Brooklyn Boro

Take a stroll on Marcy Avenue, part one

November 21, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to Marcy Avenue, where you find eye-catching landmarks like Boys' High School. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Eye on Real Estate

A Montrose Morris mansion and a NYCHA project where Jay-Z grew up.

You can find both on Marcy Avenue.

This historic road leads through the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant and into Williamsburg.

It’s an excellent avenue for an autumn walk. Wear your fingerless gloves. You’ll want to take snapshots of landmarks like Romanesque Revival-style Boys’ High School at 832 Marcy Ave. and Queen Anne-style 232 Hancock St., which was designed by the beloved architect Montrose Morris.

We’ve split our stroll into two parts since we can’t fit everything we want to show you into a single story. This is Part One.

 

‘To the victor belong the spoils’

According to the book “Brooklyn by Name” by Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss, the avenue is named after William Learned Marcy.

The 19th-century politician’s career included service as a U.S. Senator from New York and three terms as New York’s Governor. And he was the U.S. Secretary of State under President Franklin Pierce in the 1850s.

Marcy has a place in the history books especially because of a phrase he inspired, which is “the spoils system.”

In an 1832 speech, he said, “To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.”

He was referring to newly elected politicians’ practice of rewarding campaign workers by appointing them to government posts. This happened a lot in the United States until after the Civil War, an “Encyclopedia Britannica” posting says.

 

‘Mathematical Star’ and Romanesque-Revival rowhouses

We started our walk where Marcy Avenue ends, which is on Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy.

At the outset of our journey, we saw a nifty piece of public art — Ellen Harvey’s marble, ceramic and glass mosaic called “Mathematical Star,” which is embedded in the concrete pavement of Marcy Plaza.

The circular mosaic, which is 20 feet in diameter, resembles a quilt. The quilt pieces are patterns inspired by the architectural details of 18 neighborhood sites.

Marcy Avenue runs through the Bedford Historic District, which the city Landmarks Preservation Commission designated in 2015.

There are eye-catching 19th-century brownstones and ornate brick rowhouses on nearly every Marcy Avenue corner of these landmarked blocks.

For instance, conjoined brick homes at 117 and 119 Macon St. have a barrel-shaped window bay and arched doorways. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report about the Bedford Historic District, Levi Fowler & Son designed the houses in a combination Romanesque Revival-Renaissance Revival architectural style and built them in 1894.

City Finance Department records indicate that an LLC with Joseph Anscher as a member bought 117 Macon St. for $1.8 million last year. He heads a real-estate development business, his LinkedIn profile says.

The city Buildings Department recently issued a renovation permit for 117 Macon St.

Three cheers for Amzi Hill  
On the opposite Marcy Avenue corner, we noticed the four-story neo-Grec brownstone at 112 Macon St. and an adjacent row of shorter neo-Grec brownstones at 104 to 110 Macon St.

Amzi Hill designed and constructed them in 1886 and 1887.

He and his son Henry Hill worked together as architects in Brooklyn during the second half of the 19th century. Neo-Grec is the architectural style for which Amzi Hill was best known.

Nearby on the corner of Marcy Avenue and Hancock Street, you can find the Montrose Morris-designed mansion that we mentioned at the beginning of this story. Next to it, there’s a row of Queen Anne-style brick rowhouses that Morris designed as well.

Advance Australia Fair

On another Marcy Avenue corner in the historic district, there’s a Romanesque Revival-Renaissance Revival house at 272 Jefferson Ave. that Dixon Advisory USA has renovated and turned into a single-family home.

This brownstone was built in 1889.

The property owner is a unit of an Australian real-estate investment firm that has been purchasing and rehabbing rowhouses in historic Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Dixon bought 272 Jefferson Ave. from “the people of the state of New York, by the grace of God, free and independent” — that’s the wording on the deed — for $1,632,946 in 2013.

It previously housed a non-residential state Office of Children and Family Services facility.

Three cheers for James Naughton

Nearby there’s landmarked Boys’ High School, which we mentioned earlier. It was built in 1891.

The brick and terra cotta school, which has frontage on Putnam Avenue and Madison Street, looks like an enormous castle with a supertall tower on one corner of it.

The spectacular building now serves as a home to charter schools.

The school’s designer, James Naughton, was the Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education of the City of Brooklyn.

“An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn” by Francis Morrone says Naughton was born in Ireland and educated at the University of Wisconsin and Cooper Union.

Another individual city landmark, St. George’s Episcopal Church, is located at 800 Marcy Ave. on the corner of Gates Avenue.

Richard Michell Upjohn designed the Victorian Gothic-style house of worship.

He was a gifted architect in his own right and the son of revered church designer Richard Upjohn. Their most important contribution to Brooklyn’s built environment is their joint design of Green-Wood Cemetery’s magnificent main gates.

As for St. George’s, it was established in 1869, its website says. Early church buildings were in other locations.

The landmarked Marcy Avenue building’s cornerstone was laid in 1887. The first worship services took place in 1888.

 

A park whose name was changed

On our stroll up Marcy Avenue, we passed Tompkins Park — actually, that was its original name.

It was rechristened Herbert Von King Park in 1985 to honor a neighborhood activist, a Brownstoner.com story by Suzanne Spellen says.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed the eight-acre park in 1871, the story notes.

This famous duo designed Central Park and Prospect Park.

Rowhouses on the streets bordering Herbert Von King Park are especially beautiful. One standout among them is 660 Lafayette Ave. on the corner of Marcy Avenue.

The Romanesque Revival house was built in the 1880s — and starting in 1901, it was the home of the Rev. Livingston L. Taylor, the pastor of the nearby Puritan Congregational Church, a posting by Matthew X. Kiernan says.

Kiernan, who owns New York Big Apple Images, has taken wonderful architectural photos throughout the five boroughs.

A block away from 660 Lafayette Ave., there’s a stand-alone house at 175 Kosciuszko St. that’s clad with an eye-pleasing combo of metal panels and wood planks.

According to Finance Department records, the house belongs to an LLC with Meshulam Hass as a member, which bought it for $726,000 in December 2016.

The house is now on the sale market. The listing agents are mTkalla Keaton, Reginald Richardson and Shani O’Neal at real estate brokerage Compass.