A Very, Very, Very Fine House: The Stories Behind Five of Brooklyn’s Most Interesting Houses

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146 1/2 Java Street,
Greenpoint
Picture the typical Brooklyn home: it’s a brownstone, right? But over the last few years, Brooklyn’s wood-frame rowhouses have experienced a surge of interest both residential and historical. The reason might have been financial, at first—last year the Wall Street Journal reported that wooden houses were going for between a million and 1.7 million dollars, a full million less than a “brownstone in Park Slope proper.” But, as attested by restorationist, tour-leading groups like the Wooden House Project, the recent interest in Brooklyn’s wooden homes is aesthetic, as well.

Wood-frame homes were primarily constructed for working-class residents, so they are more heavily concentrated in and around historically industrial neighborhoods like South Slope, Greenpoint, and Gowanus. They typically have wide-plank (rather than inlaid-wood) flooring and simpler interiors. They’re also old: in many areas of Brooklyn, constructing wooden houses has been outlawed for over 100 years due to the risk of fire. Many have since been covered up by vinyl siding.

146 1/2 Java Street is one of several beautifully restored timber homes in Greenpoint, and our very favorite. It was built in 1899, according to the city’s PLUTO dataset, and at one point was the residence of one member of Greenpoint’s “Slaughter Gang,” which in 1930 committed a string of 20 robberies during which victims were “unmercifully beaten up as well as robbed,” according to a report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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