Once home to acres of colonial Dutch farmland, Flatbush is now an area of Brooklyn known for boasting some of the most magnificent and diverse architecture in New York City. Flatbush’s architectural splendor can be attributed to the development boom it experienced in the late 19th and early 20th-centuries. At that time, a slew of real estate developers bought up farmland in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn and constructed residential suburban neighborhoods. This boom was spurred by many factors, including new transportation lines that connected the borough to Manhattan, the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, and the opening of Prospect Park in 1867.
Developers who descended upon Flatbush wanted to create neighborhoods within the urban context that felt like they were in the country. The country within the city neighborhoods adopted the format of grid pattern streets lined with single-family homes. Prospect Park South is one of the earliest examples of this type of development and influenced other developments in the area. Today, thanks to architectural trends of the time and developers’ desire to have the most appealing and unique homes, we have a highly concentrated array of stunning mansions to admire. Below, we’ve created a guide to the most impressive Victorian mansions of Flatbush, which you will see on our upcoming walking tour of Victorian Flatbush. We’ve relaunched this popular tour with upcoming dates through the fall!
Victorian Flatbush Tour
1. The Japanese House, 131 Buckingham Road
One of Flatbush’s most unique mansions is the Frederick and Loretta Kohle House, more widely known as the Japanese House, on Buckingham Road. Built between 1902 and 1903, this house has been surrounded by myth. It was neither shipped from Japan nor built for the Japanese ambassador, but it is special nonetheless. The home was built as part of a speculative real estate venture by Dean Alvord and used as a marketing tool. Architectural trends at the time were highly influenced by the success of the Japanese pavilion at the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, and “oriental rooms” could be found inside the most fashionable homes. The chief architect of Prospect Park South, architect John J. Petit, was assisted in the home’s design by three Japanese artisans. The house appeared in a Country Life in America advertisement for Prospect Park South in 1903, but didn’t sell until 1906. The Kohles purchased it for $26,000. Today, the home is valued at over $2.1 million.