This post is not part of the "Union Street Project," though the house in question is on Union Street, and we're looking at before and after pictures. 76 Union is nearly at the end of that long Brooklyn street, a few doors up from Van Brunt Street. It's one of a pair of narrow, peaked buildings that are unique to the area. Recently, a regular reader mentioned to me that he had always been interested in the buildings and wondered if I knew anything about it. Since they've always intrigued me as well, I decided to mail away to the Municipal Archives for a picture.
The tax picture tells us that the building has taken some knocks over the years—the arched window at top has been lopping in half, the other windows robbed of their unusual lintels, and the doorway obscured by an awful metal hood—but basically looks the same. The old chimney, the little dormer window on the roof, the fire escape, they're all the same. (74 Union, next door, has been completely refurbished and is in much better shape.)
Otherwise, I still have no idea why some builder went to the bother of building two such ornate, unusual gems so close to the gritty old waterfront. In the old days, they sat right across from a noisy, stinky paper factory, and were just steps away from the old Hamilton Ferry landing. A local historian once told me that he thought the two structures were among the first batch of homes erected in the area, and thus among the oldest in the neighborhood. We're talking the 1850s. I'm prone to agree with him, though I have no proof.