A Piece of Greenpoint History Faces Demolition

85 Calyer Street
85 Calyer Street

Recently, I did a series of stories for Greenpointers about the twenty-five most historic local buildings. One of the posts I wrote was about 85 Calyer Street, the residence of Thomas Fitch Rowland, whose company, the Continental Iron Works, located around the corner on Quay Street built the famous ship. In 1859, Rowland founded the innovative factory. Two years later, he would help make history when visionary Swedish naval engineer John Ericsson approached him about building a revolutionary ship in Greenpoint, the ironclad Monitor, which would revolutionize warfare and make wooden ships obsolete. Ericsson was a frequent visitor to the house and the many conversations in Rowland’s house led to the realization of Ericsson’s plan for the United States Navy’s first Ironclad battleship, which fought the legendary battle against the Rebel ironclad, the Virginia, in 1862. Thanks to the Monitor’s victory, the North won the Civil War and slavery ended. Rowland produced a number of ironclad ships locally, employing 1,500 workers at his works during the Civil War. Rowland also received the first patent for an underwater oil drilling well, an invention that had dramatic effects on the oil industry. He died a millionaire and the house changed hands a number of times.

Thomas Fitch Rowland
Thomas Fitch Rowland

The house has been sold and is evidently set for demolition. The new owner of the property, Daniel Kaykov of the Renovation Group, a Forest Hills-based construction firm filed demolition paperwork with the city on August 31st and additional paperwork for a demolition has also been filed. The frame house, which has had its facade remodeled, is an important part of local history and allowing its demolition would rob the community of an important landmark. Currently, the house has no landmark status from the city so its destruction could occur quickly. I described the awesome achievement that Ericsson and Rowland accomplished in my book Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Forgotten Past when they built the Monitor in just a hundred and one days, so I would feel great loss seeing the building be demolished. The Continental Iron Works was also demolished, so 85 Calyer Street is the last building that is a direct link to the building of the Monitor. I hope that the community can rally to save this authentic Greenpoint Civil War landmark.

About Geoff Cobb

Geoffrey Cobb is a brooklyn high school history teacher and writer of the blog historicgreenpoint.wordpress.com. He has lived in Greenpoint for over twenty years and is the author of a history of the area Greenpoint Brooklyn's Forgotten Past.

7 Comments

  1. No Victim says:

    If it were a landmark, why was its exterior never protected? Why was it allowed to be stripped and converted into an aluminum clad box? What exactly is left to preserve here?

    Reply
    • Geoff Cobb says:

      It was never an official landmark so they could do what they wanted with it.

      Reply
      • No Victim says:

        This house was “lost” years ago. Clearly nothing left to preserve at this point. Your piece was informative and fun to read but your efforts at preservation are better directed towards buildings which can still be saved. Sadly, for this ugly vinyl clad structure, there really is nothing left of it to preserve.

        Reply
  2. Mariann Thomas says:

    I grew up on Guernsey Street between Calyer and Meserole in one of the five brick row houses off the corner of Calyer. I was always told that those houses were built to house the workers who built the Monitor. I’m not certain if this is true, but it is what I was told as a child.

    Reply
  3. den d says:

    they can’t knock that house down with that nice vinyl siding

    Reply
  4. Paulina says:

    Nothing is original about that house. So why keep it? Siding vinyl windows…they should of thought about it before it was purchased.

    Reply
  5. Geoff Cobb says:

    It is historic nevertheless. Do you want to see a huge building replace it?

    Reply

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