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Friday, May 17, 2013

A Sam Waterston-inspired tour of Brooklyn architecture

The Master Builder is finally here. It's Ibsen's play about an architect, and when we at the blog think about architects, we think about Sam Waterston. That is, the character he plays in Hannah and her Sisters. Offering a master class in efficient flirtation, Waterston plays an architect who meets Dianne Wiest and Carrie Fisher (aka the Stanislavski Catering Company) at a party, and next thing you know he's cruising around NYC showing the ladies his favorite buildings.

We got to wondering how that scene would play out in Brooklyn, so we gave Andrew Scott Dolkart a call. Dolkart is the James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Director of the school's Historic Preservation Program. He got back to us with a great list of preferred spots and some reasons why he picked them. We have a feeling the Stanislavski Catering Company would have been into it.

New York Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church (now Union United Methodist Church)
101 New York Avenue between Dean and Bergen Streets, Crown Heights

photo by Emilio Guerra

A bold and powerful essay in orange brick designed in 1889 by J. C. Cady & Co. This building has a series of severe geometric forms stepping up to a tall tower, with the masses punctuated by enormous round-arch windows. One of the gutsiest buildings in New York.

Carroll Street between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West
Park Slope

The houses from the 1880s and 1890s create the most beautiful street of row houses in New York City. The prime mover here is the architect C. P. H. Gilbert, early in his career, before he became a society architect. The use of brick is unexcelled on these houses, tempered with magnificent ornament in stone, wood, and terra cotta. Other architects also created amazing buildings on the block.

Albemarle Terrace
2120-2126 Albemarle Terrace, near Church Ave, Flatbush

photo by Emilio Guerra
A one block cul-de-sac lined with red brick Colonial Revival houses designed in 1916 by the little known, but quite prolific local Brooklyn architectural firm of Slee & Bryson. Proof that row house construction did not stop with the turn of the century and evidence of the creativity and picturesque charm that was possible in adapting eighteenth-century “colonial” features to the needs of modern life.

Brooklyn Army Terminal
140 58th Street at 1st Ave, Bay Ridge

Cass Gilbert, best know for his ornate Woolworth Building and Bowling Green Custom House in Manhattan, designed this monumentally-scaled, concrete pair of warehouses for the army in 1918. Not only are these dramatic works of architecture, but they use the technology of reinforced concrete in an advanced manner, creating buildings with millions of square feet of warehouse space as well as massive open courts through which railroad trains once ran for easy delivery of goods. The buildings are completely functional yet also among the most beautiful in the Brooklyn.

Henry and Abraham Wycoff House (the Wycoff-Bennett House)
1669 East 22nd Street at Kings Highway, Flatlands

Built in about 1766, this is an amazingly beautiful and intact survivor of the Dutch farmhouses that once dotted the landscape of southern Brooklyn. The deep sloping roof, porch, double Dutch doors, and board and shingle siding typify Dutch construction at its best.

Bonus Ibsen connection: The mother of the titular characters in Hannah (played by Maureen O'Sullivan) is an actress who played Nora in A Doll's House.

1 comment:

  1. I used to live on Vanderbilt and walked by that orange brick J.C. Cady building every day without really appreciating it. But now I see the "step-up" you refer to and yes, it is fantastic! Thanks for opening my eyes.


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