The Oldest Houses in Prospect Heights, c. 1940

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by Chelcey Berryhill

There are precious few wood-frame houses remaining in Prospect Heights today. Two of them — Nos. 578 & 580 Carlton Avenue — have long since been loved, but work is being done on both. No. 580 is today a mere shell (only the facade stands), and today the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hear the application to demolish parts of No. 578 in preparation for a renovation. The hearing on the new design will take place in the coming weeks.

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No. 580 and 578 Carlton Avenue (or what’s left of them) are quite possibly the oldest buildings in the historic district. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report for the Prospect Heights Historic District (in which these are included), both houses pre-date 1855 construction. Carlton Avenue was one of the earliest streets planned on the new street grid dating from April of 1846. A Mr. Augustus Campbell purchased the property in 1850, and it is uncertain if the homes were present at that time.

One thing that is for sure – today they are very old and very fragile. No. 580 has almost completely fallen to the ground and now only includes its party wall and “Hollywood façade” (as project architect Rachel Frankel puts it). The designs for this house were approved by the LPC in 2011 and are currently in the “Audit Phase” with the Department of Buildings. No. 578 Carlton is still standing, but has a long list of issues: termite damage, water damage, deteriorating masonry – the list goes on. Frankel and her team plan to stabilize the building and use what they can (for instance the beautiful cornice that has been covered for years).

We were curious: What did these houses once look like? We snuck a peek at the architect’s boards to see the c. 1940 tax photos.

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578 & 580 Carlton Avenue, c. 1940

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578 & 580 Carlton Avenue, c. 1940

If you’re interested in the future of these houses, make sure to check our Facebook page for more updates!