Forgotten by Time and Termites

Hyde & Co. Insurance Map of Brooklyn, 1898
Plate 34
Source: NYPL

The Times profiles life in New York City’s wood-frame houses – a building type that definitely has its charms and pitfalls (I live in a 175-year-old wood house, so I know both). But while they are rare in Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn, north Brooklyn – Greenpoint in particular – is positively overrun with wood-frame houses. The map above shows the north section of Greenpoint (north of Greenpoint Avenue) in 1898 – the yellow represents wood-frame buildings and the red masonry. Other sections of Greenpoint have similar ratios of yellow to red among the rowhouses. Northside Williamsburg and East Williamsburg also have a high percentage of wood houses. The Southside has a much higher percentage of red (brick) buildings, and South Williamsburg would actually show a lot of brown (for brownstone) and very little yellow.

Most – though by no means all1 – of the artificially sided houses in Greenpoint and Williamsburg are either all wood or wood sides and rear with brick fronts. (And most of those are worse for the artificial siding, which traps water and hides water damage, but that’s another story.)

The wood houses of Greenpoint and Williamsburg are generally not as nice as the Civil War-era wood houses of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, although there some very nice examples in the Greenpoint Historic District. Most of the wood houses in Greenpoint (particularly east of McGuinness) are late-19th century tenements, not traditional row houses.

1. With the advent of EIFS (stucco over styrofoam), there is an unfortunate trend of covering over historic masonry facades. The results are usually awful, and the benefits to the building are much less than a decent pointing job would have been.

One response to “Forgotten by Time and Termites”

  1. I lived on Maujer Street btw Morgan and Waterbury. I remember when aluminum siding was all the rage. Many people on my block jumped on the band wagon. And the houses are probably over 70 years old. Many of the houses still have the gas outlet for lighting.