A long, long time ago in Bedstuy: discovering the history of our Brownstone.
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
The renovation is moving along nicely! We get excited with every stud and pipe that gets installed! This week we're taking a break from the construction fun to talk about the community and history of our neighborhood. It's been amazing to learn the rich history of our building and also experience a warm welcome to the neighborhood (and our street). It's one of the best things about living in Brooklyn and why we decided to create our home here. We've got to give credit to a couple of friends and readers who have commented on our blog or social media who know far more about the architectural history of Brooklyn than we do!
It started with one of our first Instagram posts. We assumed our place is over 120 years old, because the public records from NYC Department of Buildings track back to 1899 and it was here at that time. Someone commented that our place looks like an Amzi Hill building. That made sense because he designed a lot of the brownstones in Stuyvesant Heights. Recently though a local reader and new friend of ours, Morgan Munsey, contacted us with even more detailed information of the history of our place including pictures of the builder and a census showing the original owner! Turns out it was built by Gilbert De Revere. He was one of the many carpenter/builders active in Brooklyn in the 19th century. In the Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights areas, he was responsible for a large row of houses on Decatur, Madison, MacDonough, Macon and Halsey Streets. He seems to have used drawings by architect Amzi Hill but often did not give him credit. Apparently, it was common practice to buy drawings for one project and keep using them over and over for other projects. He gave Amzi Hill credit on the first few houses on our row and then Amzi Hill's name fell off. It seems like a shoe manufacturer, Angelo Casey, his wife, and 2 daughters were one of the first people to live in the house. It also appears that Mr. De Revere may have met his demise right around when our building was completed. A local newspaper reported in April of 1890 that he died of an "aneurysm of the heart" right here in the neighborhood when he took his horse and buggy out for a spin.
Learning this really brings to light how we don't just own the wood, stone, and land that make up our place but there is a rich history and sense of community that comes with it. The people on our block have pride in it. There are monthly block meetings where a variety of topics are discussed including upcoming spring planting! Apparently our block even made honorable mention for Brooklyn Botanical Garden's "Brooklyn's Greenest Block" and we're making a run for it again this year! We are so looking forward to being a part of this community and being actively involved in our block association.
As we pick out tile and light fixtures it's easy to forget that we are working to restore what has been home to many people over 130 years and is part of a larger history of Brooklyn and Bedstuy. That's why we're here in the first place, and it makes it even more exciting to leave our stamp on what will hopefully be herer for another 130 years.
If you're not as much of a Brooklyn history buff as we are...back to to the renovation fun next week! Make sure to follow us on instagram for the latest updates and check out our YouTube channel for weekly updates on the reno project. Happy Weekend!