The 100-year-old block stands out in the neighborhood for its high architectural quality and aesthetic consistency. On June 25, 2019, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate Bay Ridge’s first historic district, “Bay Ridge Parkway – Doctor’s Row.” The new historic district is comprised of 54 two-story and basement rowhouses located on a prominent 100-foot wide, tree-lined block along Bay Ridge Parkway between 4th and 5th Avenues in Brooklyn. The rowhouses were all constructed between 1906 and 1913 and designed by two architects in the Renaissance Revival style, some in combination with Colonial Revival elements. The block earned its name as Doctor’s Row for the concentration of medical professionals who have lived and worked there starting in the mid-20th century. Landmarks calendared the proposal on March 26, 2019, and held a public hearing on May 14, 2019.
Bay Ridge was primarily an agricultural community until the mid 19th century when suburban residences were constructed to house working and middle class families. Residential development in Bay Ridge was spurred by the introduction of the trolley service in 1901 and the opening of the 5th Avenue Elevated Line in 1899.
The designated block was constructed in segments over seven years between 1906 and 1913, with most of the construction occurring between 1906 and 1909. By 1907 the block had 26 buildings, by 1912 it had 49 buildings, and by 1917 it had 54 buildings.
The majority of the block was constructed by Arthur Douglas Constant of the Bay Ridge Development Company in anticipation of the 4th Avenue subway line, which connected Manhattan Bridge and South Brooklyn. Malcolm C. Ludlam constructed five brick buildings located on the south side of the designated block. Both Ludlam and the Bay Ridge Development Company used architects Benjamin Driesler and William Flanagan to design the homes, with Driesler designing most of the houses on the north side of the street and Flanagan designing most of the houses on the south side. Flanagan and A.D. Constant became residents of the block upon its completion.
The Bay Ridge Parkway rowhouses are significant for their limestone facades, bowed or angled fronts, low stoops, stone lintels, sills, and door surrounds, and original cornices. While the north side is architecturally consistent with alternating bowed and angled bays, the south side features more variation with five brick rowhouses and eight rowhouses with Colonial Revival entrances. All of the rowhouses have retained their original cornices and nearly all of their original stoops. The most notable alterations include replaced doors and windows, changed areaways, and additions of basement doctor’s office entrances.
Landmarks research staff recommended designation of the block, finding that “the width of the parkway and consistent ensemble of intact buildings on either side of the street gives the block a strong sense of place and distinguishes it as a focal point of the neighborhood.”
The proposal received support from many, including Senator Andrew Gounardes, Council Member Justin Brannan, Brooklyn Community Board 10, Historic Districts Council, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and area residents.
On June 25, 2019, Landmarks Commissioners voted unanimously to designate the historic district, a first for Bay Ridge.
“This historic district has a strong sense of place that merits its designation as Bay Ridge’s first historic district. The historic district stands out in the neighborhood because of the high architectural quality of the limestone-fronted buildings in combination with the parkway’s boulevard feeling, and for its significant association with the historical development of the area, notably as a “doctor’s row,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll.
“History and architecture buffs can celebrate the designation of Doctors’ Row as a Historic District. Built at the turn of the 20th century, when transit options were turning Bay Ridge from suburban to urban, this is a great way to celebrate the unique history of Bay Ridge and the medical professionals who have lived here—past and present,” said Senator Andrew Gounardes.
Council Member Justin Brannan said, “From day one, I have fully supported the effort to have Doctor’s Row landmarked. Doctor’s Row has long been an important piece of how people in Bay Ridge have come to know, love, and identify with their neighborhood. I am so proud to join residents and local activists in celebration of this community victory. It is an honor to be in office at this time, not only to help facilitate but to simply witness Bay Ridge’s very first historic district come to be.”
“Southern Brooklyn has long been an unrecognized area of New York for landmark designation and we look forward to preserving more of its amazing neighborhoods,” said Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council.
By: Viktoriya Gray(Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).