Park Slope Historic District
The Park Slope Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. 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 Park Slope Historic District contains approximately thirty-three blocks which are almost exclusively residential, with pleasant, tree-lined streets and wide avenues containing houses of generally low height, accentuated by church spires rising above them. The overall character and development of the Park Slope Historic District was determined by its prime location adjacent to Prospect Park. Although the buildings along Prospect Park West, adjacent to the park, include some of the most elegant mansions in the historic district, as well as important examples of their various styles, many of the side streets, such as Garfield Place, Montgomery Place, Berkeley Place and Carroll Street, as well as Seventh and Eighth Avenues, contain outstanding late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture as well, including, on Seventh Avenue, an exceptionally handsome row of Romanesque Revival houses and the imposing Victorian Gothic corner mansion of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. However, it is the long blockfronts of two- and three-story rowhouses set behind deep front yards, with their architectural coherence, rather than the numerous remarkable examples of fine townhouses, which give the Park Slope Historic District its unusually harmonious character. Even within the rows, variety is often intentionally achieved through a wealth of architectural detail, the alternation of curved with three-sided bays, the use of different materials or combinations, the variety of stone or cast-iron railings which enclose them and, most especially, the general physiognomy of the buildings, whether sedately flush-fronted or given animation by bays, oriels, turrets, towers, gables or dormer windows.
The architectural styles included in the Park Slope Historic District are generally representative of those which swept the country between the Civil War and World War I and include a late version of the Italianate, French Second Empire, neo-Grec, Romanesque Revival and the picturesque Queen Anne, or "Free Classic" style, which coexisted with the late Romanesque Revival. The oldest houses in the Park Slope Historic District, numbers 8 through 16 Seventh Avenue, dating from 1860, are Italianate in style. On Seventh Avenue, the 1882 Grace (M.E.) Church best illustrates the mature Victorian Gothic style. With its tall corner tower and picturesque profile, it is a landmark on the Slope. From the period of romanticism and the picturesque came one of the architectural treasures of the Slope, the Montauk Club on Eighth Avenue, dating from the 1880's.
The grand sweep of Prospect Park West, situated adjacent to the park and extending almost a mile, provides one of the most superb vistas in the city. Among its equally outstanding buildings are the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society at number 49, an exceptional example of Romanesque Revival which was inspired by H.H. Richardson. Number 53, the Ethical Culture Society's Meeting House, is one of the best examples of the rare neo-Jacobean style in New York City. Number 28 is one of the fine mansions of Park Slope. Despite its basically French Renaissance character and ornamentation, this house displays arched windows in the Romanesque Revival tradition. Numbers 94 through 107 are neo-Italian Renaissance apartment houses. A way of handling the rowhouse, which lends it interest and distinction, is seen in the row at numbers 108 through 117.
Eighth Avenue, lovely, tree-lined thoroughfare, still retains its late nineteenth and early twentieth century flavor. In scale, the buildings are larger than those on the side streets. The northern part of the avenue is still notable for several old mansions, although others have been replaced by twentieth-century apartment houses. Notable among them are numbers 64 and 66, two magnificent Romanesque Revival townhouses, built in 1889. The Montauk Club, in the Venetian Gothic palazzo style, is architecturally unique in New York City, with its amalgam of European tradition and its ornamentation based on American Indian themes. With the attitude of romanticizing the past which fostered the eclecticism of the period, this building is a remarkable example of the social forces at work at the end of the nineteenth century.
The four blocks in the Park Slope Historic District at the north end of Seventh Avenue, between Park Place and Union Street, contain an interesting cross-section of architectural styles from the second half of the nineteenth century. This section retains its original residential character in contrast to the aspect of the avenue at its north end and below Berkeley Place to the south, where the tendency is to more modest apartment houses and commercial buildings. The group of houses at numbers 37 through 57, built in 1871, is the only complete blockfront with mansard roofs in the Park Slope Historic District, and numbers 42 through 48, the Memorial Presbyterian Church, erected in the 1880's, is a handsome example of late Victorian Gothic church architecture.
