Webster Place

I distinctly recall the first time I walked down Webster Place in the South Slope. I had taken a fortuitous wrong turn and stumbled upon what I still believe to be the most cohesive and magnificantly-preserved row of 19th-century frame houses this side of the East River. Spellbound, I pondered how and why I had never before heard of this magical place.

Well, it’s all very easy to miss. Webster Place is only one block long, extending from Sixteenth Street to Prospect Avenue, and its most striking asset – a row of six intact wood-frame row houses with ornate front porches – sits almost mid-block. The block’s seclusion is certainly part of its allure, as is the fact that it might remind one more of San Francisco than Brooklyn.

Though only six porches survive today, there were originally many more, as evidenced in this 1926 photo of the street:

The same view today (looking north from Prospect Avenue):

Pinpointing exact construction dates for these homes has proven tricky. However a little has research revealed that Webster Place was developed in sections; the sixteen houses on the southern end of the block (including those with porches) were developed as early as 1869, according to a Dripps map from that year, shown below. Note that Prospect Avenue was once called Middle Street.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced in 1868 that lots on the street were being “dug down” in that year. Thus the “porched” homes may have been built shortly thereafter. Indeed, the Real Estate Record & Builders Guide notes that a number of conveyances took place on the southern end of the block between 1868 and 1870, and by the early 1870s the individual homes and their residents were being mentioned in articles in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

When looking at Webster Place today, it’s easy to identify which of its houses were part of this initial development and thus once also had elaborate front porches. The average houses height drops midway down the block; the taller houses to the south were built first, while the slightly shorter houses on the northern end were constructed in subsequent phases.

Webster Place is clearly overflowing with homeowner pride. I would love to know if the restoration of these homes was a collective effort, or if the houses were purchased and restored independently. If any readers have tips on this block, please send them my way!

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  • http://bigapplepreserves.blogspot.com/ JJ Markas

    You are completely right about realtors! Their inaccuracy leads sellers and buyers to believe a property is either over or under priced. When buying a historic property, one almost needs to invest in an architectural historian to do the research for them. But with your site, you are bringing to light important nuances between owning a wooden house versus other types of property in Brooklyn. Thank your for such a helpful resource!

  • John

    This block is so amazingly beautiful. Nice work uncovering some of the historic details on this row. I can’t wait to just take a stroll down it myself some Sunday morning!

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  • http://imby.blogspot.com/ IMBY

    Love your blog. Fantastic start! Wonder why everyone on the one side of Webster lost their porches? I suspect that over time they fell apart and the residents didn’t have the money to replace them.

    I heard that the tax photos were going to be available digitally…. Any truth? IMBY

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks IMBY, I’m a huge fan of your blog as well! The Municipal Archives is working on digitizing some of their collection, and they’ve made it clear that tax photos are a priority. I can’t speak for how soon that’ll happen, though!

  • http://www.bobprinceguitar.com Bob

    We’ve watched these houses/porches being independently renovated, through the 14 years we’ve lived here on Webster Place. I feel very fortunate living on this block…especially being across the street from the porches, as they’re all so beautiful in tandem with the trees (in any season). It’s a wonderful family block with a strong sense of community.

    You mentioned that there used to be more porches. This is, indeed, correct. You’ll notice in the old photo taken from Prospect Avenue, that there are porches built on both sides of the street. Apparently, one of the residents on the west (left) side of the street decided to take his down, sometime in the early ’50s I believe. As all of these porches were interconnected and his house was in the middle; the rest went down, too. I wouldn’t want to have been in that guy’s shoes…

    Thanks so much for this blog space, Elizabeth. I love Webster Place.

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  • alexandra g

    Hi! I am so happy you started this blog! You’ve restarted the fire under me to research my own place, and it’s so nice that you have the map links! I was wondering…with the 1869 maps–have you deciphered what the green, pink, and yellow mean?
    Thanks so much!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Alexandra, thanks for your interest and kind words about the blog! My best guess is that the colors on the 1869 maps follow the boundaries of the old farm lines. You’ll notice that there are names of property owners written within the colored areas. I don’t think there’s a hierarchy to the colors; they’re just meant to differentiate between property lines.

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  • Sasha

    I have lived on this block for ten years and it’s a wonderful happy block with wonderful neighbors. The reason why some of the houses do not have porches are because there was termite damage. On one side the termites wiped out all the porches while my house (21), was able to stop the termite infestation from invading our side of the block. I love that our street is on this website, thank you!

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