Brooklyn Architecture and Architects

As part of the CLIR team surveying the archival, manuscript, and photography collections at BHS, we’ve come across several collections that document either iconic Brooklyn architecture or local Brooklyn architects. With the recent conclusion of the 8th annual Open House New York, I’ve been thinking about architecture, the multitude of buildings I encounter everyday, and my relationship with them. From the Hotel St. George where the subway lets me out in the morning, to the George B. Post landmarked building I work in at BHS, to the sprawling Concord Village I walk past everyday on my way to the Manhattan Bridge pedestrian walkway, I am in constant interaction with buildings. Buildings can be destinations, hindrances, or points of reference. They can be beautiful or ugly, memorable or forgettable, historic or everyday.

Not only does Brooklyn have iconic buildings such as the towering Art Deco skyscraper, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building in Fort Greene or the once grandiose destination, the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn neighborhoods have their own unique architectural styles. If someone tells you they live in Fort Greene or Park Slope, you picture rows and rows of brownstones. If you try to describe Red Hook, you can’t do it justice without including both the waterfront red brick industrial factories-turned-artist spaces and lofts, as well the vast housing project, the Red Hook Houses, that are home to over 75% of all the residents of Red Hook. Greenpoint? Vinyl-sided railroad apartments. Williamsburg? The Domino Sugar Factory. Ditmas Park? Candy-colored Victorians.

Our architectural archival collections here at BHS reflect Brooklyn’s architectural diversity. The Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, 1 Hanson Place collection (ARC.116) documents one of the most iconic landmarks in Brooklyn. Our photographic collection captures before, during, and post-construction of the second tallest building in Brooklyn, 1927-1929.

bhs_2006.001.1.02

Williamsburgh Savings Bank building site, before construction, 1927. Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, 1 Hanson Place collection, ARC.116, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (2006.001.1.02).

bhs_2006.001.1.05

Williamsburgh Savings Bank building site, after demolition, 1927. Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, 1 Hanson Place collection, ARC.116, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (2006.001.1.05).

bhs_2006.001.1.09

Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, during construction, circa 1927. Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, 1 Hanson Place collection, ARC.116, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (2006.001.1.09).

bhs_2006.001.1.12

Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, finishing the tower, 1928. Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, 1 Hanson Place collection, ARC.116, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (2006.001.1.12).

bhs_2006.001.1.15

Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, near completion, 1928. Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, 1 Hanson Place collection, ARC.116, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (2006.001.1.15).

The Hotel St. George collection (ARC.100) includes historic picture postcards that make you wish you could have been there when. The hotel, located in Brooklyn Heights,  once had the largest indoor salt water swimming pool and the largest banquet room in the world.

v1989.30.11

Postcard of Hotel St. George, circa 1930. Hotel St. George collection, ARC.100, Brooklyn Historical Society Postcard Collection (V1989.30.11).

v1989.30.14

Postcard of the natural salt water swimming pool at the Hotel St. George, circa 1940. Hotel St. George collection, ARC.100, Brooklyn Historical Society Postcard Collection (V1989.30.14).

William Thomas McCarthy (d. 1952) was a  Brooklyn architect whose designs included large-scale apartment buildings such as the Cathedral Arms Apartments and the Chateau Frontenac Apartments in Flatbush; some of the last single-family homes built in Park Slope; and some of the most iconic housing projects in New York City, all of which are located in Brooklyn. He co-designed four of the seven buildings of Concord Village (1958, finished after McCarthy died), the Red Hook Houses (1939), and the Gowanus Houses (1949). All of the buildings below still stand today.

The Cathedral Arms Apartments and the Chateau Frontenac Apartments are located in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and were built circa 1930.

v1990.70.11

Exterior view of the Cathedral Arms Apartments, circa 1930. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.11).

v1990.70.15

Exterior view of the Chateau Frontenac Apartments, circa 1930. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.15).

McCarthy designed some of the last single-family homes in Park Slope, circa 1920. The homes below are located along Prospect Park West. The driveways were included in the original designs and are still a very unique aspect of Brooklyn architecture.

v1990.70.30

Exterior view of single-family homes in Park Slope, circa 1920. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.30).

Concord Village is located on the border of the Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods. McCarthy co-designed four of the seven buildings with Italian born architect Rosario Candela (1890-1953). The building complex was completed in phases and was finished after McCarthy died.

v1990.70.22

Aerial view of Concord Village, circa 1930. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.22).

The rendering below shows an idealized vision of Concord Village. The delineator was Arthur Frappier.

v1990.70.23

Photograph of rendering of Concord Village, circa 1930. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.19).

