Brooklyn structure: heat up with some classic fireplaces

When the temperature drops, dream of blazing fireplaces with a virtual tour of the interiors of Brooklyn’s past. The vintage imagery depicts fireplaces from all over the community in states ranging from wonderfully maintained to slightly rough and sure to offer a bit of historical inspiration.

All of the following interior shots were taken for the Historic American Building Survey. The program was started in 1933 to document the architectural heritage of the United States through architectural drawings and photographs. Photographer EP MacFarland included locations in the five boroughs for the survey in the 1930s, including all locations in Brooklyn.

The living room at 57 Willow Street in 1934. Photo by EP MacFarland via the Library of Congress

The parlor at 57 Willow Street has marble paneling, likely a mid-19th century addition to the house. Among the visible fireplace accessories are an iron, a shovel, tongs, and a small bellows that leans against the mantelpiece. The federal-style brick house from 1824 is still standing. It was designated the Brooklyn Heights Historic District in 1965.

Brooklyn Architecture Fireplaces Vintage Photographs Wyckoff House

The common living room of Wyckoff House in 1934. Photo by EP MacFarland via the Library of Congress

In the 1930s, the fireplace in the common drawing room of the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff house in East Flatbush was no longer in use and was covered. As if by a miracle, the 17th-century home, believed to be the oldest in Brooklyn, weathered decades of change and neglect. It was restored in the 1980s and you can now visit the Wyckoff House Museum and see this fireplace in person.

Brooklyn architecture chimneys vintage photos

The fireplace in the drawing room at Van Pelt Manor in 1937. Photo by EP MacFarland via the Library of Congress

Decorative woodwork and Delft tiles adorn a fireplace in the 17th-century Van Pelt Manor. The house once stood near the intersection of 81st Street and 18th Avenue – now Milestone Park is in Bensonhurst. The family donated the house and the surrounding land to the New York Parks Department in the early 20th century, but in the 1950s the Brooklyn Eagle reported that the house was allowed to ruin. It was demolished in 1952.

Brooklyn Architecture Fireplaces Vintage Photos Lefferts

The fireplace in the dining room at Lefferts House in 1936. Photo by EP MacFarland via the Library of Congress

A wooden mantelpiece in the dining room at Lefferts House features an intricately carved detail band and a fireplace equipped for every need, from tea to warming your feet. The house from the 18th century was already open as a historical house museum at the time of this photo. It was relocated from its original location on Flatbush Avenue near Maple Street to the Prospect Park site and opened as a museum in 1920. The house is still open to the public so you can take a look.

Brooklyn architecture chimneys vintage photos

A view from the hall into the drawing room of the Johannes Van Nuyse House in 1934. Photo by EP MacFarland via the Library of Congress

In this shot of the Johannes Van Nuyse house, a wooden mantelpiece can be viewed through a door. The timber frame house from around 1800 was relocated from its location on Amersfort Place to East 22nd Street in Midwood in the early 20th century. The house is still a private residence and can be seen from the street, which is surrounded on both sides by 20th century houses. The house was designated as an individual landmark in 1966.

Brooklyn architecture chimneys vintage photos

The dining room fireplace in the Schenckhaus. Photo by EP MacFarland via the Library of Congress

The wooden mantelpiece and edging of the 18th-century Nicholas Schenck House in Canarsie looked a little worse in the 1930s. The Brooklyn Museum acquired this house and the 17th-century Jan Martense Schenck House in the mid-20th century. Visit the fourth floor of the museum to see parts of the outdoor space and furnished rooms of both houses – a perfect cold weather activity.

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