A Celebratory Tour, Tracking Ancestor Axel Hedman’s Achievements

By Carole Schaffer

According to Joy Holland MLS, PhD, Division Chief, Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, “The streetscapes of Brooklyn are shaped by the work of countless builders and architects, some famous, some obscure. Some deserve their obscurity. But there are many too who may not have achieved fame, but whose fine work continues to anchor neighborhoods and arouse interest in passers-by.”

Axel Hedman Portrait“Axel Hedman is a name known to people who like to read guides to architecture and Landmark Designation Reports. Hedman’s buildings are dotted through several Brooklyn neighborhoods [–Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Bedford Stuyvesant, Prospect Park South, Red Hook, Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens] …making a lasting and positive impact on the borough’s urban fabric. Born in Norrkoping, Sweden in 1861, Hedman immigrated to the U.S. in 1880. He was naturalized in 1901 and lived in Brooklyn until his death in 1943.”

In Prospect Lefferts Gardens alone, Hedman is responsible for about fifty 1908-1911 limestone homes on Maple Street between Bedford and Rogers Avenues that together produce a unified streetscape of visual grandeur, sixteen 1909 neo-Renaissance limestone townhouses on the south side of Midwood Street between Flatbush and Bedford Avenues, forty-four 1901-1907 townhouses on Lincoln Road between Bedford and Rogers Avenues, and 10 limestone houses and 3 brick houses on Ocean Avenue (one of which was recently torn down by a developer, hoping to replace it with an eight-story apartment building).

Barbara Hedman-Kettell, Hedman’s great granddaughter, researched her great grandfather’s buildings in preparation for a celebratory family tour of Hedman buildings which took place on Friday, November 28th, to honor her father, William Hedman, (Axel’s grandson’s) for his 70th birthday. The family group–Barbara’s parents: William and Cathy Hedman; Barbara and her husband Joseph and their two children Kevin and Laura; Barbara’s brother Greg Hedman and his daughter Ella who live in California–started their whirlwind tour with a visit to Brooklyn Borough Hall where Axel Hedman had remodeled the elaborate courtroom and dome. The group was pleasantly surprised to find a plaque crediting Hedman’s work on view. The family received certificates from the Borough President’s office in recognition of their visit.

Axel Hedman-Design houses on Maple StreetThe 1913 firehouse at 252 Lorraine Street in Red Hook, a 1909 Classic Revival Church on Putnam Avenue in Stuyvesant Heights and Congregation B’nai Jacob on 9th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in Park Slope were also visited. The last was built in 1913 for Congregation Beth Shalom, then sold to an American Legion post in the 1950s. In recent years Congregation B’nai Jacob has undertaken extensive renovations, including the addition of stained-glass windows, in an effort to restore the building to original purpose.

A variety of Hedman residential buildings were viewed during a driving tour of several Brooklyn neighborhoods. Among them were seven 1895-1899 rowhouses on Decatur Street in Stuyvesant Heights, nine 1905 limestone and brick tenements on St. James Place in Clinton Hill, forty-two dwellings scattered throughout Park Slope that were built from 1897-1912 and a single family 1912 Colonial Revival Home on Westminster Road in Prospect Park South.

Midafternoon brought the Hedman-Kettells to Prospect Lefferts Gardens where neighbors on Maple Street, Lincoln Road, Midwood Street and Ocean Avenue graciously welcomed them to view the interiors of their homes. The day was truly an event that the family will long remember. The Lefferts Manor Association extends its gratitude to all of those neighborhood residents who participated in making the family’s visit here an especially memorable one.

The November 28, 2008 posting on : http://brooklynology.brooklynpubliclibrary.org by Joy Holland provides additional information on Axel Hedman and his work.

Axel Hedman portrait, courtesy of Barbara Hedman-Kettell

Axel Hedman-designed houses on Maple Street Photograph, R. Marvin

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