Monday, September 22, 2014

THE "COPPER HOUSE" - Residence of Niels Poulson, Esq., Bay Ridge, N. Y.

The glint of the copper clad house looking north can be seen in this Shore Road postcard. At the right is the elaborate entrance to the William F. Kenny estate. 
    A prominent feature of this issue is an article descriptive of what has lately been called in New York and vicinity the "copper" house. The name was given to it during the time it was in process of erection and is the compliment which the public pays to something unusual in building construction and ornamentation. The exterior embellishment of copper, however, is not the only striking feature about the building. The frame work, the manner in which the floors have been laid, the fire-proof construction and the method of heating, as well as other features, command attention. Our illustrations and description are sufficiently complete to give the reader a very clear idea of the appearance of the house, as well as a conception of the construction in all its various details. Carpentry and Building 1891

The entire exterior surface is covered with copper, the fact which gives the structure its name, the "copper house". Many of the panels are ornamented with designs of a unique character. Conspicuous features of ornamentation are four circular panels representing America, Europe, Asia and Africa, which are copied from the celebrated Albert Memorial. Each of these panels is 3 feet in diameter, there being two upon the front and two upon the side of the house.

   Niels Poulson made his reputation as one of Brooklyn's leading businessmen in the early part of the 20th century. As head of the Hecla Iron Works, he was responsible for the ornamental flourishes of such New York landmarks as Grand Central Station and the original Penn Station. At its height, the works would employ one thousand workers.  Poulson created an evening school for training ironworkers and is credited with raising the standard of iron construction in America. This public-spirited Scandinavian left a fortune, which today still funds scholarships and Danish cultural exhibitions. Source

Residence of Niels Poulson, Esq., Near Fort Hamilton, Long Island, N. Y.
James M. Farnsworth, Architect.

   Poulson designed and built his family's home on Shore Road and the corner of 88th Street in Bay Ridge in 1890. It was famous as the "Copper House". It is believed to have been the first steel-framed private house in America, and was sheathed entirely in copper. The house garnered enormous publicity for its novelty and for the excellence of its construction, but none of that helped it from being demolished in 1930. Poulson died in 1911 at the age of sixty-eight in his Brooklyn home. His company hung on until just after World War I, by which time the great age of ornamental iron had come and gone. An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn
December, 1891

   THE HOUSE which we illustrate in our plate supplement and upon the following pages embodies features of construction and ornamentation which cannot fail to prove highly interesting not only to builders and architects, but to various craftsmen as well. What has been done in connection with this building might almost be said to mark a new era in both construction and ornamentation. The ornamentation is at least a departure from common practice, for while something of a similar nature in the way of decorative effects may have been attempted before, the expense been so great as to prove discouraging. In this case it is claimed the cost has been kept at a reasonable figure. We sum it all up when we say copper, brick and cement have been so happily combined as to produce a warm, dry and attractive dwelling, and one that commands the attention of all who visit it. The methods employed the ideas of the owner in an effort secure fire-proof construction and to make use of galvano-plastic metal in a way to produce striking effects. The work as it stands represents the result of long and careful study on the part of the owner, and in its execution many novel methods hare been employed.

Residence of Niels Poulson, Esq., Near Fort Hamilton, Long Island, N. Y.
James M. Farnsworth, Architect.

   The house, which in the home of Niles Poulson of the architectural iron firm of Poulson& Eger of this city, stands upon the bluffs near Fort Hamilton, Long Island and commands a beautiful view of the Narrows, Staten Island, Fort Wadsworth and Hamilton and a broad expanse of water. The picture in the supplement plate represents the house as it appears from the street, which separates it from the edge of the bluffs. The drawings of the structure were prepared by Architect James M. Farnsworth of No. 5 Beekman Street, New York City, and were carried into effect under the personal supervision of that gentleman and the owner.

Residence of Niels Poulson, Esq., Near Fort Hamilton, Long Island, N. Y.
James M. Farnsworth, Architect.

Residence of Niels Poulson, Esq., Near Fort Hamilton, Long Island, N. Y.
James M. Farnsworth, Architect.

