Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Sad Transformation Of A Two Story Multi-Dwelling Brownstone To A One Family Gray Brick Building On DeGraw Street

Above: 325 DeGraw Street back in early 2013 (Photo courtesy of Trulia)
Below: same house now

architectural drawings included in listing for 325 DeGraw Street. 
image via Trulia

image via Trulia

It never ceases to amaze me that some people choose to buy a 100+ year old home in a brownstone neighborhood just to go about mucking it up and stripping it of every historical detail.
Recently,  the two-story, multi-family brownstone at 325 DeGraw Street between Court Street and Smith Street in Carroll Gardens has been subjected to such a drastic 'make-over' that it is hardly recognizable as the same building.  
Granted, the original two-story, multi family brownstone was not one of the more impressive brownstone example in the neighborhood, but after renovation, its new gray brick façade is so devoid of detail and so bland that it strikes a rather jarring note.  Obviously, the owners were not going for 'contextual' design.

According to Zillow, 325 DeGraw Street was sold in October 2011 for $1,375,000.  By 2013, the building was back on the market for $2,125,000, cash only, please.  This time, the listing included a set of architectural drawings and a full set of plans for a renovation was thrown in with the purchase price.  Here is the description from the last listing:

"Rare 25' wide Cobble Hill* townhouse ready for gut renovation and expansion. Cash purchases only. Here's a unique opportunity to build the townhouse you've always wanted. Most recently used as two simplexes over a duplex, this 3,625+ sq ft house can be built out to 5000 sq ft. Perfectly situated between Court and Smith this townhouse is just steps from transportation, and the vast array of specialty shops Cobble Hill is famous for. This home is offered with architectural plans to expand the house into a luxurious 5000 sq ft single unit home with finished cellar. Plans extend the house to 60' deep, accommodating central air, 5 bedrooms, 4 full baths, 2 half baths, huge eat-in kitchen with soaring ceiling heights, four terraces and open view and access to the backyard. Current floorplans visible online. Approved architectural plans available to view in-person while on-site."

*Note: Though the listing stated that this home is in Cobble Hill, this particular block of DeGraw Street was actually included in the 2009 approved Carroll Gardens Contextual Re-Zoning.

By late 2013, the new owner filed plans with the NYC Department of Buildings to convert the existing three-family residential building into a one-family home with an additional story as well as a rear horizontal addition.
The architect on file is James Anzalone of Anzalone Architecture at 332 Douglas Street, Brooklyn.
It is unknown if the architectural plans filed are the ones included in the purchase price.

Yes, I know that DeGraw Street is not part of the Carroll Gardens Landmark District. Yes, I know that owners are free to put a new façade on their building. But in a neighborhood of old brownstones and red brick buildings, why would anyone want to live in a sad looking gray box?


Anonymous said...

I passed by there last week. It's a miss. That end of Degraw could use a lot of polish but this renovation not only did not improve it, it degraded it further.

Anonymous said...

The scale of this fits in nicely with the block since the additional stories are set back. It is clearly not finished yet, I would imagine they will add some detail to finish. And frankly, you have no idea what shape the inside was in. We bought a 110+ Year old building and it had been cut up in to so many apartments and so many renovations had been done over the years that there was NO original detail left (much to our disappointment).

SimpleTwig said...

I have to agree with the second comment, it's quite a big assumption that the interior (or that matter the exterior) was worth saving. In my opinion the original exterior was bland, and these photos are of an incomplete project. Further, the Architect is a local Architect so surely knows what's worth saving in the neighborhood. From what I'm looking at it looks like this Architect is infusing some fresh life into the neighborhood. A healthy 'family' of buildings includes projects representing all ages, and this facade is far from being disrespectful. In fact the building looks fresh and sturdy again, certainly will be a viable building for many decades to come.

Anonymous said...

What a crime. Hideous. Those windows.

Anonymous said...

We live in BROWNstone Brooklyn. The grey brick is very jarring. I noticed how it stuck out like a sore thumb the other day. It's too bad. If they just had used red brick, But I agree in principle with you Katia. Too many times lately houses in our nabe are being stripped of their historic detail. It's a crime.

neil said...

