Brooklyn Structure: A Greenpoint wood body Italianate
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated. You can read the previous post here.
This absolutely charming little house at 141 Java Street has a big history. It’s also a Greenpoint classic, one of the neighborhood’s many timber frame houses built for a middle-class Greenpoint family before the Civil War.
Unlike most of Brooklyn’s brownstone neighborhoods, the housing stock in Greenpoint was built primarily for those who worked in Greenpoint, not those who commuted to downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan. This was a working-class neighborhood – people who worked in one of the many different industries that thrived on the docks and industrial areas of the neighborhood.
The house was probably built sometime between 1855 and 1860 by one of the many anonymous builders who went about their craft in this neighborhood. When you consider that many of the carpenters and builders here at Greenpoint worked on the shipbuilding docks, it is not surprising that they also built their own houses or supplemented their income by building houses. Most of them were designed from plan books or simply from experience.
The builder of this house built a typical Italian clapboard house with a full porch over a brick foundation and a lower entrance.
The house has a simple Italian cornice that looks original and a little more space upstairs in the attic under the two dormers. There is also a rear extension.
A photo of the house from the 1980s shows a very different house than the one visible today. It was covered with asphalt shingles and was dark and crumbling.
Quite a few people have lived in this house for the past 150 years. Since this house was slightly larger than many others and was on a larger lot, it can be assumed that this house generally belonged to people who were a little more wealthy than many here.
A look at the professions of many residents confirms this. Over the years there have been several merchants and shopkeepers as well as other small business owners. The house also had its share of boarding schools and tenants at different times. This house has stories to tell.
In 2002, the current owners extensively renovated the inside and outside in accordance with their approval, restored the dormers, the porch and the rear annex and made other structural and cosmetic repairs, so that the house became a two-family house.
Almost everything that is decorative on the facade of the house is new. And it looks great. I don’t care that it’s a mix of different eras or that the upper porch deck wasn’t there originally. The paint job is well done and the colors have been chosen well.
The stairs and porch are just gorgeous, with beautiful salvaged or reproduced iron railings and neo-Gothic style columns. The house is also very well laid out. You can’t go wrong with flower boxes with spilled greenery and hanging plants. Well done homeowner!
[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]
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