05 May 2013

The Doors of DeGraw Street

You can tell a lot about the age of a building by its door.

Having lived in Brownstone Brooklyn for quite some time, I can come upon a ballpark figure of a building's age by eyeing up its door and windows. A dead giveaway that you're looking at one of the older brick homesteads in Brooklyn is a Greek Revival Style door.

The Greek Revival Style thrived from the 1820s the 1860s. It was, at the time, a move away from the Federal style that had dominated. The style was used in the construction of churches, banks, town halls, and, of course, houses. As one might expect, a common aspect of the style was columns and pilasters, typically made out of wood, but made to resemble marble. In terms of doorways, the look was austere but elaborate. Small-paned windows framed the door on the sides and top, and the door was bracketed by two columns.

The block of DeGraw Street between Hicks and Columbia is filled with such entrances. One can easily conclude, with a scan of window lintels and doorways, that several of the buildings on the block were the work of a single developer. That so many of these structures have survived relatively intact into the 21st century is a minor miracle, particularly since this is not a landmarked block.

The state of the various Greek Revival entrances is variable. The doorway above, belonging to 148 DeGraw, is handsome enough, but a number of the window panes have been covered up and painted over. 

The entrance above is also in decent shape, though the door is obviously of recent vintage. 

This homeowner made the door nicely "pop" by painting the surrounding brickwork white. But all the surrounding windows have been painted over, ruining the intricate design effect. 

This beat-up old specimen, No. 142, best shows how the buildings used to look. Every window is still filled with glass. Painted white, all the details of the columns shine through. The address is currently under construction. Let's hope they preserve the look of the doorway.

No. 138, meanwhile, also has all its windows, though the door is more modern, and the columns seem to have vanished.


Kent said...

It's interesting how in times past even the simplest of structures had far more detail and interest than almost anything going up today.

Mitch said...

Very informative post!

Anonymous said...

I'm the owner of 142 Degraw and came upon this posting today. We are keeping the doorway original. The door itself we may replace.

Does anyone know a good spot for old doors?

Bob96 said...

Thanks for an interesting and informative post. On a somewhat related matter, I stumbled across the NYC Dept of Buildings permit database, and searching for my old address, saw when permits were issued for the rounds of renovations done to the Union Street brownstone I grew up in-- lastly in 1958, for the smooth and bland new facade and utilitarian wrought iron bannister.