Wooden House Lovers! Personal and professional projects have gotten in the way of us keeping you up-to-date with all the latest news in the great borough of Brooklyn. We’re still here, and as in love with wooden houses as ever. Stay tuned, because we’ll still be posting from time to time and will even be squeezing in more walking tours this spring!
Chelcey recently started a job at Landmark West! She’s helping preserve the architectural beauty of the Upper West Side. As for me, I want to share with you all my labor of love — a new site I created for old house lovers near and far. Head on over to CIRCA and start drooling over all the amazing old (cheap!) houses we could have if we all weren’t so in love with Brooklyn <3
It’s walking tour season and Wooden House Project has two upcoming tours for you to join! We’re partnering with Brooklyn Historical Society and Preservation Greenpoint to tour the Wallabout Historic District and the wood frame houses of Greenpoint. See ya real soon!
November 2, 2013
Partnering with Brooklyn Historical Society
Recently landmarked, the Wallabout Historic District contains one of the largest concentrations of intact pre-Civil War wood-frame rowhouses in the entire city! Come take a stroll with Chelcey Berryhill and Elizabeth Finkelstein as we explore the neighborhood’s fascinating early roots and address some of the challenges to preserving these rare historic structures. Along the way, we’ll visit the former home of poet Walt Whitman and discuss the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s role in the development of modern-day Wallabout.
November 9, 2013
Partnering with Preservation Greenpoint
Join Elizabeth and Chelcey as they travel through Greenpoint to discover its hidden gems and industrial history. The tour will take you through the historic district to the jaw-dropping preserved wood frames and beyond the boundaries to highlight some of the sites that make you want to say “Hmm….” From pencil manufacturing to bath houses, this excursion of Greenpoint will have tour goers appreciating and supporting the efforts of the Historic Districts Council “Six to Celebrate” organization Preservation Greenpoint.
As the unrelenting city summer finally gives way to a cooler fall, it’s just about the right time to tackle some outdoor projects and consider the pretty little plants above. They’re the source of one of the most reliably simple and time tested wood treatments in the wooden house owners arsenal of upkeep and repair. This treatment also happens to be one of the most sustainable and earth-friendly wood finishes. Oh, and did I mention, it’s also easy on the wallet?
An array of mallets, chisels, points and more.
Wooden House Project readers may be wondering, “why a feature on a stonemason when our interest is wood-frame houses?” Well, readers, I present two vital reasons (as well as one bonus reason).
A hint: Look up, look down. The answer after the jump.
What a pleasure it was to read the responses to my last post. It seems that not only do folks notice and recognize PermaStone, but they really are interested in finding out how to remove it! I plan to delve a bit more into that process in today’s write up but first would like to practice some preservationist due diligence. In many cases, an encapsulating layer of reasonably waterproof (albeit aesthetically questionable) material may be the best thing for protecting anything historic and wooden behind. If you aren’t sure you have the time, money or DIY skills required by the demolition process, it’s probably best to do some waiting, saving or professional help-seeking first. That caveat stated, let’s get our hands dirty!
Thank you for the instagraming this past week! We especially love the beautiful shingled Queen Anne (upper left corner) taken by Circa Houses in the Catskills. Walking around and found a wooden house? Let us know! Instagram the little gem with the #woodenhouseproject and we’ll show it off to all of our friends.
Last spring, Chelcey, Sara and I were lucky enough to be invited inside the lovely Brooklyn Heights home of Robin Jaffe, who moved there three years ago with her family. Robin’s house at 72 Hicks Street is one of those drop-dead stunning Brooklyn Heights treasures — the kind I’ve walked by many times over and dreamt about. It’s not everyday one gets a peek inside on of the oldest wooden houses in Brooklyn. Luckily for you readers, we took a lot of pictures.
Welcome to our first ever “Best of Instagram” post! Whether you’re walking the streets of Brooklyn, or stumbling upon wood-frames in your travels, we want to see them! We hope to add more of your photos every week, so please keep instagraming. All you need to do is add the #woodenhouseproject to your photo and we’ll display your works of art each week.
The photos above come from our travels this summer to New Orleans, walking around Park Slope, and from Wooden House Project-follower ‘colombianbeef’ in East New York. Thank you all for sharing your photos with us, and we can’t wait to see what you find next week!
Brooklyn Heights of yesteryear.
The Hugo Tollner House, 421 Franklin Avenue
Interior Designer Dionne Rivera dishes on everything—from what inspires her, including her favorite wood-frame house; to regional design motifs; favorite museums and decorative arts collections across the globe—to a breezy walk around Park Slope, her home for the past 24 years. A Seattle native, she earned her degree in Fashion Design in Los Angles. “I’ve always wanted to design interiors, so I was lucky it worked out that I was able to have a home-based business and still be close by for my children.”
Which are some of your favorite wood-frame houses in Brooklyn?
