So imagine my surprise when, on a walking tour with the Wooden House Project, I learned that 50% of the houses in Brooklyn are made of wood. The Project's founder, Elizabeth Finkelstein and Chelcey Berryhill, one of the contributors to the Project that delights in everything about wooden houses, led our small group through the streets of Brooklyn's South Slope one recent sweltering day, pointing out these reminders of the past that are often concealed by none other than vinyl siding.
Many of us had the erroneous notion that these wooden dwellings were once old farm houses. In fact, they were Brooklyn's early row houses in this neighborhood where most everyone worked in the Ansonia Clock Factory, the major employer dating from 1879, and the stimulus for the neighborhood's development.
|Webster Place – it's a row of 1867 houses with simple porches. This block is what most of the streets once looked like.
|The gingerbread detailing, with spindles and portico columns are not original, but they are of that time.
|Dating from 1863 , this house is located in the Historic District. From this house, the original owners would have views of the Ansonia, which was set on rocky land with immense embankments.
|The mansard roof on this dormered house was popular in the 1860s. It was popular in the 1860s then fell out of favor only to return again in the 20th century.
But for all the love we hold for wooden houses, they wouldn't still be around today, at least not in the good condition they are in, if it weren't for the aluminum or vinyl siding we find on many, like the row of six houses, all clad in different siding on 15th street between 6th and 7th Avenues. This is an inexpensive way to protect the wooden facade. And protection is what they need because once these houses are all gone, that's it. Because they're outlawed, you'll never find another wood house in New York City. Enjoy 'em while they last.