307 13th Street
I met Richard, who is an architect, when I was conspicuously standing on the street pointing my camera lens at his front door. That I chose to gawk at his house is not surprising; it’s one of those lovely, set-back frame houses with a wide porch and a sprawling front garden. Uniquely for Park Slope, it’s also, for the most-part, freestanding (according to Richard, a small rear addition is the only part of the house that abuts its neighbor). Richard and his wife purchased and restored the house about five years ago.
Because I work for a historic preservation advocacy organization, I am in constant contact with architects performing work on historic properties. Where this is concerned, my experience has taught me that most architects fall into one of two distinct camps: those who see a building’s history as a burden to overcome, and those who see it as the building’s greatest asset. If Richard’s own house is any indication, I’m pleased to say that he falls into the latter category. Having clearly done his research (his c. 1940 tax photo – shown right – was hanging in his living room), I could tell that he and his wife are incredibly loving stewards of this very special home.
I’ll be discussing more about Richard’s restoration process in a future post, but I thought I’d set the stage by digging a little into the home’s history. We know from Francis Morrone’s commentary on the South Slope that most frame houses in the neighborhood were in existence by the 1880s. No. 307 13th Street happens to be an earlier one; like those lovely homes on Webster Place, it appears on an 1869 map (below) of the neighborhood. Which means that this house most likely predated the opening of Prospect Park!
I identified Richard’s house based on the setback, though otherwise the 1869 map is a little tough to decipher since it lacks addresses. The 1880 Bromley Brooklyn Atlas does, however, pinpoint No. 313 13th Street just down the street, confirming that this is indeed No. 307 (remember that on these early maps,yellow indicates wood and pink is masonry):
By 1886, Robinson’s Atlas of the City of Brooklyn shows that the four brick houses at the end of the block had appeared and the official addresses had been recorded:
I’m hoping to be able to do more intensive research on this house, because nothing thrills me more than pinpointing an exact date of construction. As far as the owners are concerned, it’s possible that the home’s first were Henry and Elizabeth Jackson, who lived at 307 13th Street when their daughter Lydia passed away in 1875, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Ownership over the following decades is unclear, though in January 1896, Eagle classifieds advertised “Curtis’ School” (offering individual instruction in shorthand) operating out of the house. H. Curtis was apparently the owner at that time, and in May of that year he sold it to then-acting State Senator Daniel Bradley(!), who gifted the house to his daughter. By that time, Prospect Park was long since complete, streetcar lines ran up and down major avenues, and most lots in Park Slope had been developed - making 307 13th then, as now, a perfect little reminder of yesteryear.