The Boerum Hill Historic District represents a rare and historically significant expression of urban middle-class housing of the mid-19th century. The neighborhood, which originally offered economical housing to local merchants and businessmen, is comprised of approximately 250 row houses and several small-scale commercial structures built between 1845 and 1890. The district is characterized by its modest scale, visual coherence and architectural integrity.
Most of the row houses were designed in a modified Greek Revival or Italianate style although excellent examples of the Gothic Revival, French Second Empire, Greek Revival and Queen Anne styles also occur within the area and contribute to the district’s qualities. The residences within the district are constructed almost entirely of brick and feature a 3-bay, 3-story configuration with projecting stoops, below grade areaways and straight, projecting cornices. Although several the buildings within the district have suffered minor alterations or the loss of detailing, all but a handful retain their original architectural integrity in large measure.
The Boerum Hill Historic District Extension added approximately 288 buildings in three distinct areas adjacent to the original historic district designated in 1973.
The residential blocks in the Extension are notable for their largely intact architectural character and their similarities to the existing Boerum Hill Historic District, while the additional section along Atlantic Avenue enriches our understanding of the neighborhood’s commercial and social history. The commercial storefronts and single-family row houses dating from the 1850s to the 1870s were mostly designed in the Greek Revival and Italianate styles; more eclectic styles appeared in the 1880s as the last remaining empty lots were filled, including a row of Second-Empire style houses on Bergen Street, and neo-Greco-style apartment buildings scattered throughout the Historic District Extension.
This mix of styles and the handsome decorative details applied to relatively modest structures reveal the aspirations of residents and developers, many of whom had arrived as immigrants pursuing the American dream. With its proximity to the South Brooklyn waterfront, the Gowanus Canal, and Atlantic Avenue, the Boerum Hill Historic District Extension tells the story of how the combined forces of industry and commerce drove the urban development of Brooklyn in the 19th century. Its architecture is representative of this period of residential design, and its intact streetscapes retain a distinct and cohesive historic character.
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