Here are 14 photos of Central Park Slope that will make you smile
Eye on Real Estate: I took 72 photos of Central Park Slope on Saturday.
I would have taken more. But sunset comes too soon in the wintertime, and historic building facades look prettiest to me when the light of day illuminates them.
Brownstones seem to stretch to infinity when you stand on the sidewalk and try to see to the end of these Central Park Slope blocks.
On the corners of the avenues, there are small apartment houses called flats buildings. Some have shops on their ground floors. My favorites have architectural flourishes like turrets or multi-story rectangular window bays placed right on the corners of the buildings.
There are lovely limestone rowhouses. Clusters of Queen Anne homes remind me of picture-book illustrations of Merrie Olde England. (Decades ago, kids had picture books with stuff like that.)
Nearly all the buildings in Central Park Slope were constructed between 1870 and 1900. It may surprise you to hear that the area has the largest collection of non-landmarked buildings in New York City.
A group called the Park Slope Civic Council is trying to win historic-district status for the area, which is termed “the Center Slope.” The group’s Historic District Committee has launched the Protect the Heart of the Slope Campaign to help accomplish this goal.
The landmarking campaign focuses on the section of the Center Slope that’s just east of Fifth Avenue and includes Union Street to 7th Street. The fourth border is the existing Park Slope Historic District, which for the most part is just east of Seventh Avenue.
The Center Slope just won a Six to Celebrate award from the Historic Districts Council, which it gives annually to New York City neighborhoods that merit historic-preservation attention. Because of the award, the preservation advocacy organization will spend the next year assisting the Park Slope Civic Council in its landmarking efforts.
‘Truly the heart of Park Slope’
I want to mention a couple especially Instagram-worthy Center Slope spots before we hear from the head of the Historic Districts Council about why the neighborhood should be landmarked.
There are two eye-catching flats buildings with multi-story rectangular window bays on either side of Garfield Place at the intersection of Seventh Avenue.
Housewares store and gallery Artesana Home occupies the corner retail space at 154 Seventh Ave. Coffee shop Hungry Ghost is in the corner storefront at 156 Seventh Ave.
Down the street, there’s a cluster of Queen Anne-style residences on Garfield Place between Fifth and Sixth avenues that architecture firm Langston and Dahlander designed. I know who the architecture firm was thanks to a summary of the neighborhood’s architectural highlights that the Park Slope Civic Council wrote.
Swedish-born Magnus Dahlander was a prolific designer of Brooklyn housing between 1888 and 1896. Sometimes he worked with architect Frederick B. Langston, and sometimes with Axel Hedman.
The Center Slope is eminently worthy of historic-district designation, Historic Districts Council Executive Director Simeon Bankoff told me.
“The Center Slope is truly the heart of Park Slope. It’s the area which most people envision when they think of Park Slope and, because of transit and the strong commercial presence, the part which Brooklynites, not just Slopers, are most familiar with,” Bankoff said.
“The blocks off the avenues are remarkably intact with architecture to equal the parts of the neighborhood which have been protected by landmark status for almost 50 years,” he added.
Remember Mayor Schieren?
Let me interrupt to point out especially eye-pleasing residential buildings on the corners of 1st Street and Sixth Avenue. The one at 287 Sixth Ave. has a storefront where Four Seasons Laundromat and Cleaners is located.
At 170 Seventh Ave., on the corner of 1st Street, there’s an eye-catching flats building with a multi-story rectangular window bay. Bareburger occupies the retail space in this property.
The red-brick rowhouse at 472 2nd St. has murals signed by artist Jenna Morello on its facade.
St. Matthews English Lutheran Church is located on one of 2nd Street’s Sixth Avenue corners.
The Romanesque Revival house of worship’s cornerstone was laid in 1895, the New York Times reported (there’s a story about it in the paper’s online archives). Charles Schieren, who was Brooklyn’s mayor at that time, spoke at the cornerstone-laying service.
The brownstones on 3rd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues look especially beautiful when winter sunlight warms their facades. Limestone homes on 3rd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues have stained-glass windows above their front doors.
Park Slope already has three landmarked areas. The Park Slope Civic Council played leading roles in winning historic-district designation for them.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the original Park Slope Historic District in 1973. It includes the blocks of the neighborhood that are closest to Prospect Park.
The LPC designated the Park Slope Historic District Extension, which is in South Slope, in 2012. And in 2016, the preservation agency designated Park Slope Historic District Extension II, which includes part of northern Park Slope.
‘Thriving under landmarks regulations’
“Obviously, Park Slope has only blossomed and thrived under landmarks regulations — to say otherwise would be absurd,” Bankoff told me.
“Park Slope, as a community, has transformed several times since its original development in terms of who and how many people lived in and used these buildings,” he said. “What hasn’t substantially changed in all this time have been the buildings themselves, which have served numerous generations of families and residents.”
