Crown Heights

What’s your favorite house on Doctor’s Row?

Eye On Real Estate: Mansions grace President Street in Crown Heights South

June 22, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to Doctor's Row in Crown Heights South. This is one of its lovely houses, 1281 President St. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

If you were a surgeon at the House of St. Giles the Cripple a century ago, you might have lived in a Doctor’s Row mansion.

The same goes if you were a healer of yesteryear at Kings County Hospital or Brooklyn Jewish Hospital.

Doctors who worked at these three Brooklyn hospitals in the early decades of the 20th Century gravitated to Crown Heights South as a place to live. And Doctor’s Row, on President Street between New York and Kingston avenues, was an absolutely prime spot.

(Everyone who writes about Doctor’s Row uses the singular possessive. So we’re doing so as well.) We’ve been obsessing about Crown Heights South lately because the Historic Districts Council made it a 2016 “Six to Celebrate” neighborhood — an indication that it deserves preservationists’ attention.

We recently took a close look at the western part of the neighborhood, an area which the Crown Heights South Association would like to see designated as a historic district.

Photographing the west side of Crown Heights South made us want to devote attention to its east side as well. Far too much time had passed since we’d last strolled along Doctor’s Row, or had lunch at a Kingston Avenue kosher pizzeria or Ali’s Roti Shop on Utica Avenue.

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While we’re on the subject of cultural diversity in Crown Heights, it seems emblematic that two iconic religious buildings are located a scant two blocks apart.

The headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement is at 770 Eastern Parkway. At nearby 1417 Union St., there’s the Church of St. Mark, which was founded by black Episcopalians in the 19th Century.

When we walked past the church the other evening, we heard the bells chiming forth with an 1860s hymn by William Walsham How about blessing the name of Jesus.

Where was the House of St. Giles the Cripple?

But back to the subject of the Doctor’s Row mansions.

A 1978 report about Crown Heights South by city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) researchers calls Doctor’s Row “one of the most impressive concentrations of freestanding mansions in the city.” The oh-so-charming houses were built between 1899 and 1930.

Their charm is enhanced by the design of President Street, which is unusually wide —  as in 100 feet wide.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux meant for President Street to be a boulevard when they drew up plans for Eastern Parkway and the streets parallel to it, the preservationist agency’s report explains.

They were the landscape architects who designed Central Park and Prospect Park.

Interestingly, one of the researchers who prepared the LPC report was Andrew Dolkart — a distinguished preservationist who’s now a professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and the author of numerous books about New York City.

As for the places where the early residents of Doctor’s Row worked, the House of St. Giles the Cripple was a hospital that focused on pediatric orthopedic care. It was located at 1346 President St. on the corner of Brooklyn Avenue, in the middle of Doctor’s Row. St. Mark’s Day School now occupies the building.  

Kings County Hospital, on Clarkson Avenue in East Flatbush, remains open today.

Brooklyn Jewish Hospital’s buildings at 555 Prospect Place in Crown Heights North were turned into an apartment complex in recent years, long after the hospital became part of Interfaith Medical Center.

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