Navy Yard

Welcome to Wallabout, Brooklyn’s wooden-house wonderland

Eye On Real Estate

September 24, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to Wallabout. This is Vanderbilt Avenue, which is full of fine wood-frame houses that give the neighborhood its distinctive character.

It’s a wonderland for wood-frame houses built before the Civil War.

Welcome to Wallabout, where some of Brooklyn’s finest architectural eye candy can be found. Just ignore the roar of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and super-busy Park Avenue beneath it.

They run right through this neighborhood south of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which has hundreds of historic homes — including New York City’s largest collection of mid-19th Century wood-frame cottages.

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Famed poet and former Brooklyn Eagle editor Walt Whitman lived in the area, and referred to it in his writing as “the Wallabout.” Though you wouldn’t know by looking at it because there’s no historic marker on the house, 99 Ryerson St. was where he lived and wrote “Leaves of Grass.”

Hall Street, Washington, Waverly, Clinton, Vanderbilt and Clermont avenues and Adelphi Street also have high concentrations of historic houses. The south border of the neighborhood is Myrtle Avenue.

A famed artist of today owns a house in Wallabout, city Finance Department records reveal — Kara Walker, whose extraordinary sugar sphinx wowed crowds at Williamsburg’s shuttered Domino Sugar Refinery.

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Walker bought brick row house 104 ½ Vanderbilt Ave. for $935,000 in 2011 from an LLC with Jeffrey Dweck as its authorized signatory, Finance Department records indicate.  

For the most part, the homes were built for workers at the Navy Yard or other neighborhood industries. Consequently, Wallabout has a look that sets the area apart from nearby neighborhoods with swankier origins.

“It’s an amazing complement to Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. They were developed with grandeur,” Chad Purkey, director of planning and economic development at the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, told Eye on Real Estate. “In Wallabout, you see where the working people lived.”

Wallabout’s wooden houses are “little gems” among the brownstones that spice the place up, he noted.

“They’re an important piece in the historical narrative of the neighborhood.”

Of course, in the present era of Hot Brooklyn, buyers pay swanky prices for Wallabout’s erstwhile workers’ houses.  

Actress Lake Bell bought brick row house 119 Vanderbilt Ave. for $1.55 million in February 2013

with then-fiancé Scott Campbell, according to Finance Department records. Campbell, who’s a tattoo artist, signed the deed as Charles S. Campbell. The couple got married in June 2013.

The house had been on the market for an asking price of $1.825 million through listing agent Brown Harris Stevens.

In December 2013, Alexis Marotta paid $897,000 for wood-frame house 141 Clermont Ave., Finance Department records show.

By the way, the other day we were looking at a map printed a decade and a half ago and noticed its name for this neighborhood is Navy Hill. Some real estate websites use the Navy Hill name.

Also by the way, the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership was one of the groups that campaigned successfully for landmark status for neighborhood homes.

A block of Vanderbilt Avenue was designated the Wallabout Historic District by the city Landmarks Preservation Commission. A five-block area from Clermont to Washington avenues is a State and National Register Historic District.

There are also state and national historic districts for Wallabout’s industrial buildings. That’s a subject unto itself, which we’ll tackle some other time.

Purkey launched a pilot program this year of monthly walking tours of Wallabout — and every tour sold out.

The program just ended for 2014. But we have some suggestions about eye-pleasing historic homes to look for if you decide to tour on your own. (Of course there are loads more. This is just a sampling.)

* Stunning 136 Clinton Ave., known as Lefferts-Laidlaw House, is a “rare surviving example of a freestanding, temple-fronted Greek Revival style structure in Brooklyn,” according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission report designating it as a city landmark.

* Its next-door neighbor at 128 Clinton Ave., the Henry and Susan McDonald House, is another must-see home with graceful columns and a porch.

* The lovely yellow wooden house at 124 Adelphi St., which also has columns and a porch, has a poignant air — it’s dwarfed by the modern apartment building next door.

* We’ve fallen for 93 Hall St., a pocket-size prince of a house. It’s red. It’s got a sweet little front porch where we would gladly while away the hours.

* Yes, we’re obsessed with homes with fabulous front porches and classic columns. Two more that caught our fancy are 102 Vanderbilt Ave. and 123 Clermont Ave., a splendid stand-alone brick house.

* Oil tycoon Charles Pratt built Brooklyn housing for his workers, some of which we’ve written about previously. The very first homes he commissioned as speculative housing for the working class are the fine brownstones at 80-86 Vanderbilt Ave.

* Side-by-side brick row houses come in Christmas colors at 126 ½ Washington Ave., which is red, and 126 Washington Ave., which is green.

* The standout in a splendid set of red-brick Clinton Avenue row houses is 93 Clinton Ave. because of the terrific tree in its front garden and a rose trellis at the front gate.

* Another gracious garden (which includes nifty sidewalk planters) draws the eye to 113 Hall St., a wood-frame house in a deep-blue hue.




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