"The Elkins House may be one of the first residences to have been constructed on the former Lefferts farm property, and today, it is certainly one of the oldest remaining."

 

"The last freestanding example of a building type, the wood-framed cottage or villa, that was once common to its area; at the end of the 1870s, when the neighborhood still had a suburban character, several wood villas sat on spacious lots along Pacific, Bergen, and Dean Streets.

 

Almost all of them were destroyed, however, in the wave of urbanization that swept over the neighborhood in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the Elkins House appears to be the last of its type to survive there."

NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission,

Designation Report. October 24, 2006 

"The only surviving example of a freestanding villa from the first wave of development is a transitional Greek Revival/Italianate wood-frame villa at 1375 Dean Street known as the George B. and Susan Elkins House".​

United States Department of the Interior,

National Registry of Historic Places

Tax photo from the 1940s 

"Today, the George B. and Susan Elkins House stands as a remarkable survivor of its area’s urban transformation and a unique link to the suburban years of northwestern Crown Heights, when freestanding wood country houses like this one were a common feature of its landscape" 
 
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission,
Designation Report. October 24, 2006

A portrait of the house painted by Milton Gaines, 1960, son of Mrs. Gaines, a Trinidadian who owned 1375 Dea n St. from 1948-1954. 

 

Rumor had it the antenna on the roof

was used to communicate with spies.  

"The First and the Last"
1600 Lots

The Leffert Lefferts family owned this area for 3 generations, from 1774-1855.

Both Lefferts Sr. and Jr. appeared to own slaves.

The heirs of the Lefferts auctioned off their large farm as 1600 lots, part of mid-19th century Brooklyn's rustic to suburban transition when a street grid design was established.

The red star shows the location of the future No. 1375 Dean St. 

In anticipation of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, “Hundreds of exceptionally fine freestanding, attached, and row houses were constructed in the area,” to join the already present farm villas. Dean Street was labeled, “one of the loveliest [streets] in all of Brooklyn.” 

 

Around the turn of the 20th century, as it was becoming one of Brooklyn’s most desirable residential areas, this section of Bedford came to be known as the “fashionable,” “select,” and “beautiful” St. Mark’s District. The term “Crown Heights” was later coined in an effort to further refine the image of the neighborhood.

When George and Susan Elkins purchased the lot in 1859 on which would sit 1375 Dean, the area was "rustic back country ...stands of trees and lush forests surrounded the farmlands." The parcels had certainly been surveyed in order to prepare them for sale, [but] "the untrained eye would not have been able to notice it. There was possibly a dirt road at the time, but it was more likely that the land sat in a field looking very much like the farmland that it had been for close to 200 years.

The British forces marched through Bedford / Crown Heights to defeat Washington in the Battle of Brooklyn 

Did you Know?

Before 1620, this area was likely occupied by the Lenape Indians. It was taken over by the Dutch West India Company in the 1630s, and subsequently surrendered to the British in 1664.

By the time of the American Revolution, the area was called “Bedford”, a small village consisting of “a tavern, a brewhouse, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith house, and half a dozen farmhouses” centered close to the current intersection of Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street with farming land and woodland that stretched out for miles beyond.

Explore the

fascinating story of

The Elkins House

What Character & Style

The design of the Elkins House was likely influenced by the architectural pattern books of the mid-19th century. It displays features of both Greek Revival and Italianate styles, typical of country houses of the time, known as "villas". 

 

Although pattern-book designs were influential, they were rarely followed to the letter by the carpenters and builders who typically constructed country houses.

 

The Elkins House does not appear to be an exact copy of any known pattern book design, but rather displays a strong resemblance to several schemes for modestly ornamented, cubical, suburban homes published mid-19th century.

The classic villa design upon which 1375 Dean St, may have been built. The Architecture of Country Houses,1851 

Who were the Elkins?

In this 1869 map of the City of Brooklyn, "G.B Elkins: owns the property on Dean street

Susan Elkins purchased the 200-foot-wide parcel on which the Elkins House sits in 1859. Whether or not they built the existing house at 1375 Dean Street or whether it was constructed between 1855 and 1859 is unclear.

 

Between 1848 and 1859, George was listed as a merchant with an office in Lower Manhattan and the family lived at various addresses in Brooklyn Heights.

 

In the 1860s and 1870s, George changed his listed profession to "real estate", dealing with both pricey and inexpensive properties. The suburban almost pastoral qualities of the house's setting can be seen in newspaper advertisements placed by George offering “two beautiful fresh cows” and asking prospective buyers to call at his residence located at "Dean St, near Brooklyn ave."

 

George B. Elkin's real estate activities in the 1860s and 1870s help illuminate the neighborhood's suburban period - the years following the subdivision of the Lefferts farm, but before the intense urbanization that began in 1880s.    ​

After the death of George Elkins, the property passed to Mary Elkins, one of their four daughters. The daughters lived together in the house for many years and none of them got married through the remainder of the 19th and into the 20th century. Fanny and Ida were artists as well inventors, having patented a couple of their inventions, among them an "Automatic fan" in 1878, and an "Apparatus for killing mosquitoes" in 1883. Ida advertised in several medical magazines made-to-order service of drawing anatomical diagrams, some were also published in art books at the time. Georgiana and Mary were mostly taking care of the house itself. ​

At 73 years old, Fanny, the sole survivor of the Elkins family, sold the house and its property and moved to Queens in 1918. After almost 60 consecutive years of ownership by a member of a the Elkins family, the house was finally sold to a non-Elkins, the Cohn family (1918-1942).

The will of George B. Elkins, written in 1850 

Patent for "Automatic Fan" by Fanny & Ida Elkins 1878

Important Dates

24 October 2006

Just a few hours before the owner

at the time was ready to demolish it NYC Landmarks declares The Elkins House: "Individually Designated Landmark Building"

 

Landmarks literally saved it

at the last minute!   

24 April 2007

Landmarks designates Crown Heights North as a Historic District

29 March 2014

The Elkins House is listed

in the National Registry

of Historic Places