Tag Archive for 'centennial'

The Changing Face of Lefferts Manor 1983 – 1993 – Lefferts Farm Divided

Lefferts Farm Divided - Lefferts Manor CentennialJohn Lefferts died in 1895 marking a turning point in the transition of rural farm lands to suburban residences. Breaking with patrilineal traditions, he willed his property to his seven children who knew the value of the land was in cash, not crop production. Within six months of his death, his heirs carved the land into 600 lots for sale.

His son James envisioned developing a residential neighborhood of quality housing with an “aura of respectability.” Lefferts Manor was planned as a rowhouse neighborhood, affordable to the newly emerging middle class seeking suburban comfort away from the grime and drudgery of overcrowded Manhattan.

To ensure that the neighborhood developed along a path to his liking, James Lefferts attached a restrictive covenant to the deed of each lot requiring that, in perpetuity, housing be designed and used only as private one-family residences. The covenant would not permit commercial use of property, rooming houses, and multiple family dwellings, Lefferts specified that the homes be at least two stories, constructed of either stone or brick, and a minimum of 14 feet from the curb. They would cost a minimum of $5,000 to build — a substantial amount, yet still affordable to Brooklyn’s emerging middle class.

The covenant was a selling point in the late 1890s. The new middle class could feel relatively secure knowing that what they viewed as disruptive effects of tenements and boarding houses would be kept at bay by Lefferts’ restrictive covenant.

2-3 Story Modern Stone House Ad - Lefferts Manor centennial

Advertisement from The Erasmian — A Monthly Journal Of School Events
(From Erasmus Hall High School, c. 1901)

Typical Hallway - Lefferts Manor

Typical hallway in a Lefferts Manor home.
Since visitors were usually first received in the hall, Victorian architects drew eleborate designs for the decoration of hallways and central staircases.

Lefferts Subdivision 1898

1898 map of Flatbush showing Lefferts Subdivision with uniform, rectangular lots of 20 by 100 feet, with only a few rowhouses completed (shaded areas).

Continue reading ‘The Changing Face of Lefferts Manor 1983 – 1993 – Lefferts Farm Divided’

The Changing Face of Lefferts Manor 1893 – 1993 – Emerging Middle Class & Victorian Ideal of Family and Home

Emerging Middle Class and Victorian IdealBy the end of the 19th Century, factories rather than farms became the dominant mode of production in the United States. As the industrializing city became more congested and polluted, the notion of the single-family house as haven from the pressures of city life, apart from offices and factories, and as a place for the family to gather became increasingly popular. For middle-class New Yorkers, the protected environment of the family home gained the status of a cultural ideal. This led to a demand for new living spaces, transforming areas such as Flatbush from fields and farming villages to suburban residential developments.


Ideal Victorian Family Home Life
Illustration of the Ideal Victorian Family Home Life
(From Katherine C. Grier, Culture and Comfort: People, Parlors, and Upholstery, 1850-1930)

Idealized Parlor Scene 1869
Idealized Parlor Scene
(Title page illustration from Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The American Woman’s Home: or Principles of Domestic Science)

House in Flatbush 1900
House In Flabush, C. 1900
(Brooklyn Historical Society)

Late Victorian Home on Fenimore Street
Late Victorian Home at 81 Fenimore St., Predating Lefferts Manor Development

The Changing Face of Lefferts Manor 1893 – 1993 – Architecture

Lefferts Manor 1893-1993 ArchitectureThe architectural structure of Lefferts Manor as a rowhouse neighborhood has survived virtually unchanged since the time of its development. By 1899 four houses were built and sold.  507 homes were constructed between 1905 and 1922.  The final three houses were built on Maple Street in 1952.

Every effort was made to distinguish Lefferts Manor houses from the monotony of identical rowhouses that marked so many city neighborhoods.  Architecture in the Manor derives it attractiveness and vibrancy from the juxtaposition of disparate styles.  Even houses within a row differ in ornament and detail. Brick, brownstone, and limestone were used in different combinations and colors to create contrast.

Lefferts Manor received landmark designation from New York City in 1979.  In 1992, it was added to the state and federal registers as an historic site.

lefferts manor 1893-1993 limestone details
Many architectural details on Lefferts Manor houses reward close inspection.

Lefferts Manor 1893-1992 Midwood Street Neo-Federal Neo-Georgian
Neo-Georgian and Neo-Federal style brick houses on Midwood Street built between 1922 and 1924.  These semi-detached houses allowed for shared driveways to accomodate the new era of the automobile.

First Buildings in Lefferts Manor 1898 - Lefferts Manor 1893-1993
Representing the transiton from late Romanesque Revival to the Neo-Rennaissance style, these Midwood Street rowhouses were among the first buildings in the district in 1898.

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The Changing Face of Lefferts Manor 1893 – 1993

By Mary Miller

In 1993 the Lefferts Manor Association sponsored an exhibit at the Lefferts Homestead in Prospect Park. The exhibit was a celebration of the centennial of the founding of the Lefferts Manor development, which grew from the Lefferts’ farm originally deeded to Peter Lefferts by Peter Stuyvesant in 1661.

The exhibit, which was on display from October 9 to December 19, drew on research conducted by six graduate students in the New York University masters’ program in  Public History, who spent both semesters of the 1991-92 academic year researching aspects of the Lefferts family, nearby Prospect Park, and the Lefferts Manor neighborhood itself. They presented their theses in an afternoon of lectures at the Lefferts Homestead in 1992. The exhibit curator, Linda Eber, incorporated this research with information and images from the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Smithsonian, many area residents, and other sources to produce the exhibit. Talented residents contributed to the photography (Andrew Strawcutter), graphic design (Vincent Lisi) and installation plan (Bill Sheppard) of the exhibit, which was a great credit to this vibrant community.

The exhibit topics were as follows: Yesterday and Today, Rural Roots, The Impact of Transportation, The Emerging Middle Class, The Lefferts Farm Divided,  The Single Family Covenant, The Lefferts Manor Association, Architecture, Changing Faces 1893-1949, Changing Faces 1949-1993, Prospect Park, Ebbets Field, Community Life, Notable People, Portraits of Residents.

It was my privilege to oversee this project and act as liaison between the community and Ms. Eber. With the expansion of the Lefferts Manor Association web site, this project can live again. Working with Foster Henry, who made digital images of each exhibit component, and Dennis Kelley, who is organizing them on the web site, we will upload sections of the exhibit over the summer, so keep checking for updates!

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