Monday, October 1, 2012

Ones and Twos: Presidential Pardon

Once upon a time, the residents of Brooklyn Heights deemed our 5th President worthy of a street. Then along came an Anglophile who decided some now-obscure 16th-century British nobleman should have the street instead. He instigated a whole Doctrine that for better or worse would influence two centuries of foreign policy, but maybe a street name was a little too much. Nonetheless, Monroe Place eventually found a new home farther north.

Starting just around the corner from the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont, Monroe Place runs north to Clark, terminating at the base of the Cadman Tower housing complex. According to Gerard Wolfe in New York: A Guide to the Metropolis, Monroe Place is the widest street in Brooklyn Heights. This affords the homes ample front gardens, as you can see in some of the photos below. In a disorienting twist, it's also the only street in the neighborhood in which the even-numbered houses stand on the east side of the street.

Monroe Place from the north (L) and south (R)
At the south end of the street, across Pierrepont from the Historical Society, stands the First Unitarian Church, also known as the Church of the Saviour. Designed by Minard Lafever and built in 1844, the Gothic Revival church is the oldest existing church in Brooklyn Heights. The BHS blog has an informative post on the church's creation, along with several images of Lafever's original drawings. Several decades after its construction, the church was retrofitted with stained glass windows designed by Louis C. Tiffany and his studio. 

Church of the Savior, 48 Monroe Place: images of south facade (facing Pierrepont)

L: Detail view of tracery in Rose Window, R: Tiffany window on west facade

Across the street to the west is the Brooklyn Appellate Courthouse, the country's largest appellate court in terms of volume, covering ten counties. The three-story Neo-Classical limestone courthouse was designed by Slee and Bryson and built in 1936. Francis Morrone, author of An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, gives us this gem of a take on the building, which he describes as "Depression Doric":
The building is larger than anything arounds it, it employs its forms rather grandly, it  is white in a sea of reds and browns, and it is elevated from grade level. It sounds like a pure prescription for disaster, yet it is anything but. Somehow the building not only works in its context but enhances it. The scale of the building is impressive, not jarring, and its hard to imagine this part of Brooklyn Heights without it. (85)
Here's a look...

Brooklyn Appellate Courthouse, 45 Monroe Place

A dilapidated 3-story brick building at the north end of the block provides an unexpectedly rich palette, with an overrun cast-iron urn in its overgrown forecourt, set off against a boarded-up hold-out. Austere yet resplendent, its vermilion facade proudly flaunts its rusty lintels and a shiny black base.

More shots of the block follow below, including a view of the front gardens and details of a few of the row houses. The photo in the bottom right shows a portion of the Cadman Tower complex--part of the Mitchell-Lama housing program and the subject of another post. For now, note the bridge from the 3-story townhouses, which connect to the base of the tower across Clark Street (and previously documented at the end of this post).

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