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:
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!