   The floor plans, which are shown in Figs. 1 and 2 of the illustrations, indicate in a very clear and comprehensive manner the size and location of the various rooms upon the first and second floors of the dwelling. It will be seen that the main hall, octagonal in general shape, is entered through a vestibule from a broad veranda extending across the front and partially on two sides of the house. Opening from the main hall are the library, some 17 feet square, the parlor or drawing room, 21 feet square, and the dining room, which is 15 x 31 feet in size. The openings are covered by rich heavy portteres, and above each is a semicircular piece of wrought-iron work of graceful design. The stairway is at the left as one enters the hall and extends to the third story. A portion of the dining room is partitioned off into a breakfast room by folding doors carrying wrought-iron panels of beautiful design, made by Winslow Bros, of Chicago. At the extreme end of the house is the kitchen, from which the dining room is reached through the servants' hall and pantry. Beyond the dining room is a conservatory made of cast-iron rafters and supports, and covered with 3/8-inch glass. At one side and to the left of the conservatory is a hothouse. 

Fig.4.-Interior View of Conservatory.

    These are more clearly indicated in Figs. 3 and 4, which represent a side elevation of the house and an interior view of the conservatory. Upon the second floor of the dwelling are three sleeping rooms, billiard room, sewing room, bathroom and two servants' rooms. Opening out of the principal chamber is a bathroom and dressing room. The rooms of the house are finished with plaster applied directly to the brick walls, and then covered with paper of artistic shade and design.

The first impression given one upon entering the hall is the liberal use of metal and the peculiar formation of the floor and ceiling. The floor is finished with delicately tinted tile, so arranged as to constitute an elaborate design of striking effect.  The decorated cast iron ribs, arched across the ceiling, the bronze treated columns between the openings into the various apartments, the rich and elaborately decorated mantel, the wrought iron work in the semicircular archways, and the iron railing about the circular opening on the second floor, are a combination to produce an effect which is peculiarly striking.

Fig. 6-View in Main Hall, Showing Ceiling and Ornamental Railing About the Circular Opening at Second Story.


"The Copper House"—Fig.7—Mantel and Grate in Main Hall, with View of Dining Room at the Right.

   One of the first things to impress the visitor upon entering the main hall, views of which are shown in Figs. 6 and 7, is the liberal use of metal work and the peculiar formation of the floor and ceiling. The floor finish is of delicately tinted tile so arranged as to constitute an elaborate design of striking effect. The decorated cast-iron ribs, arched across the ceiling, the bronze treated columns between the openings into the different rooms, the rich and elaborately decorated mantel, the wrought-iron work over the portteres, and the iron railing about the circular opening on the second floor, combine to produce an effect which is peculiarly striking. The ceiling of the main hall, as well as that of all the other rooms in the house, is of novel construction, and is of great interest to the building trades. It involves the use of ordinary flat bar iron and cement, and represents the ideas of the owner of the building as to what constitutes absolutely fire-proof construction. The plan pursued is such that the ceiling of one room is the basis of the floor of the apartment above. 

The "Copper' House.—Fig. 10.—Plan of Bar Iron Frame for Floor and Ceiling Construction.—Scale, 1/2 Inch to the Foot.

   The ceiling is made by placing upon the four brick walls of which a room is composed an octagonal frame made of angle iron. From each corner of the octagon are sprung two arches or ribs of flat bar iron, and where the bars cross each other they are clamped together with U-shaped bolts, all as shown in Fig. 10 of the illustrations. This arrangement leaves a small octagonal space in the center of the ceiling formed by the intersection of the bars already referred to. This space is covered by shorter bars, which are arched across from corner to corner of the central octagon, as indicated in Fig. 10. These are also clamped to the main bars by U-shaped bolts, thus forming a complete dome of wrought iron. The construction is such that any pressure from above only tends to make the construction more secure, the strain on the bars being taken up by the octagonal frame. After the latter has been put in place the four corner spaces and the triangular spaces between the bars are filled by domed panels of plaster of paris and cement, 1 inch thick. These panels were formed by means of an india rubber bag inflated with air and stretched on a frame a trifle larger than the size of the panel desired. This was then pressed from the underside up against the iron ribs, permitting the air of the cushion to form a perfect dome to the opening in which it was placed. Plaster of paris was then poured over this cushion and allowed to set. The bag or cushion was then used in the same way in connection with the other spaces until the ceiling was complete, giving a groined arched ceiling of strong and attractive construction, as seen in the case of the dining room. Fig. 8. 

Fig. 8.—View of Plain Ceiling in Dining Room. The library is handsomely fitted up with paneled seat and bookcases built in.

