Clinton Hill is a quiet area of north-central Brooklyn to the east of Fort Greene and west of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The area is perhaps known best for housing the Pratt Institute, recognized for its architecture and design programs, as well as its historic campus and public art installations. Once a working-class community, Clinton Hill developed in the late-1800s as a prominent destination for wealthy Manhattan residents looking to escape the island, many building lavish mansions that gave Clinton Hill the nickname of Brooklyn’s “Gold Coast.” Since then, the area has blended old and new, prominently displayed through the newly designed Lefferts Place Mews finished in 2013 but inspired by the area’s historic townhouses. Here is our guide to 10 secrets of Clinton Hill!
1. The Pratt Institute has the oldest steam engine power plant in the U.S.
In the middle of Clinton Hill sits the 25-acre Pratt Institute campus, featuring many landmarked buildings amid open green space and plenty of public sculptures. On the first floor of East Hall is the Pratt Institute steam engine power plant, the oldest continuously operating, privately-owned steam-powered electrical generating plant in the country, The steam generators were made by the Ames Iron Works and installed in 1900, continuing to power all of the Pratt campus. The wood paneling in the lower Engine Room dates to 1887, and incandescent lights still illuminate the space.
Unlike the rest of Pratt’s campus, designed by Lamb & Rich, the steam engine power plant was designed by William Windrim. The power plant was not yet operational when the school opened, but only 15 students registered for the fall 1887 semester; everything was ready by January 4, 1888. The Ames Iron Work generators were installed in 1900 to add capacity to the expanding campus, and additional revisions to the power plant were added with the construction of new buildings. The steam engine power plant was designed with a wraparound interior balcony for viewing. Chandeliers that were once in the Board of Directors room at the Singer Building, the tallest building in the world in 1908 — and the tallest building ever to be demolished — were added to the space.