There is a house in Bedford Stuyvesant that has always captured my attention. Looking up the address (421 Franklin Avenue) I found that it originally belonged to Hugo Tollner, son of Eugene Tollner, co-founder of Gage and Tollne. It is an asymmetrical wood-frame Gothic house with a mansard roof. And the wood-frame house that I’ve loved for years on 12th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.
Source: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
For today’s post, we are spreading some of our wooden house appreciation a bit to the northeast to Boston, Massachusetts. Feast your eyes on this wooden beauty! This photograph documents a block of near identical wooden houses –complete with wooden brackets, window shudders and lintels as well as decorative iron railings. This was taken by photographer Walker Evans in 1930 and is featured in the new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art entitled “Walker Evans: American Photographs.” The exhibit debuted on July 19, 2013 and runs through January 26, 2014. A special thank you to James Mahoney of the New York City Historic Properties Fund for bringing this gem to our attention! According to our source, these homes still exist and one even retains its original gingerbread! If anyone is familiar with this block and has a recent photograph, please send to us so we can post and share with our adoring wooden house community.
- Lisa Santoro
A meticulously restored Wooden House next to a diamond in the rough (321 15th Street)
by Arthur T. Rollin
Hello Wooden House Project fans! For some time now I have consumed the bountiful images of our borough’s wood-framed beauties on this site. Like you, I’ve gazed longingly at the detailed and colorful results of many a dedicated homeowner’s labors as they restore and preserve our unique built environment.
I’m Arthur Rollin, an architectural preservationist, history nerd and New Yorker with roots that run deep into Brooklyn’s past. I have recently been welcomed into the Wooden House Project team as a contributor of articles on conservation tips and techniques, and I hope my architectural experience and insatiable curiosity proves beneficial to the site’s readership.
Whether you have questions about restoring a wooden house of your own, or simply are interested in looking at this city with a different perspective, I’ll be here to help. Please do chime in or share photos of your own restoration project or something curious you see while walking down the street. I’ll always be looking for new topics and hope to tailor posts to be as useful as possible.
505 West 160th Street
by Chelcey Berryhill
Today we’re hopping across the East River to introduce you to Charles, one of the original members of the Wooden House Project. While he may not write posts for us, his legacy and dedication to documenting all of the wooden houses in Manhattan certainly lives on! For nine months, Charles scoured the entire island of Manhattan in an effort to document all of its remaining wood-frame buildings. We think it’s safe to say he started the Wooden House Project with this effort back in 1932.
Wood-frame houses are far more scarce in Manhattan than in Brooklyn simply because Brooklyn developed later. Because of fires, Manhattan got its act together long before Brooklyn, outlawing wood-frame construction in its denser sections at an early date. I find myself often scrolling through the nearly 600 photographs in the Charles Von Urban photographic collection online at the Museum of the City of New York. While it’s hard to choose my favorites, here is a crack at it with a handful of photographs that make me smile and say “thank you,” Mr. Charles Von Urban! (all photos in this post presented courtesy of MCNY).
457 12th Street
By now you all know that while I don’t entirely hate vinyl siding, I still love to dream about what’s underneath it. But you know what’s also fun? Looking the other way — at what some of my favorite restored houses looked like way back when. Back in, say, the 1980s. Bring on the vinyl!
Fortunately for me, the New York City Department of Records (aka Municipal Archives) has digitized the “tax photos” they took of every single building c. 1980 (they did this as well c. 1940). So for today’s post I’ve rounded up some of my favorite South Slope gingerbread houses — the ones I talk about a lot here! — and compared them back to what they looked like pre-restoration. All historic photos below are presented courtesy of the Municipal Archives.
Historic image courtesy of the New York Public Library
We love Greenpoint! Our walking tour of the neighborhood’s great wooden houses is just over a week away. Sign up here!
We’re enamored with the pretty little house at 286 14th Street
Building of the Day: 337 12th Street [Brownstoner]
Best Block to Pretend it’s the 1950s [L Magazine]
Architecture: Harlem’s Oldest House [Harlem + Bespoke]
Brooklyn Garden Playhouse [theSweeten]
House of the Day: 250 Cumberland Street [Brownstoner]
Over the river and through the woods…
Don Draper grew up in a pretty great house! [AMC Mad Men Season 6 Episodes]
Before and After: Home Exterior [Better Homes and Garden]
Modern Take on a Traditional Farmhouse in Missouri [Dwell]
Vinyl siding: Love it or hate it?
Well, apparently pigs fly. Here’s a post I never thought I’d write. When I was in grad school for historic preservation, I would have balked at the idea of reading a post singing the praises of vinyl siding, let alone authoring one. Vinyl siding is the butt of many a preservation joke. It’s just so EASY. Covering your house in plastic? Seriously?
But I’ll admit, since starting the Wooden House Project I’ve developed a soft spot for the stuff, and with this post I offer my argument as to why it’s not as bad as everyone likes to think. I’m aware that this is a highly divisive topic, and I’m certainly not suggesting that we all go out and clad our houses in vinyl siding (or aluminum or asphalt, which I’m lumping in here as well). Why? Watch this. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be so quick to hate on it.