Fig. 11.—Section through Floor and Ceiling at A B, Fig. 14.—Scale, 1/2 Inch to the Foot.
After the under side of the ceiling was finished, what may be termed ribs of cement were built up on top of the flat iron bars, as shown in section in Fig. 11. These cement ribs were made by placing two boards parallel and filling in between them with cement and concrete. Before the cement,however, was put in, round wooden blocks slightly tapering were placed at intervals between the boards, so that when the cement was set, the boards removed and the round blocks taken out, there was left a series of openings in the cement ribs. These openings, or portholes, as they are called, are made use of in connection with the heating and ventilation of the house, and will be referred to later on. After the ribs were built , heavy wire was stretched over them from all sides of the room. These wires were designed to support a layer of wire cloth, upon which in turn was placed a layer of cement or concrete, 3 or 4 inches thick. Fig. 11 represents a cross section through the flooring and ceiling of a room, taken at A B of Fig. 14, the plaster of paris panels, concrete ribs and openings through them all being clearly indicated. 

Figs. 12 and 13.—Sections through C D and E F of Fig. 14.—Scale, 1/2 Inch to the Foot.
Figs. 12 and 13 represent sections through the floor and ceiling, being taken at C D and E F, respectively, of Fig. 14. H, instead of the cement floor, as used in this case, it should be desirable to employ wood, the sleepers could be embedded  in the cement, as indicated in Fig. 11, and the flooring nailed to them in the ordinary manner.

Fig.   14. —Showing Manner of Constructing Floor.—Scale, 3-16 Inch to the Foot.

   Fig. 14 shows the manner in which the wire is stretched across the concrete ribs, the position of the wire cloth for supporting the cement and a wooden flooring placed upon sleepers embedded in the cement. The little arrows indicate the direction of the hot air beneath the floor after it leaves the furnace pipe. 

"The Copper House"-Fig. 5.-Decorated Ceiling in Parlor. 

   In some of the rooms of the house the ceiling is of an ornamental character, as, for example, that in the parlor, illustrated by Fig. 5. This is produced by placing on the under side of the flat iron bars forming the wrought-iron dome, moldings made or plaster of paris or papier mache, which are fastened by suitable hooks and cement. On these moldings rest the ornamental arched panels, which are made in plaster over an air cushion on which has been placed a gelatine cast of the ornamentation desired. After the panels are put in position the construction is the same as that employed in connection with the plain ceiling. The center of the ceiling of the various rooms in the house has a thickness to the level of the floor of the rooms above of 5 or 6 inches, while at the sides the thickness runs up to 18 and 20 inches.

Another very interesting feature in connection with this house is the method employed for the heating and ventilation, already alluded to. In the basement is a hot-air furnace provided with a coil, so that both hot air and steam can be used in warming the rooms. The air is taken in from the outside of the building and distributed to the floor of the various rooms by the ordinary method. The peculiar construction of the floor, with the portholes in each rib of concrete and cement, allows the hot air to pass from the furnace pipe through the various spaces formed by the plaster of paris panels, and thus circulate under the entire floor before entering the room through the register placed in the floor or side wall.

Fig. 15
The result is to make the cement floor a huge radiator, thus keeping the apartment at a comfortable temperature at all times. In the main rooms on all the floors are open grates or fireplaces of rich and artistic design, finished in electro bronze, brass, silver and nickel, and provided with blowers which may be folded up in such a way as to occupy very small space at the top of the grate opening. A view of the fireplace, with its wrought andirons, in the main hall, is shown in Fig. 7. These ventilating fire places are so made that fresh air is brought in from the outside of the house to a point behind the grate and then carried around the fire box and the three vertical cast-iron flues which convey to the chimney flue the products of combustion. Fig. 15 represents a plan and elevation of one of the fireplaces employed, while Fig. 16 is a vertical cross section, the arrows indicating the direction of the air currents. At intervals above the fire are perforated plates, which extend across the air flue in such a way as to retard the flow and cause the air to become highly heated before it enters the room through openings just over the mantel. Fig. 16 also gives an idea of the construction of the blower used and the manner in which it folds up out of the way. The house may be further heated by steam by the indirect plan. In the basement is a Gold's heater, consisting of a series of radiators surrounding a fire pot. These are contained in a brick chamber, in the upper portion of which are also suspended a number of radiators. The cold air is taken in from the outside of the house, circulates about the radiators, which are filled with hot water, and is distributed to the various rooms of the house in the usual manner. This serves to keep the house comfortable in mild weather. In case of very cold weather, when it is still desired to maintain a warm temperature in the house, the fire in the furnace is increased and steam generated in the coil already mentioned. The steam is carried to radiating coils placed in recesses just below some of the windows, the spaces being indicated in the sectional elevation, Fig. 9. In this way it is possible, as we are informed, to readily raise the temperature in the house as may be desired.