Along Sixth Avenue, block after block displays a uniform roof line (dramatically accented by the spires of two churches) which unites the relatively short blockfronts into a homogeneous composition.
Park Place was one of the earliest streets in the Park Slope Historic District to be developed. The earliest houses erected in Park Slope, in 1860, were at numbers 8 through 16 Seventh Avenue; other early buildings were on the east side of Seventh Avenue between Lincoln Place and St. Johns Place, dating from 1871-1872 and the development of Berkeley Place began in the early 1870's.
Sterling Place contains a handsome townhouse at number 130 in the French Second Empire style and number 146 is a charming Queen Anne house built in 1887.
Generally, the rows of brownstones on the north side of St. Johns Place display the qualities of unity and consistency for which Park Slope is noted. These are terminated by the Victorian Gothic rectory of St. Johns Church which was designed as an English country parish church.
The striking feature of Lincoln Place is the wide variety of building types and styles. Noteworthy here is a row of eight houses at numbers 96 through 110 which were built in 1889, a fascinating and romantic combination of Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne.
Berkeley Place is one of the handsomest residential streets in the Park Slope Historic District. The two oldest houses on Berkeley Place, and among the oldest in Park Slope, numbers 116 and 118, are of frame construction and were built in 1862. The large picturesque and asymmetrical Romanesque Revival house at number 274-276 shows, in many of its details, elements of the new classicism of the period.
Union Street is a broad street, a main artery leading up to Grand Army Plaza. It contains homogeneous rowhouses set well back from the street. It is also the place where an original Victorian Gothic carriage house can be found at number 860, one of the few in Park Slope.
President Street is a pleasant residential street consisting almost entirely of brownstones ornamented with many full-height, three-sided bays. Number 869, built in 1885, an individual version of the Romanesque Revival style with its striking simplicity, is a unique example. The imposing neo-Georgian Unity Club is also an arresting sight on this street between Prospect Park West and Eighth Avenue.
Fiske Place and Polhemus Place, located between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and Carroll Street and Garfield Place, are both only one block long. Represented among the styles on Fiske Place are some fine examples of late neo-Grec, Romanesque Revival and neo-Italian Renaissance. Polhemus Place is one of the most attractive streets in Park Slope, with many fine examples of the late Romanesque Revival and neo-French Renaissance styles. Numbers 8 through 12 are three elegant townhouses which are unusual in their original combination of various stylistic elements.
Carroll Street is a tranquil and charming street in the Park Slope Historic District and has many buildings exceptional for their architectural merit. West of Eighth Avenue the blockfronts are fairly uniform, while to the east there is an interesting variety with some highly individual buildings. Number 848 shows the transition from late Romanesque Revival to neo-Italian Renaissance style. Number 850-852, in the neo-Federal style, is one of the last great private residences in the Park Slope Historic District.
Montgomery Place, one block long, begins at Eighth Avenue and ends at the ark. The vista is terminated at Eighth Avenue by a six-story "Moderne" apartment house of the 1940's. Three picturesque and bold Romanesque Revival buildings, numbers 14 through 18, are among the earliest on the block, built in 1887. Number 45, a fine example of the late Henry IV French Renaissance style, was designed by Babb, Cook & Willard and an imposing freestanding neo-Federal brick mansion of 1910 is seen at No. 1.
Garfield Place, one of the most delightful streets in the Park Slope Historic District, with its variety of styles, and containing many architectural gems, includes some fine Romanesque Revival, neo-classical, neo-Italian Renaissance and Queen Anne buildings.
First Street displays a variety of architectural styles, including many fine examples of neo-Renaissance architecture. Numbers 527 through 535 are five elegant British Regency houses unique in the Park Slope Historic District. They combine details reminiscent of the Federal style.
