The Workman's Cottages in Cobble Hill.

The Workman’s Cottages in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York

The Workman's Cottages in Cobble Hill.
The Workman’s Cottages in Cobble Hill

Originally posted winter 2007.

These utterly unique, three-story, row houses in Brooklyn represent the ideal of Alfred T. White’s vision about working class housing. Built in the late 19th century to house the managers of nearby dock companies and their families, they accompany the near-by Tower Buildings which were built for the dock workers.

White’s focus was on decent housing for the working class that could still remain profitable. He also believed that working class housing should be beautiful and stylish. The cottages are a prime and well preserved example of Romanesque Revival architecture from the late Victorian period.

Another unique feature is the private lane these houses occupy. This row sits in the middle of a regular city block. There is a shared front garden complete with a fountain and koi pond. The impeccably landscaped garden is bordered by slate walkways. Behind either row, is a narrow passage of patios where the residents enjoy the shade of towering trees and privacy from the main street’s traffic. The entire block is gated.

At 11 and a half feet wide, space is of a premium. However, owners find they can gut these homes easily and rearrange the definitions as they please. Originally, the entrance would lead to a short staircase which would lead into a small parlor. The floors would have been split by a centralized staircase, which some have moved to the side in later years. Behind the stairs, there would be an additional room on the main floor. Down the staircase is a lower level kitchen and dining room and going up the staircase takes you to the bathroom and master bedroom. In total, I don’t believe the home is bigger than 1,000 square feet.

These homes had at least one fireplace on each floor and in the example I viewed, there was actually one in each room on the main floor, one in the dining room and the remains of one in the kitchen which might indicate two fireplaces per floor.

Learn more about these and other works from Alfred T. White.

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