Fig. 16
Externally the house is very attractive and involves features of construction which are also novel. The entire exterior surface is covered with copper, the fact which gives the structure its name, the "copper house." Many of the panels are ornamented with designs of a unique character. Conspicuous features of ornamentation are four circular panels representing America, Europe, Asia and Africa, which are copied from the celebrated Albert Memorial. Each of these panels is 3 feet in diameter, there being two upon the front and two upon the side of the house. Three of these panels are quite clearly indicated in the picture forming our supplement plate. The entire copper work was done by what is known as the galvano-plastic process, which permits of the execution of the most intricate designs. Some idea of the results obtained by this method may be gathered from an inspection of the supplement plate and also of Fig. 9, which shows sectional elevations. The design to be obtained is first produced in wax by a very simple method, and the mold thus formed is placed in a battery. The frieze extending entirely around the house, between the first and second stories, was made in this way in lengths of some 12 feet, and fastened to the angle-iron frame by means of flanges and rivets.

Fig. 9
It may be interesting in this connection to describe the manner in which the exterior walls of the house are constructed. In the first place, the foundation was prepared in the usual manner, and topped with a stone belt course extending entirely around the house. Upon this was erected a wrought-iron skeleton, made of tee and angle irons placed some 4 or 5 feet apart. At proper intervals from the belt course to the main cornice were placed 4x4 angle irons, which were secured to the upright framing. At each sill and lintel course was placed a horizontal angle iron, extending entirely around the building, and above the window sill was another for receiving the floor construction, all as indicated in the sectional elevation, Fig. 9. The angle irons were covered with pilasters made of deposited copper, embellished with designs of an attractive character. The pilasters were first riveted to the angle irons in such a way as to leave at each edge a flange, to which were riveted the copper panels carrying ornamental designs in bas relief. 

Fig. 9
Two of these panels are represented in the lower portion of Fig. 9. After the copper panels were put in position the entire copper work was backed up with an 8-inch brick wall, extending from the foundation to the roof. The latter is covered with red tile, and the tower, which is covered with the same material, terminates in a copper finial. The roof of the veranda, extending across a portion of the front and side, is supported by cast-iron columns, while the balcony, partially encircling the tower, is made of cast iron, and heavily plated with copper so as to withstand the action of the weather.

Apart from the method of constructing the skeleton of this building, it is one of the most interesting in America and has acquired a world-wide reputation through the accounts of it, incomplete and generally inaccurate, that have been published in the technical journals of many countries. As yet, a complete and reliable description of the building has not been published. About all that we know about it is that the outer walls are of eight-inch brickwork, sheathed on the outside with sheets of copper whose surface is diapered, stippled or decorated with wavy lines in such slight relief as to merely give a texture to the surface. These sheathing-sheets are produced by a galvanoplastic process, the copper being deposited upon the mould in an ordinary bath of large size. In the same way all the decorative panels, window and door finish and cornices have been prepared. The copper-work is all riveted together, not brazed, proper allowance being made for expansion and contraction. Upon the inside, the outer walls are plastered directly upon the brickwork, so that there is no air-space of any kind in the substance of the wall. This course was adopted with some misgivings, as it appeared uncertain how such a wall would behave in the matter of condensation of atmospheric moisture within the house and the transmission of heat and cold. Careful observation during two years has demonstrated that there is no ill-effect from condensation and that the temperature of the house, at all seasons, is remarkably equable. With such absolutely solid and impervious walls the housekeeper in this house is relieved from waging constant war upon vermin, big and little, and Mr. Poulson feels entirely satisfied that he has achieved a domestic as well as a constructive success.

   Niels Poulson was born at Horsens, Denmark, February 27, 1843. He was educated at the Technical Institute at Copenhagen, Denmark, and immediately after graduation from this institution entered upon a business career. Before definitely determining upon the sphere in which he would actively pursue his labors he decided that the United States offered him a wider field than his native country for gaining the just reward of honest endeavor. At an early age therefore he came to this country and was soon industriously engaged in his chosen profession.

