Brooklyn Structure: A Park Slope Mansion with a colourful previous
Editor’s Note: This post was originally run in 2011 and has been updated. You can read the previous post here.
This huge house at 153 Lincoln Place in Park Slope has a beautiful family tree and colorful history. It was built between 1886 and 1887 for Frank Babbott and his wife Lydia and their family. Babbott was a wealthy jute dealer, art collector, philanthropist, and president of the Packer Collegiate Institute, and his wife Lydia was a Pratt, the daughter of oil tycoon Charles Pratt.
This Pratt connection connects the actors in the planning and construction of the house. Lamb & Rich were members of the small group of architects preferred by Charles Pratt, and he commissioned them to design the main building at the Pratt Institute as well as his Astral Apartments in Greenpoint, his massive workers’ housing complex for his employees at the Astral Oil Company.
The house was also built over a Pratt connection. The Morris Building Company actually built the house. They were the construction branch of Charles Pratt’s real estate development side business. The Morris Building Company built groups of speculative workers’ housing, mostly in the Clinton Hill neighborhood, with projects on Vanderbilt and Lafayette Avenues and St. James Place, among others. They were also involved in larger projects.
Hugh Lamb was a Scot and Charles Alonzo Rich was from Massachusetts and was visiting Dartmouth, which is why he designed so many of the institution’s buildings. Nobody knows how they met, but they started their architectural practice around 1880 and after some very beautiful and imaginative row houses in Manhattan, they were hooked up with some of the high rollers of Gilded Age New York. They designed for Pratt, the richest man in Brooklyn, as well as for the Hoaglands, Wheelers, and others. In addition to their townhouses and what is now the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights, they designed some well-known suburban and summer villas in Connecticut and Long Island, For Babbott and the Pratt’s, and Teddy Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill.
Christopher Gray described Lincoln Place in his column “Streetscapes” 153 as follows: “The jagged frieze of brown stone blocks above the first floor rolls and dips like an ocean thrown by the wind. On the roof line, a delicate dormer window fights for its place against the faceted tower, which in turn fights against the chimney on the side view, as well as against a pair of flat arched windows that are as tight as clock springs. A frieze of propeller-like leaves made of brown stone flutters across the side wall of the garden. “
The house has been home to several wealthy families over the years, but like many large houses (this one is 31 by 97.8 feet) it had to be either a school, apartment building, or hotel. The house served as a Presbyterian retirement home in the 1940s and 1950s before moving onto the hotel route. They went to the hot pillow trade, with rooms for $ 50 a night, and not much sleep. Apparently, this poorly kept secret wasn’t searched often, but then one of the ladies of the evening in 1999 was murdered by a John in her room. Eventually the building was sold – the building, which no longer had any original details, was gutted and turned into eleven condominiums in 2004.
It still has a stately and grand presence on Lincoln Place. Make sure to check out the side of the building, it’s just as busy as the front.
[Photo by Susan De Vries]
Email [email protected] with additional comments, questions, or tips. Follow Brownstoner on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook.