Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Look: Franklin Avenue

I took this photo in the snow a few weeks back when I realized that the entire block on the west side of Franklin between St. Johns and Sterling is architecturally consistent. Some of the yellow brick three-story buildings have had storefronts cut into them along the street, and the cornices are different colors, but they are otherwise identical, an unbroken line that descends slightly with the slope of the hill. The surrounding blocks on Franklin contain a number of similar buildings, but only this stretch is entirely preserved.

I set out to discover when these handsome little units were built, but the search yielded very little. The most relevant piece of information I could turn up was in this 1855 map of Brooklyn, which confirms that Franklin Avenue had been cut and gridded by then. My stumbles through cyberspace were not a total wash, however, as I did unearth some fun local tidbits.

I mentioned the Green Mountains of Brooklyn in yesterday's post, and found a great descriptive article from the December 9, 1888 issue of the Brooklyn Eagle here. What's more, I found an image to match the description, a landscape of Crow Hill (a peak in the range) painted by Pennsylvania-born Charles Lewis Fussell. The blurb attached to the painting includes three theories of how Crow Hill got its name, and notes that "The neighborhood was gentrified during the early 20th century and renamed Crown Heights."

So for those who worry about it in this day and age, you are not alone, historically speaking: gentrification has been a process taking place (and a topic of discussion) along Franklin Avenue for over a century.

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