A few thoughts: the illegally-overbuilt apartment building across the street really messed up what might be generously termed a mix of building types and styles, but all roughly the same scale. The building you write about I don't think was ever a typical "brownstone", but looks like a wood frame building with a masonry and brownstone material front applied either originally or at a later date. The building was in pretty bad shape and perhaps at the end of its life. The replacement (and it does look like a completely new building) works in terms of scale, but I'm not a huge fan of the brick color either, although it looks like it was done skillfully.

Anonymous said...

The thing that most represents a neighborhood is the quality of its residents not the uniformity of every building to a certain sytle of color. My guess is that the family who moves in here will be a great addition, and might even be willing to graciuosly give a tour of their beautiful new home.

Anonymous said...

The original building looked to be in very poor shape so I'm not suprised it was knocked down. Not a great fan of the grey box look, but there are similar examples in the area. What offends me most on that block of Degraw St is the unfinished eyesore (polystyrene) building that sits a couple of doors down the street near the corner of Smith St. It's been sitting unfinished for what seems years.

Becky said...

I disagree (with Anon 6:53) about the setback. I hate setbacks and don't feel like they successfully accomplish the alleged "less bulk" feel. To me they always look like hulking Godzilla hermit crabs, or like a guy trying to squeeze into that tiny suit he got back in his 20s. Also the illusion only holds for one view -- the houses on the other side of the block still get their light blocked, etc. As for the façade, totally hideous, I can only hope they will apply further rendering to it.

RC said...

Don't worry, Katia. In another 100 years you'll like it. :)

Seriously, I do think the design keeps the architectural rhythm of the street and isn't all that jarring. The brick is new and hasn't weathered yet, and the facade's not finished, nor is the terrace landscaped yet. Left's critique it once it's done, or once we can see the architect's plan drawings.

Anonymous said...

Is this the "Bertha" home? With so much scaffolding and work going on around those old houses, I can't see the doorways anymore. But one of those delapidated houses had the name Bertha lettered over the front door. I always wondered what the story was behind the house's name. There is a slightly crackpot charm to this particular end of Degraw Street. The different colored fronts and weird brick patterning. The yards cluttered with debris and also a gorgeous overgrown rose bush. I realize the buildings were crumbling to pieces and I am sure the replacement buildings will be tastefully modern, but I will miss these zany old friends who kept the past from being completely uprooted from the present.

Anonymous said...

I live down the street and watched this go up. Not really sure what the thought process of the owner/architect/ contractor here. My assumption (now incorrect) was that this was being revovated and converted to condos. If this is a spec-built single family home, I am not sure that it will be a quick sale at all.

The building was in very poor condition before renovation began with large cracks in the facade and apparent structural damage. But the renovation/reconstruction left it exposed to the elements for months, so I am not sure of the quality of the work.

The building is out of context with the block and the area. The blue bricks are a cheap alternative to traditional and the windows, which have no lintels, are simply holes in the facade. There is no cornice. When it is finished, it will still look like a piece of crap.

@ 11:05 - How do you have any idea what kind of person will buy/rent this home? And how do you know it will be lovely inside.

Anonymous said...

I give some credit for updating it rather than tearing it down, but going from a multi-family home to a single-family dwelling seems like the real crime. How much space do people really need? Isn't rising rents enough to push so many of us out of the area, now we have to contend with units?

C.G. Family since before ST. Agnes was built said...


Having grown-up on DeGraw I can tell you that this house was once a One Family until the late 1960's / early 1970's. So these people are just turning it back to the way it was.

Also, there were at least 2 other "Grey Brick" buildings on that same block whose facade was "Brown-Stoned" when they needed re-pointing.

Do I like the Grey Brick - NO. But it is certainly not the 1st house on that block to ever have a light-grey exterior.

Note: Depending on the finish of the brick, these Grey, Blue, White 'bricks' are less pourious and have a longer life span than traditional "red brick"

Please keep in mind that the reason most "Brown Stones" are "Brown" is becasue it's a coating over cinder block.
Had the original building been designed with a Brick Outer Wall they would have crumbled away by now, or needed to have been replaced, or had covered with Vynil Siding in the 1970's. In this case, it was it seems to have been "Brown-Stoned" in the front - - - but note the vynil on the side of the 'original picture'

I know you're still NEW to the neighborhood Katia, but don't worry, you'll fit in soon. Or like someone else wrote, in 100 years you might like it afterall.