shows a war-weary general, an image more deeply affecting than that of any peacockproud hero. We owe the sculpture to the members of the august Union League Club, which once occupied the large Romanesque Revival structure at the southeast corner of Bedford and Dean. Built in 1889–90, and designed by P.J. Lauritzen, the building reminds us that this was a fancy neighborhood if the Union League chose it for its clubhouse. Today, the Union League, still going strong in Manhattan, no longer maintains a Brooklyn facility.

The Grant Square intersection features other buildings of distinction. Montrose Morris, one of Brooklyn’s finest architects, designed the Imperial, a sumptuous limestone apartment house in French château style, built in 1892 at the southeast corner of Bedford Avenue and Pacific Street. One of the city’s most felicitous neo-medieval armories, that of the 23rd Regiment, built in 1891-95, stands, with its high crenellated round tower, on Bedford between Pacific Street and Atlantic Avenue. The architects were Fowler & Hough. Around the corner on Pacific Street, between Bedford and Nostrand avenues, is a tucked-away gem, an arts-and-crafts-style church of rough-hewn stone and dark brick. St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church went up in 1886–90 and was designed by the excellent Brooklyn architect George P. Chappell.

A few blocks to the east, St. Mark’s Avenue between New York and Kingston avenues is one of the grand residential streets of the city. At the northeast corner of St. Mark’s and Brooklyn avenues, across from the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, stands 839 St. Mark’s, built in 1869, a Romanesque Revival villa of rugged simplicity and self-assurance. The architect, Russell Sturgis, designed, at the same time and in a similar style, Farnam Hall at Yale University. He was also one of his era’s most influential writers on art and architecture in America. The house’s finest feature may be the willowy, Art Nouveau-like ironwork of the transom on the front entrance.

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Posted Under: Brooklyn, Crown Heights North

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