   For two years he was a draftsman in the office of the supervising architect at Washington, but feeling that commercial life was better suited to him than the government service he resigned and for the next seven years he was connected with the Architectural Iron Works, of Brooklyn, N. Y., as head draftsman. Still he was not satisfied nor contented in the position of an employee, even though his remuneration was high and his employers greatly pleased with his work. In 1876, therefore, he determined to start in business for himself and persuading Mr. Eger to join him, he founded the firm of Poulson and Eger. Under Mr. Poulson's able management the business of the firm inside of a few years had grown to such an enormous extent that it was decided to change the firm to a corporation, and in 1897 Poulson and Eger was incorporated under the name of Hecla Iron Works, Mr. Poulson becoming president and director. Since that time Mr. Poulson's every effort has been directed toward building up and advancing the interests of his company, and the increasingly favorable annual reports of the business transacted bespeak eloquently of the wonderful success he has attained.

   Mr. Poulson has a beautiful residence in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn and has always exhibited a praiseworthy public spirit in promoting the welfare of his community. He is a member of the Bay Ridge Citizens Association, the Brooklyn League, the Brooklyn Club and the Crescent Athletic Club; he belongs to the Manufacturers' Association; and is also secretary of the Architectural Iron Manufacturers' Association. THE AMERICANA: A Universal Reference Library COMPRISING THE  ARTS  AND SCIENCES, LITERATURE, HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, GEOGRAPHY, COMMERCE, ETC., OF THE WORLD, 1911

 Poulson died in 1911 at the age of sixty-eight in his Brooklyn home. His company hung on until just after World War I, by which time the great age of ornamental iron had come and gone. The expansive gardens and house of William F. Kenny can be seen at the bottom.

The "copper" house garnered enormous publicity for its novelty and for the excellence of its construction, but none of that helped it from being demolished in 1930.

   Built in 1936, this mid-rise elevator building is 6 stories tall and contains 138 apartments.

THE COLONNADES, located in a highly exclusive, residential section, overlooking New York Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, presents the finest in a new and distinctive treatment of Roman-Grecian architecture. Suites from two to eight rooms with one to three baths are available with every apartment facing streets.
The Colonnades assures permanent light, air and shore view, due to the fact that the building is surrounded on all sides by street frontage and overlooks the spacious Garden-Court. The scene, viewed from the apartments, presents a picture of unlimited expanse of ocean merging with sky. 
8801 Shore Road Bay Ridge, N. Y.

    Named for an active volcano in Iceland, Hecla Iron Works supplied ornamental work for the exteriors and interiors of many designated New York City Landmarks.

Constructed in 1896-97, the Hecla Iron Works building was built to serve as the company's headquarters and showroom, in addition to being a school to train metalworkers and a design studio. 

During the 1880's, Hecla pioneered the use of various technologies, most notably the Bower-Barff process, which was used to treat the iron. In contrast to most cast-iron facades, which were painted to resemble stone and prevent corrosion, the panels were exposed to super-heated steam that converts rust to magnetite, creating an unusual black, velvety surface that is unaffected by moisture.

In 1913, Hecla merged with the Winslow Brothers of Chicago, a rival firm. The building itself is an early forerunner of Modernist architecture. The building's façade is a clear predecessor to the modern curtain wall. 
   Poulson left the ownership of the building to the American-Scandinavian Foundation, which sold the building to the Carl H. Schultz Mineral Water Company, a division of the American Beverage Company, in 1928. In 1989, the upper floors of the building were converted to residential space. Once leases expire plans are to convert building into a hotel.
Crescent Athletic Club Boathouse - 1907
The swanky Crescent Athletic Club built a clubhouse and fine boathouse on the shore, and the gently curving road and its footpaths became a promenade for nature and people watching.

    IN THE GILDED AGE, the leisured class came here for summer sports and bay breezes at resorts like the Crescent Athletic ClubProsperous industrialists and businessmen seeking refuge from the summer heat flocked to Bay Ridge and built elaborate summer villas on the bluffs along Shore Road overlooking New York Bay.  For the owners of the grand estates facing the water, the bay offered its beauty and a place for them to moor their yachts and pleasure boats.   

