Boerum Hill Historic District
The Boerum Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
The Boerum Hill Historic District's rows of houses are concentrated on four long east-west streets — Pacific, Dean, Bergen and Wyckoff — comprising among them a total of ten block fronts. In addition, the short north-south blocks of Hoyt, Bond and Nevins Streets have a few individually significant buildings. The Boerum Hill Historic District also contains several small apartment houses, some commercial structures, and a frame house (360 Pacific Street). Of almost 250 buildings, only twelve buildings have been identified as non-contributing.
The long block fronts characteristically comprise two or three rows of roughly five to fifteen identical houses. Besides a few showing Gothic Revival, Second Empire, neo-Grec, or Queen Anne details, the rows are generally late Greek Revival or early Italianate in style. Almost all are three stories tall with brick fronts and have stoops and areaways. The houses vary mostly in the design of their window and door enframements.
Particularly fine rows of Greek Revival and Italianate houses can be found on Dean Street. The Italianate houses at Numbers 192-218 (1852-53) show such features as pediments with shouldered arches carried on fluted brackets and set over square-headed doorways, similar but smaller pediments over the full-height, parlor-floor windows, and cap-molded lintels over the second- and third-floor windows; their roof cornices are supported by curved, fluted brackets and are set above paneled fascias. On the same street, Numbers 161 to 165 are 2 1/2 story Greek Revival houses. Number 163 has a wide doorway surmounted by a lintel with a cap molding; its recessed door is flanked by pilasters enclosing sidelights and is topped by a glass-paned transom and its narrow roof cornice with brick dentils is set directly above the windows of the top floor.
A majority of the houses have cast-iron railings on both stoops and areaways. In contrast with the generally plain brick facades, the iron railings are elegant and often elaborate in design. Some of the most extraordinary are at 191 and 193 Dean Street and 169 to 181 Wyckoff Street; both sides of Dean Street between Bond and Nevins are lined with particularly fine examples.
A very unusual and striking building within the district is 148 Hoyt Street (aka 136 Bergen), a three-story brick former tavern with apartments above. Although built in 1851, it was extensively remodeled in the 1880s in the Queen Anne style. Among its unusual features are a three-sided two-story oriel set with Romanesque colonettes between the windows and a segmental-arch pediment, a shouldered pyramidal roof, and a metal bandcourse stamped with sunburst motifs beneath the second floor windows.
The Boerum Hill Historic District is an architecturally significant residential neighborhood comprised of approximately 250 mid-nineteenth century townhouses and several small-scale commercial structures built between 1845 and 1890. The Boerum Hill Historic District is characterized by its modest scale, visual coherence and architectural integrity. The majority of the townhouses in the Boerum Hill Historic District were designed in a modified Greek Revival or Italianate style, although excellent examples of the Gothic Revival, French Second Empire, Neo Grec and Queen Anne styles also occur within the area and contribute to its district qualities. Typically the residences within the Boerum Hill Historic District are constructed almost entirely of brick and feature a three-bay, three-story configuration with projecting stoops, below grade areaways and straight, projecting cornices. This similar approach to construction led to the remarkable uniformity in fenestration and building heights which imbues the neighborhood with its distinctive architectural character. Although a number of buildings within the Boerum Hill Historic District have suffered minor alterations or the loss of detailing, all but a handful retain their original architectural integrity in large measure. A remarkable number of townhouses feature their original cast and wrought iron stoop and areaway railings often designed with elaborate Greek, Gothic and Italianate motifs. Entrances also survive in a remarkable state of preservation.
The Boerum Hill Historic District developed within a relatively short period of time beginning with the speculative construction of townhouses in a modified Greek Revival style in the late 1840s. During the 1850s and through the following decade, the Italianate style gradually replaced the Greek Revival in popularity both locally and regionally. This change in taste is clearly reflected in the Boerum Hill Historic District. Styles such as the Gothic Revival, popular during the 1850s, the Second Empire style, popular during the 1860s and early 1870s and both the Neo Grec and Queen Anne styles preferred in the 1870s and later are also represented by fine examples within the Boerum Hill Historic District. Because of their similar massing, fenestration, orientation toward the street and use of materials, these buildings of different styles are aesthetically compatible with each other. Virtually no substantial construction occurred within the Boerum Hill Historic District after the 1880s.
In addition to its architectural and visual attributes, the Boerum Hill Historic District also represents an increasingly rare and historically significant expression of urban middle class housing of the mid-nineteenth century. The neighborhood originally offered economical housing to local merchants and businessmen as well as several locally prominent citizens including Samuel G. Arnold, editor of the Brooklyn Eagle.
Davis, L.J. A History of Boerum Hill. Brooklyn: Boerum Hill Association, 1967.
Lockwood, Charles. Bricks & Brownstone: The New York Row House, 1783-1929. An Architectural & Social History. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.
New York City. Borough of Brooklyn. Department of Buildings. Plans, Permits, and Dockets.
New York City, Borough of Brooklyn. Register's Office. Liber Deeds and Mortgages.
Stiles, Henry R. The Civil, Professional, and Ecclesiastical History and Commercial and Industrial Record of the County of Kings and the City of Brooklyn, N.Y. from 1683 to 1884. New York: W.W. Munsell & Co., 1884.