Greenpoint Historic District
The Greenpoint 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 Greenpoint Historic District is located in the northern section of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. The Greenpoint Historic District comprises all or part of eleven residential and commercial blocks. The boundaries of the Greenpoint Historic District are the same as those designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission with a few additions: Number 156 and 157 Kent Street and numbers 97-111 Franklin Street. Although not originally included in the locally designated district, these buildings are architecturally and historically related to those in the Greenpoint Historic District.
The Greenpoint Historic District is primarily a nineteenth century residential neighborhood that grew following industrial development along the Brooklyn waterfront. The buildings include both substantial and more modest rowhouses, numerous flathouses (walk-up apartment houses), as well as a variety of commercial buildings, churches, and banks. Unlike many other Brooklyn sections where it was common to find long rows of houses erected by developers for resale to middle-class occupants, most buildings in Greenpoint were built individually by the owner and a builder.
Within the designated boundaries for the area, the buildings exhibit the architectural styles popular between 1850 and the end of the century, often executed in the vernacular building tradition. The first buildings were erected in the early 1850's and were designed in the then current Italianate style or in a transitional style that combined elements of both the Greek Revival and the Italianate. A typical early frame house from this period is located at 107 Noble Street.
The Italianate style, free of elements from the earlier Greek Revival is by far the most prevalent mode in the Greenpoint Historic District and remained popular with builders in the area for over twenty years. In Greenpoint, characteristic elements of the Italianate style are three or four stories above a basement, high stoops, brick facades, unenframed round-arched doorways topped by round-arched lintels carried on foliate brackets, segmental-arched windows with eyebrow lintels, two-over-two window sash, and roof cornices with foliate brackets and arched fascias. Rows of these houses, like those on Kent Street and Greenpoint Avenue create rhythmically massed and unified block-fronts of great dignity. Italianate houses are also seen at the southern end of the Greenpoint Historic District on Guernsey Street.
A variant of the Italianate is the far less common Anglo-Italianate style. Whereas most Italianate style houses have high stoops leading to ornate doorways, Anglo-Italianate dwellings have low stoops or English basement entrances. The stoops lead to simple round-arched door enframements set into rusticated brownstone ground floors. These houses are often faced with brick above the ground floor and frequently have segmental or round-arch windows. Good examples of the Anglo-Italianate are 99 Milton Street and 125 Noble Street, which were designed with English basements.
Much more common than the Anglo-Italianate is the French Second Empire style, most strongly identified with the decade of the 1860's. In many areas French Second Empire houses are more ornate than Italianate style residences, but this is not the case in Greenpoint where the two styles co-exist; here the Second Empire houses display the features of the Italianate houses but are crowned mansard roofs as at 98-100 Kent Street and 156 Kent Street.
In the 1870's, the neo-Grec style replaced the Italianate and Second Empire in popularity. The basic form for neo-Grec rowhouses is very similar to that of Italianate rowhouses but in its detailing the neo-Grec is characterized by the extensive use of angular and geometric forms and stylized incised carving. Good examples of the style are 1093 Lorimer Street and 128 Calyer Street. A row of neo-Grec flathouses is seen at 79-131 Greenpoint Avenue and on Manhattan Avenue. Rows of neo-Grec houses are also located on Clifford Place.
In the 1880's and 1890's buildings in the Greenpoint Historic District were built in the Queen Anne style. These were characterized by asymmetry, subtle textural relationships, and rich, though often eccentric, ornament. Good examples of this style are numbers 122 and 124 Milton Street. There is also a long row at 139-151 Milton Street in a late modified version of the style.
Institutional buildings in the Greenpoint Historic District include two banks and six churches. The Mechanics and Traders Bank at 144 Franklin Street (1895), and the Greenpoint Savings Bank at 807 Manhattan Avenue are excellent neo-Classical designs. The churches range in style from the Gothic Revival Church of the Ascension built in 1866 on Kent Street to the Victorian Gothic Church of Saint Anthony of Padua (1873) on Manhattan Avenue to the early Romanesque Revival Union Baptist Church of 1863 on Noble Street. Three other important institutions are the St. Elias Greek Rite Catholic Church on Kent Street, originally built in 1869 and 1879 as the Greenpoint Dutch Reformed Church, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church of 1897 on Milton Street, and the Greenpoint Home for the Aged of 1887 on Oak Street.
Ground floor commercial development is seen along the major streets of the Greenpoint Historic District. Fortunately, the architectural quality of Greenpoint has been largely undisturbed since its development. The streets present vistas unchanged since the turn of the century. The Greenpoint Historic District has so far largely avoided the rapid pace of rebuilding and alteration so typical of much of the city. Many of the fine old rowhouses and flathouses have been preserved with little change. The graceful Italianate, Second Empire and neo-Grec rows create a unified architectural composition that continues to reflect their appearance in the third quarter of the nineteenth century.
The Greenpoint Historic District is architecturally and historically significant as an intact nineteenth-century residential neighborhood that was intimately linked to Brooklyn's industrial development. The Greenpoint area grew following industrial development along the Brooklyn waterfront in the mid-nineteenth century. Greenpoint's ties to industry are reflected in the architecture of the district, which includes substantial rowhouses built for the owners and managers of nearby businesses and factories, more modest rowhouses and numerous walk-up apartment houses for the factory laborers, and a variety of commercial and institutional buildings. Greenpoint is unique among Brooklyn's historic districts in that it was developed as residences for those who worked in the neighborhood rather than for those who commuted to downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan. Furthermore, most buildings in Greenpoint were erected by individual owners and builders rather than constructed in groups by developers as speculative ventures. Containing fine examples of the architectural styles popular between 1850 and the early twentieth century, Greenpoint Historic District retains an outstanding level of architectural integrity, relatively undisturbed by twentieth century development or alteration. Greenpoint Historic District recalls a unique episode in the history of Brooklyn and continues to reflect the neighborhood's distinctive nineteenth century ambience.