Tektonomastics - the study of building names - is a project to map and photograph the named residential buildings of New York City. Join us on our quest for building names!
Building of the week: Martinique. 159 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY.
Martinique is an imposing 7-floor building facing the Brooklyn Museum. With fortuitous prescience, it today overlooks the judging area of the Labor Day Carnival, a West Indian parade attracting millions of revelers to Crown Heights since 1971.
Built in 1927, the Martinique lured well-off families from Manhattan with an exotic place name, similar to nearby buildings Alhambra, Pasadena, and Eldorado. Adverts in the Brooklyn Eagle offered six bedrooms for $130 month (“Elevator - Electrolux Refrigerator”). Units were subdivided soon after construction as the Great Depression hit, and then again during the 1960s-70s. Today the prices are much less reasonable.
All of the submissions we get to Tektonomastics are appreciated, but unfortunately not all of them are eligible for the Inventory. To qualify, buildings must be residential, and visibly named, ideally with the name carved into the frieze on the entablature above the doorway.
Here are a few submissions we declined to publish:
If we’re not sure, the building stays in until we can confirm otherwise, like Waldo Lofts, in Jersey City — a new building that is named in marketing materials, but with no name visible on Street View. If you’re in the area, please take a picture! Similarly, Court Street Lofts sounds questionable. Maybe we need to add a ratings system, or put a question mark on buildings without photos.
Building of the week: Mon Bijou.210 E 17th Street, Manhattan, New York.
A pre-war walk-up with six floors, Mon Bijou was designed for Wilhemina, wife of apartment builder Charles Bohlen. He could have named it after her: many named buildings have women’s names, including Babette, Florence, Mildred, Lillian, Stella, and Roxanna.
Mon Bijou was built in 1903, replacing four row houses with a Neo-Renaissance facade of stone swag and rustication, topped with a giant cornice. Architect George F. Pelham was a prolific designer of residential buildings and hotels, responsible for more than 100 between 1890 and 1931.
Building of the week: Mattowacks.
At the end of a block of detached single family Victorians in the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, Mattowacks is a surprising find. Four floors high, on a narrow plot of land, it’s a shabby brick building with nine apartments.
Mattowacks comes from Matouwac, which appears on a Dutch map from 1631 as the earliest recorded place name for Long Island. Thought to come from an Algonquin word meaning ‘the land of periwinkle’, it was also used erroneously by early colonial writers to describe all Native American tribes on Long Island. Why the builder chose this name in 1910 is intriguing.
It’s been quiet here on the blog but we’ve been collecting building names steadily — just passed 400!
Recent additions include The US Senate (yup!) on 2nd Ave in Manhattan, The Mayflower on East Broadway, and a cluster just south of Prospect Park, including Prospect Towers, The Presidio and Los Angeles.
Although the Evanston was converted to a co-op in the 1960s, the Admaston was, like most West Side buildings, a creature of the rent-regulated economy, which meant minimal maintenance, fluorescent lights in the lobby and a day-shift doorman, if that. In the mid-1980s, the Evanston decided to redo the lobby but could not afford the restoration of the deteriorated terrazzo, and covered it with thin marble applique. While intended to exude elegance, the look was down market.
The Admaston was converted to condos around the same time, but did not address its lobby until a decade later, when it laid similar marble over the terrazzo in its entry, and put up a canvas canopy, a sine qua non for a co-op.
Within the last decade, the Evanston has taken up its marble squares, and restored the terrazzo, an expensive but tasteful change. The co-op also took down its awkwardly designed canvas canopy, flooding its lobby with light.
Twins, but they don’t dress alike, June 30, 2011.
Tektonomastics will be searching for named buildings as part of the Conflux festival this weekend. Come and join us!
We have a series of short exploratory walks mapped out, covering the whole of the East Village. Join us at any of the starting points to hear about the project and to be trained in the essentials of Tektonomatology, then head out to walk your route with a spotter card in hand. Each session will take 30-60 mins, come for one or many.
Or, catch up with us any time to take a spotter card to use in your own neighborhood.
Meeting points are shown on the map below - see you there!
Tektonomastics is super excited to be featured in this week’s Urban Omnibus (for those who aren’t avid readers of UO yet, do check it out). We’re hoping to get a lot more action on the site as a result of this, and looking forward to seeing new named buildings appear in the inventory!