Columbia Place, 1959

Brooklyn Heights holds some of the Borough’s most well-preserved wood-frame houses. The above image of Columbia Place, or “cottage row,” shows us that within our recent past, this colorful row of houses was once covered in asphalt shingles.

What does it look like today you ask?

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    393 West Street facade, 1920

We recently received an email from an inquisitive Wooden House Project reader who wanted to know if we had any information on the shingle-clad building on the West Side highway. There were also several requests in our recent survey to cover more Manhattan wood-frame stories (have you taken our survey yet?).

So we thought we’d cross the river today and share the history of a wood-frame building that is located on not one, but two streets!

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Brooklyn Heights of yesteryear.

The same view today


by Lisa Santoro

Recently, while browsing the New York Public Library’s fantastic photo gallery, I discovered a picture of my beloved Marine Park taken in 1925 with a caption that read “part of one of Brooklyn’s largest developments.” I am very familiar with this row of houses and the scores of others that look just like them; having grown up in Marine Park, I have walked by them almost daily for most of my life.

I live in a wooden house and I didn’t even know it! >


An old wooden building at 20 Goodwin Avenue, just around the corner from the John and Hannah De Coudres House in Bushwick. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library and c. 1923.


Just around the corner from where I live are 382 & 384 11th Street, two of my favorite twin frame houses in the South Slope. Something about their simplicity just speaks to me. Besides that, they’re the only two houses on the block that have porches. Since porches were a very common feature on early wooden rowhouses, it occurred to me that others on the block probably once had them as well.

I consulted the New York Public Library to find out for sure >

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.

But what did these gems used to look like?

by Lisa Santoro

As a child growing up in Marine Park, the Lott House was an enigma to me. Amidst a block of prototypical Marine Park homes of brick and siding with neatly manicured front yards and carports, there stood the Lott House, in stark juxtaposition to its surroundings. Despite not knowing much about the building, I was utterly fascinated by it. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. I was proud to have such a historic treasure in my proverbial back yard, something that I — in my young mind — felt my neighborhood was otherwise lacking. Although I would not have known it at the time, this was my first true combined appreciation of architecture and history as well as the recognition of the importance of such a site within the community. But as grandiose as it was to me, it was also a frightening sight to behold, given its state of disrepair and decay. As a result, the neighborhood kids would attest that the house was haunted. Which made sense. It was, after all, an old, wooden, rickety, presumably abandoned home, surrounded by a large parcel of land full of overgrown weeds and often littered with trash. For years, the Lott House remained in this state. A building that had all the potential to be a neighborhood treasure had been reduced to a broken-down eyesore. This is my memory of the Lott House in the early 1990s.

Yet as I write this piece, my childhood treasure is undergoing restoration. The newly-restored Hendrick Lott House is anticipated to be open to the public in the Spring of 2014.

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Brooklyn Heights was the first incorporated village in the original city of Brooklyn, and thus has some of the oldest (and many of our favorite!) wood frame houses in the borough. This corner may be unrecognizable to us today, but we know it as a site that held one of our most beloved periodicals.

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This coming Saturday, the residents of the beautiful block of 14th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues (a wooden house haven!) will be hosting a block party. The Wooden House Project is excited to be attending the party and helping to man the history table. Stop by for a visit!

I had gotten excited upon finding a photo in the collection of the New York Public Library that was labeled “14th Street looking west from 6th Avenue,” which would have meant that it was a photo of that block. Alas, the label was wrong — this is actually looking west from 7th Avenue — but that’s ok. A beautiful street nonetheless!

What do these buildings look like today?


Today’s “Then & Now” features some lovely porches & spindles on Dean Street near the corner of 4th Avenue in 1929.

But how about today?

Williamsburg is chock full of wooden houses!

What does this street look like today?

What do these two look like today?

boerum pl and dean street

The same view today, after the jump >


other view talman street

Historic images courtesy of Museum of the City of New York and New York Public Library. What does Talman Street look like today? After the jump…

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Historic image courtesy of New York Public Library


On Saturday, April 27th from 2:00-4:00 pm, the Brooklyn Historical Society will be hosting a course on how to uncover the history of your home using images, records and documents from their collection. According to the Society, by the end of the two-hour session “attendees will have learned to piece together the social history of a Brooklyn home or block.”A fascinating opportunity for any frame house owner!

Advance registration is required. To sign up, visit the Society’s webpage.

Have an event you’d like listed on The Wooden House Project? Let us know!

Here is a photo of a woman pushing a baby carriage, circa 1930, past some old wooden houses. According to the Brooklyn Public Library, the location is “unknown but possibly showing the site of the future housing project bound by Bergen and Pacific Streets and by Ralph and Rochester Avenues.”

I love this photo because it really captures the texture of these houses. Something lost with all the synthetic siding that went up later in the century.