In 1891 the Justice Holmes Van Brunt of the New York State Supreme Court home became a lavish clubhouse for the Crescent Athletic Club. The grounds were enlarged and improved in stages through the 1890s. The old Van Brunt homestead, greatly modified, served as a clubhouse. In 1897, a nine hole golf course was added, and in 1898 this was expanded to eighteen holes. The Crescents, wealthy sports lovers with money to spend, had created arguably the most beautiful playing fields ever seen in Brooklyn.

The Crescent Athletic Club opened in 1892. Located at Eighty-Third Street, it hosted the second Davis Cup match, attended by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902.  Crescent Athletic Club - 1924

   William F. Kenny was born in Manhattan in 1868. His childhood best friend was Alfred E. Smith, who would later become the four term Governor of NY, and become the first Catholic to run for president of the United States.

    President of the W. E. Kenny Contracting Company. He was one of the chief contractors for New York Edison, Brooklyn Edison and the Consolidated Gas Company of New York. His fortune was estimated at $30 million, in first quarter 20th century money.

   William Kenny was a proud and generous supporter of Al Smith. He was the owner of the “Tiger Room” where Tammany Hall politicians and friends hung out. When Smith ran for president in 1928, Kenny gave $125,000 to the campaign, the highest single amount given to a candidate at that time.

Kenny bought a prime piece of property on Shore Road and 91st Street and had this palatial Mediterranean style house built around 1910 to 1911. He and his family lived here for a little more than ten years. 
   Kenny had a magnificent Odell pipe organ installed in the grand foyer in 1912. The organ had a mahogany case and the display pipes were gilded in pure gold leaf. In 1917, the organ was upgraded with a new electrical system, and more mahogany casework was added, and more pipes gilded. The organ was also retrofitted with new ivory and ebony keys. The entire upgrade cost almost $11,000, making the pipe organ more expensive than many of Bay Ridge’s other housing.The Kenny’s had seven children; three sons and four daughters. Alice, one of the daughters, married European aristocracy in 1923- the probably impoverished Count Francis Bacon Kuhn de Prorok. That marriage later ended in divorce.

Italian Sunken Garden
The Kenny house on became the Shore Road Hospital, a private hospital servicing the Bay Ridge area. Although it was a full service hospital, it specialized in maternity care. Thousands of Brooklynites were born there during its long run.
E. Belcher Hyde Map Co. Inc., 1929

 The entire hospital complex was torn down for a huge senior apartment complex called Shore Hill Apartments in 1977. 9000 Shore Road.

An earlier Kenny mansion located at Oliver and Shore Road. Used as the Shore Road Academy after Kenny moved up the street until 1946 when property was sold and developed. 

    This large Mediterranean villa was built in 1890 for former three-term mayor of Cleveland, Ohio named Tom L. Johnson. He controlled street car lines in several Midwestern cities. Five years later railroad magnate and noted gourmand “Diamond” Jim Brady purchased this bayside manor on Shore Road for his girlfriend, entertainer Lillian Russell, in the 1890's.  It became Fontbonne Hall, a Catholic high school for girls, in 1937.

The house, 9901 Shore Road, is the only mansion from the Shore Road’s Gilded Age to survive.

   Henry Cruse Murphy, the mayor of Brooklyn when it was its own city, and later a state senator, kept a big estate at Bay Ridge’s northwest corner. As Senator, Murphy drafted the bill which authorized the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and in 1866 he signed the bill at his mansion. He also founded The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper.

Henry C. Murphy villa, overlooking the Narrows, Bay Ridge.

When Murphy died in 1882, the house passed on to another powerful man who made a great impact on New York, and the world. His name was Eliphalet William Bliss.

Bliss refurbished the mansion and built a horse stable and observatory tower from which one could view the bay. 
This wealthy manufacturer made his fortune by introducing and implementing techniques of mass production to the pressed metal industry.

Photo taken in 1915, reflects changes made after modifications.
Original design for Owl’s Head Stables, by Parfitt Brothers

   He spent $75,000 on a lavish and huge stable, designed by the Parfitt Brothers, one of Brooklyn’s finest architectural firms. The huge Romanesque Revival building had an arched entryway, three stories, a clock tower and multiple turrets, and was made of ashlar cut stone.

Observatory Tower. 
Bliss, offered the land, stables, house and observation tower to the city, and through Robert Moses’ initiative in the 1930's it became the 24-acre Owl’s Head Park.

