Elegance Lost: Greenpoint’s Colonnade Row on Humboldt Street
For years I had admired Manhattan’s Greek Revival Colonnade Row, the imposing landmark row houses with their austere, yet graceful Doric columns on Astor Place in NoHo, never imagining that Greenpoint also had its own colonnade row, until I cam across this 1922 picture of colonnade row houses on Humboldt Street. No one is certain who built Noho’s Colonnade Row, however it is attributed to builder Set Geer who constructed the spacious row houses with graceful marble columns as their defining feature.
Our own Colonnade Row, which was built sometime in the early 1850s on Humboldt Street, just on the south side of the BQE, is something of a mystery. No one knows who the builder of these local Greek revival houses was, nor is anyone sure exactly how many of the elegant row houses were built. Unlike their counterparts in Manhattan, the Colonnade houses in Greenpoint were small with wooden, not marble, Doric columns in front of the houses. The wood frame houses were built when Americans were mad about Greek Revival architecture. These simple clapboard houses were given added elegance by the elegant neo-classical pediments atop the doors and windows. However, Over time the owners, who needed more space, began to extend their cramped houses, removing the dignified the columns. Still, one local remembered that three columned houses still survived in 1963. Today there is only one of the Humboldt Street Row house with its original columns, number 494, but these columns, wrapped in sheet metal, retain little of the elegance they once had. A similar Colonnade house also survives around the corner on Richardson Street, which perhaps also had its own row of elegantly columned houses. Sadly, the stately pediments have also all disappeared and the drab houses have little in common with the dignified dwellings that once graced the streets.
One example of Colonnaded Greek Revival houses, however, does remain in Brooklyn. Willow Place in Brooklyn Heights has preserved its architectural heritage. Visiting Willow Place will let you imagine what the graceful houses on Humboldt and Richardson must have once been like.