‘Futurama’ and fine Dutch farmhouses in Flatlands
Eye On Real Estate
Flatlands is full of surprises.
What other Brooklyn neighborhood’s got Dutch farmhouses from the 1700s, an area called Futurama — and houseboats in a marina behind a shopping mall?
The neighborhood has its own special mix of new and old housing, having been one of the six towns the Dutch settled in the 1600s in what became Brooklyn.
At the outset, Flatlands was called Nieuw Amersfoort and encompassed more terrain than it does today.
After that early start, Flatlands remained mostly farmland until the 1830s, says that indispensable book, “The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn,” edited by Kenneth T. Jackson and John B. Manbeck. Development didn’t really rev up until the 20th century.
On a recent spring day, we headed off for a look at Flatlands. We wound up spending two days there, because there’s a lot to see.
We consulted a map in “The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn” to figure out the neighborhood’s boundaries, which we’re mentioning because various people define them in various ways. But everyone does agree that Flatlands is bordered by Marine Park, East Flatbush and Mill Basin.
There’s no subway service in Flatlands, and lots of residents have cars. This neighborhood is one of the few places where we wish we had one — because it would be fun to roll up to the drive-thru Starbucks at 1927 Flatbush Ave., on the corner of Kings Highway.
The Joost Van Nuyse House, AKA the Van Nuyse-Coe House
Dutch Colonial farmhouses are treasures wherever you find them. And this one’s a beauty.
It stands at 1128 E. 34th St., in a yard with a white picket fence. As soon as you glimpse its steep roof with a swoop at the bottom, you suspect the white cottage with blue shutters was built long ago.
The construction dates, in case you’re wondering, are 1793-1794.
Preservationists call it the Joost Van Nuyse House — he’s the man who was probably responsible for building it. It’s also called the Van Nuyse-Coe House as a nod to Ditmas Coe, who rented it beginning in 1852.
It was designated as a city landmark in 1969 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report about it enumerates its virtues by saying that it is “an excellent example of a late 18th century Dutch Colonial farmhouse, that it has superb proportions and fine details, that it has architectural distinction, representing the best tradition of its period and that it is in an extremely good state of preservation.”
A story on the New-York Historical Society’s website by Joseph Ditta says the house, originally located on Flatbush Avenue, was purchased in the 1920s by Amersfort Nursery and moved to its East 34th Street location. Ditta, by the way, was a tireless campaigner for the landmark designation of the Colonial-era Gravesend property popularly known as Lady Moody’s House, which finally happened last year after a wait of a half-century.
The Joost Van Nuyse House’s owners are David Katzman and Antoinette Byam, city Finance Department records indicate.
There’s another landmarked Dutch Colonial farmhouse in Flatlands — the Stoothoff-Baxter-Kouwenhoven House at 1640 E. 48th St. See Related Stories for a look at photos we took three years ago of this historic house, which belongs to Ken Friedlander.
Flatlands Reformed Church
The first worshippers started attending church at this site in the 1660s.
Flatlands Reformed Church at 3931 Kings Highway has a history that dates back to America’s beginnings as a nation.
The landmarked Greek Revival-style building used by present-day congregants was constructed in 1848. It’s made of white clapboard with a tall spire and is set in a historic graveyard. The place looks like a Currier and Ives print of a 19th-century New England country church — if you block out the vehicular traffic on Kings Highway.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 1966 designation report about Flatlands Reformed Church says Pieter Claesen Wyckoff is buried beneath its pulpit. He founded the very first Flatlands Reformed Church in 1654.
As preservation-minded Brooklynites know, his house — which is still standing today at 5816 Clarendon Road in East Flatbush — is the oldest building in New York state. See Related Stories for photos we recently took of Wyckoff House Museum AKA Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House.
Floating houses and ‘Futurama’
Out on the very edge of Flatlands, there’s a massive mall, Kings Plaza Shopping Center, owned by publicly traded Macerich Co.
Behind the mall there’s an Instagram-worthy marina. Fittingly for an area with actual Dutch Colonial houses, a houseboat docked in the marina is shaped like a Dutch Colonial barn.
Back on dry land, there’s a Flatlands mini-neighborhood called Futurama with houses that were built in the late 1950s and 1960. The handsome attached brick homes have a classic look now that a half-century has passed since their construction.
Kenneth T. Jackson and John B. Manbeck’s map of Flatlands shows the boundaries of Futurama as Avenue J, Utica Avenue, Avenue L and Ralph Avenue.