His will stipulated that the estate must be used for parkland, and couldn't be developed.
The original gates of the Bliss estate were found in storage, and returned to the entrance of the park. Though Mr. Bliss’s buildings were torn down his initials remain on the gates.

The Howard E. and Jessie Jones House, nicknamed the Gingerbread House by local residents, is a landmarked stone building with a pseudo-thatched roof on Narrows Avenue and 83rd Street. Built in 1916-17 in the Arts and Crafts style rarely seen in New York City, the house offers a glimpse of the fanciful summer cottages that filled Bay Ridge during those years. 

  Architect James Mace Farnsworth began his career around 1872 and worked as a draftsman with Calvert Vaux by 1873. Farnsworth practiced independently from 1883 to 1897, producing numerous designs for commercial and office buildings and warehouses for prominent builder-developer John Pettit.

The firm of Silliman & Farnsworth, architects of the Temple Court Building, practiced from 1876 to 1882.

The Kinney Building was completed in 1904, an Italian Renaissance design by Clinton & Russell the penthouse was added in 1925 by Kenny for his friend, Gov. Al Smith, to use as a political clubhouse. 

The Tiger Room was on the top floor of the Kenny Building. In honor of the old Tammany Hall symbol, Kenny had the place filled with tigers: stuffed, bronzed and whatever else his decorator could find.  Photographs of old Tammany Hall bosses lined the walls. A bar and grill, shower, baths, and a barber shop were always available. Regardless of Prohibition, drinks were poured freely and a poker game was usually on tap. A stage ran across one end of the room and Kenny had Broadway performers and all-girl revues up for performances.

In 1926, on the roof of an office building at 23rd Street and Park Avenue South, millionaire contractor Bill Kenny—childhood friend and major backer of Governor Al Smith—built the Tiger Room, a private clubhouse retreat. Named for the “Tammany Tigers,” the lavish penthouse featured a huge fireplace, tiger skins, brass tigers, and tiger paintings. Entertainment was provided by Al Jolson, Will Rogers, and, on one occasion, the entire cast of The Ziegfeld Follies. But politics dominated. “You couldn’t no more get up to that Tiger Room than you could get into heaven, unless you were a damn good contributor,” producer Eddie Dowling once said. The modeling firm IMG, which represents the likes of Heidi Klum and Gisele Bundchen, now has penthouse offices here.

View of Main House, Crescent Athletic Club on Long Island Huntington, New York.
Huntington Crescent Club

The Crescent Athletic Club merged with the another local club and moved to an even larger home - over 500 acres - in Huntington, Long Island in 1931. This put a considerable financial strain on the club, and the Bay Ridge property was sold off in 1936. The final piece was transformed in 1940 and 1941 when Fort Hamilton High was built. 

Crescent Athletic Club House 129 Pierrepont Street Brooklyn Heights

The Crescent Athletic Club was one of the most successful New York sporting clubs of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Organized in 1884, the club rapidly grew to 1,500 members by 1902, at which time it was decided to build a new clubhouse. Brooklyn architect Frank Freeman was commissioned to design the building, which was completed in 1906. Known today as The Bosworth Building of Saint Ann's School.

 William Winslow HouseFrank Llyod Wright’s first independent commission after leaving Louis Sullivan’s architectural firm. He built it when he was just 26.
  William Winslow was raised in Brooklyn and in 1883 at 26 became partner of the Hecla Iron Works. In 1885, when an opportunity arose, he moved to Chicago eventually forming with brother Francis the Winslow Brothers Company of Chicago.

   Winslow executed intricate designs for Louis Sullivan and other designers of the "Chicago School" that emerged at the end of the 19th century, filling the blank slate left by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  An outstanding example of such work is the corner turret grille of Sullivan's Carson, Pierie, Scott and Company Building.

1 South State Street, Chicago, Ill.


  1. WOW always heard about the great houses of Bay Ridge. Thanks for highlighting a few of them. The Poulson iron interiors were magnificent. Great post and photos

  2. wow!! what a great article!! i love being bay ridge-ian!!

  3. I enjoyed reading this. A line of my family spent time at the Poulson property around 1920, when an ancestor was supposedly a caretaker and lived with his family above the stables, which had horses from Fort Hamilton. Would you be able to direct me to any archives that might have pictures of the Copper Mansion grounds?