The Gowanus Houses (1949) and Red Hook Houses (1939) are prominent parts of the Brooklyn architectural landscape and of Brooklyn architectural history. It’s very rare to read about who designed our large-scale housing projects throughout the city. Today, former and current residents of the Gowanus Houses are creating their own archive of the buildings and the people who live in them on a Facebook page Gowanus Houses Forever, Bklyn, NY. Below are images that help tell the story of the original vision for the housing projects.

v1990.70.5

Photograph of a model of the Gowanus Houses, circa 1950. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.5).

v1990.70.18 a,b

Photograph of a rendering of the Red Hook Houses, circa 1930. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.18 a,b).

v1990.70.28

Photograph of a rendering of the Red Hook Houses, circa 1930. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.28).

v1990.70.19

Photograph of the Red Hook Houses, circa 1940. William T. McCarthy collection, ARC.059, Brooklyn Historical Society Photograph Collection (V1990.70.19).

If you’re looking to do architectural research on your house, building, block, or neighborhood, the Library and Archives staff at BHS has made it easy for you with the House and Building Research at BHS. Or, if you want an in-depth guide to Brooklyn architecture, the BHS staff has curated a selection of books that are available through the BHS Virtual Bookstore.

About Patricia Glowinski

Trained as both a librarian and archivist (MLIS from Pratt Institute), I've had the pleasure of working at some great NYC institutions. When not working on the CLIR survey project, you'll find me hoofing it around the city, looking above store windows, gazing at the city I love.
This entry was posted in Hidden Collections, Library & Archives and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Brooklyn Architecture and Architects

  1. David says:

    Hello, I currently live in the Chateau Frontenac Apartments, circa 1930 building. I would like to know if you guys would have information of the deaths of the people who lived here from then to 1980, anywhere in between. It’s being said that it’s haunted, some with harmful spirits and some with spirits that want to do you harm. People hear noises at night when there really nothing there, pots fall off of shelves and cups would fly off of tables in plain site. I witnessed alot living here for 22 years and so did others. I was preparing a cup of tea in my apartment(age16)and when I put the cup on the table to get milk then came back, the hot cup just flew at me and burned meh.. Incident #2 happened multiple times pots falling off of well hanged kitchen hooks with the hooks still up and right. It leaves me wondering “How the hell did this?”. Well anyway, any help on deaths that occured here?

  2. ginger ogden says:

    this is a long shot. Clifford Record if you can contact me, my daughter bought me a photo album, void of photos for mothers day, at a local flea market for mother’s day. it had an obituary pasted in the front cover with Willey C. Record matching the dates you described above.

  3. Kelvin says:

    I’m trying to find Gowanus housing in the 1940’s and anyone help?

  4. Toby Lorber says:

    Lived in the Williamsburg Houses, Stagg then Ten Eyck Walk (Maujer st) HOw can I find out when my family moved in? My parents were Jack and Ida Wortzel.
    Thank you.

  5. Pamela says:

    I am trying to find the history and architectural style of 1405 Prospect Place in Crown Heights. Please assist.

  6. Chela Chela says:

    Hi Clifford,
    We can’t do the research for you, but we can certainly try to point you in the right direction to find some of the answers yourself in our library. We have a whole section on our website about our genealogy resources. Check that section out, and if you still have questions, you can ask the library staff for more help by filling out our ask a question form. Our library staff gets a whole lot of questions, so it may take us a bit to get back to you, but we will. I hope this is helpful!

  7. Chela Chela says:

    Hi Joan,

    We’ve got materials in the BHS library you might be interested in. Take a look at the descriptions on our website of our atlas collection and our map collection. Many of the maps are also individually cataloged in our library catalog; I would search for Brooklyn maps as well as Fort Greene maps, as many general Brooklyn maps will include the neighborhood and may provide detailed information that can be useful to you. Most of our maps do not require an appointment to use, so come on in anytime the library is open.

  8. Clifford Record says:

    Doing some ancestry work on my Record family lineage…I don’t know if anyone can help me dig up some info. for me…I have a
    newspaper obituary of Willey C. Record-born 11/04/1864 the youngest child of William C.
    Record and Mary Record and was married to Allene Owen 12/17/1884. He left Smyrna, NY
    at the age of 22 and took charge of a creamery in Red Hook-Brooklyn, NY. Does anyone have anything on that?

  9. JOAN PERRI says:

    I’m looking for a historical 1910-1920’s map of the neighborhood of Fort Greene Brooklyn …… if you have access or know of where I could find one please let me know ……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>