What historic-district designation could do for the Center Slope would be to “help guide future investment to enhance the area, not damage it,” Bankoff said.
He pointed to the revitalization of the Pavilion, a movie theater constructed around 1928, as an example of appropriate investment in landmarked Park Slope.
Hidrock Realty initially planned a condo conversion of the neo-Renaissance theater at 188 Prospect Park West that included a rooftop addition and the construction of a new building alongside it. After community opposition, the developer sold the Park Slope Historic District Extension property to an LLC with Nitehawk Cinema founder Matthew Viragh as a manager for $28 million, city Finance Department records indicate.
With the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval, Viragh renovated and remodeled the historic property and turned it into Nitehawk Prospect Park. The popular venue offers in-theater food and beverage service, including alcoholic drinks.
Eye-catching terra cotta
Now back to the subject of the Center Slope. On the 4th Street block between Sixth and Seventh avenues, brick rowhouses have bands of decorative terra cotta on their facades and barrel-shaped window bays clad in stone.
There are terra cotta decorations marked with the date 1886 on brick rowhouses on the 5th Street block between Fifth and Sixth avenues. I assume that was the year they were constructed.
Historic-district designation could help the Center Slope retain its special sense of place, Bankoff explained.
“The issues facing Park Slope as a community — commercial displacement, rising rents, lessening economic and ethnic diversity — will not be exacerbated by additional landmark designation, nor, unfortunately, will they be cured by it,” he said.
“What landmarking these incredibly meritorious blocks will accomplish will be to help ensure that the area’s fantastic architecture and streetscapes remain for future generations to discover and enjoy.”
A terrific turret
On the corner of 6th Street and Seventh Avenue, there’s Greenwood Baptist Church.
According to materials prepared in 2015 for the National Register of Historic Places, Adolph F. Leicht was the architect of this Gothic Revival-style house of worship, which is made of rough-faced granite blocks. Its construction was completed in 1901.
There’s an especially beautiful row of homes that starts at 448 6th St. and extends to 432 6th St. It’s got grand arched windows, stone stoops and a green painted turret.
As long as the Center Slope isn’t landmarked, homebuyers can alter the neighborhood’s historic fabric in any way they wish, as long as they follow New York City Construction Codes and city zoning rules.
Historically intact Center Slope blocks won’t stay that way indefinitely without the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s guidance, Bankoff pointed out.
“No one buys a $2 million historic rowhouse to just move in as-is; people spending that kind of money have their own ideas. It can be something as innocuous as putting in a barbeque and some landscaping, to something as ambitious as building a new kitchen wing and raising the roof to convert the attic into usable rooms,” Bankoff said.
“Landmarks Preservation Commission oversight is critical to ensure that those kinds of alterations are designed to be in keeping with the existing historic building,” he added. “It’s worked across historic neighborhoods in Manhattan facing the same challenges — it can work in Park Slope.”
We all scream for ice cream
Homes on 7th Street are also tremendously beautiful. A cluster of rowhouses on the block between Fifth and Sixth avenues is painted in varying ice cream colors — pistachio, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and a hue that reminds me of peach.
On the 7th Street block between Sixth and Seventh avenues, there are snowdrops growing in one house’s front garden. It was my first sighting this year of these flowers, which customarily bloom in the wintertime.
I asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission for comment about the Park Slope Civic Council’s campaign to win historic district designation for the Center Slope. I included the agency’s response in the story I wrote last week. Here it is again:
“Over the years, LPC has designated three historic districts in Park Slope resulting in the protection of 2,855 buildings and sites,” the agency spokesperson said. “We continue to study the surrounding areas in the context of our priorities in all five boroughs.”
Love this ecclesiastic architecture
I can’t end this story without mentioning stunningly beautiful All Saints Episcopal Church at the corner of 7th Street and Seventh Avenue.
The cornerstone of this yellow brick and terra cotta Romanesque-Moorish house of worship was laid in 1892, the church’s website says.
I should also mention that two of the Historic Districts Council’s 2020 Six to Celebrate neighborhoods are located in Brooklyn.
The other award-winning Brooklyn area is the East 25th Street block between Avenue D and Clarendon Road in East Flatbush. It is lined with Neo-Renaissance limestone and brownstone rowhouses. The 300 East 25th Street Block Association, whose president is Julia Charles, is campaigning to win historic district status for the area.
I met her in November and wrote a story about her group’s landmarking efforts.
“The amount of development in our community is outrageous,” she told me then. “Quite frankly, we’re feeling encroached upon.”
Eye on Real Estate is veteran reporter Lore Croghan’s weekly column on Brooklyn’s built environment. Whether it’s old as Abraham Lincoln or so new it hasn’t topped out yet, if a building is eye-catching, Eye will show it to you. Click here to read about some of my favorites — for instance, the 19th-century house where Cher’s character lived in the movie “Moonstruck.”
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