Fort Greene Grows Up

Fort Greene Grows Up

Horses drinking water in what is now Fowler Square circa 1897.

Only a few farm houses had been built in the area in the 1840s, but the 1850s saw a real estate boom that required new streets to be laid out. Developers seized on the idea of spiffy London names to add cachet, with Fort Greene streets dubbed as Portland, Oxford, Cumberland. Gas lighting lit homes, water lines as well as flush toilets and sewers eliminated privies, and hammers pounded incessantly into the 1860s. Baby buggies also abounded. Grand Italianate row houses sprang up on South Portland Avenue, bearing a flourish of ornamental doorway pediments and bracketed cornices, all in high relief, and inspired by old palaces in Italy. These houses were followed in the next decade by the stylized geometric order of the English architect, Charles Eastlake. Their ornamentation is simplified and incised in the stone, with angularly framed doorways and windows. A few examples the Eastlake style are in South Oxford Street.