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


79-81 Decatur Street,
79-81 Decatur Street looks like a French chateau squeezed into a row of Bed-Stuy brownstones and rowhouses. The fanciful building, dubbed the Clermont Apartments, was constructed in 1891 for Stuyvesant Heights’ expanding middle-class population by Montrose Morris, a prominent Brooklyn architect whose beautiful Beaux-Arts revivals are scattered across the city.

Morris was known for his use of decorative rooflines, Romanesque arched windows, elaborate entryway carvings, bays to add space and light, and brick and terra cotta building materials. The Clermont is made of brick, limestone, and pressed steel trim, and represents Morris’ second attempt at an esoteric style known as French Gothic Revival, or Châteauesque, which combines late Gothic and early Renaissance architectural elements with a flair borrowed from the chateaux of 16th-century France. Nevertheless, the building features several of Morris’ signature stylistic elements, including bunched windows and a turreted mansard roof with dormers and finials.

The Clermont was restored in 2003 by Danois Architects and is now an eight-unit co-op building. Morris liked to place his buildings so that they would dominate the street, and this one, which sits right atop the sidewalk, is no exception. It will catch your eye.


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