Second Street, with some of Park Slope's most interesting houses, contains an impressive row of late Romanesque Revival at numbers 515-533, one of the most picturesque and unusual in the Park Slope Historic District. At number 631, is a remarkable handsome French Beaux-Arts residence, begun in 1909.
Third Street contains eight elegant limestone residences built in 1909 at numbers 546-552. They are interesting examples of an amalgam of styles, although principally they are related to the Italian Renaissance style. Between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West, Third Street is a spacious tree-lined street unique in the Park Slope Historic District. As on many other streets in Park Slope, this one boasts so many fine houses they cannot all be mentioned, but numbers 617 through 631 is a splendid row of eight neo-Renaissance houses with arched Beaux-Arts windows and doors.
In contrast to the unified facades and straight cornice lines of the Park block, the houses on Fourth Street are of various materials and display a wide variety of features, including picturesque roofs, dormer windows and a fine circular tower crowned by a tall octagonal roof terminating the eastern end of the north side. This variety is indicative of turn-of-the-century efforts to humanize the urban scene.
Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Streets exhibit an enthusiasm for all-white neo-classical buildings inspired by the Chicago Fair of 1893, while the south side of Seventh Street is notable for its group of Flemish Renaissance houses.
Generally, Eleventh Street contains small-scaled residential buildings with contrasts between the rows. The overall effect is one of cohesiveness.
Twelfth Street is primarily a street of apartment houses. One architecturally interesting example is the Waldorf with its distinctly European character.
Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets are lined on both sides by low, two-story houses which give them the feeling of distinct neighborhoods.
The significance of Park Slope Historic District lies primarily in the outstanding quality of its architecture, dating, for the most part, from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beautifully situated adjacent to Prospect Park, it is an exceptionally homogeneous, almost exclusively residential neighborhood with few commercial intrusions. Its history and development, closely related to that of Prospect Park, which contributes to its special character, occurred within a relatively brief span of five decades, from the Civil War to World War I and reflected the desire of developers, builders and architects to achieve the coherence and dignity which are so distinctive in Park Slope.
The care and thoughtful planning expended on the design of so many of the townhouses in the Park Slope Historic District by their builders and architects has resulted in a generally high quality in form, materials and architectural details. In some, the designers have created striking or unusual effects, but one of the notable aspects here is the remarkable consistency and distinction of the blockfronts where individual houses, rows and low apartment houses have been so freely combined.
The whole Park Slope Historic District provides a cross-section of the important trends of American architecture of the time. The styles include principally late Italianate, French Second Empire, neo-Grec, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne and exceptionally noteworthy examples of Romanesque Revival houses, the finest in the city and among the most outstanding in the country; followed by the neo-Renaissance, neo-Classical, neo-Federal and neo-Georgian, representing the last great wave of development after the turn of the century.
Fortunately, the basic quality of Park Slope has been largely undisturbed. Street after street presents vistas unchanged since the turn of the century. Despite social and technological changes, the Park Slope Historic District has, for the most part, largely avoided the rapid pace of rebuilding and alteration so typical of much of the city. Many of the fine old houses have been preserved with little change. While some rebuilding has introduced small sections of more modern architecture, this has not, by and large, destroyed the character of the Park Slope Historic District, and the charming, low-lying quality and human scale of this neighborhood has been preserved. The wide, sunny avenues and tree-lined streets with houses of relatively uniform height, punctuated by church spires, provide a living illustration of the nineteenth-century characterization of Brooklyn as a "city of houses and churches."
Barlow, Elizabeth and Alex, William, Frederick Law Olmsted's New York. New York: Braziller, 1972.
Fein, Albert, Frederick Law Olmsted and the American Environmental Tradition. New York: Braziller, 1972.
Lancaster, Clay, Prospect Park Handbook. New York: Rawls, 1967.
McCullough, David, The Great Bridge. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.
New York City, Landmarks Preservation Commission. Park Slope Historic District. Research File.
Younger, William Lee, Six articles in The Gaslight Gazette, 1971-72.
† Wilson, Susan J., for N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Park Slope Historic District, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.