Published in August 2012, the Wallabout Homeowner’s Preservation Manual was created to serve as a comprehensive primer for caring for historic properties in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Wallabout. The previous year, three governmental agencies, in acknowledgement of its cultural and architectural significance, declared portions of the neighborhood as historically significant and worthy of preservation through the establishment of historic districts. However, these actions left many homeowners in the area scratching their heads—what did it mean for them?
Stretching across seven blocks south of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the neighborhood of Wallabout contains an impressively intact collection of mid-nineteenth century wood frame cottages—the largest in New York City, in fact—remarkable survivors that reflect Brooklyn’s humbler vernacular mode prior to the Civil War. The collection also includes late nineteenth and early twentieth century masonry rowhouses and apartment buildings, mostly constructed for working- and middle-class households. On the whole, the neighborhood has retained a remarkable degree of authenticity in terms of context, scale, style, and physical fabric. It has two historic districts—a single-block district designated by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and a larger five-block district listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
To assist residents in understanding these new designations, the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP), a local not-for-profit development corporation that devotes much of its efforts toward community outreach, commissioned BKSK to produce a homeowner’s manual. The resulting guide calls attention to the unique qualities of Wallabout and encourage stewardship of its built fabric, while clearing away common misconceptions about owning in a historic district. It was also to make a strong case for why preservation and sustainability are mutually reinforcing values, as both advocate a culture of reuse, community reinvestment, and appreciation of our heritage.