Press Release

For Immediate Release: June 25, 2024
Contact: lpcpressoffice@lpc.nyc.gov, 212-669-7938

LPC Designates Willoughby-Hart Historic District in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood

Two Blocks of Impressive Rows of 19th Century Brownstones Are an Architectural Highlight Within the Broader Neighborhood

Today's Designation Furthers the Goals of the LPC's Equity Framework as the Commission Continues to Prioritize Designations That Represent New York City's Diversity

Tree-lined block with a row of brownstones

New York – Today, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted unanimously to designate the Willoughby-Hart Historic District, two blocks of distinctive late-19th century row houses lining Willoughby Avenue and Hart Street between Nostrand and Marcy Avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The row houses were constructed during a period of intensive residential development of this section of Bedford-Stuyvesant that followed the extension of streetcar lines to the area and the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the impressive rows of brownstones that line the new historic district are an architectural highlight within the broader neighborhood.

"The impressive historic row houses which line the blocks of Willoughby and Hart make this newest historic district an architectural highlight within the greater Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood," said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Sarah Carroll. "Today's vote recognizes the district's distinctive beauty and unique history, and ensures this special section of Brooklyn will be preserved for generations to come."  

"I applaud the Landmarks Preservation Commission on its decision to officially landmark the Willoughby-Hart Historic District, which includes the only remaining contiguous block of historic brownstones in all of Bedford Stuyvesant," said New York State Senator Jabari Brisport. "Rapid development and the ensuing gentrification have eroded the architecture and history of Bed Stuy, and communities are fighting back to preserve our neighborhood's legacy. I am proud to stand with community activists as they tell us that 'community can't be demolished!'"

"Today's decision to landmark Willoughby and Hart in Bedford Stuyvesant is a significant step towards preserving our community and protecting homeowners and tenants. The lifelong residents and tenants of Willoughby and Hart speak passionately about the rich community spirit, diverse culture, and the unique architectural beauty that define our neighborhood. These homeowners and residents wish to age in place and continue to contribute to the vibrancy and diversity of the 56th Assembly District," said New York State Assemblymember Stefani Zinerman. "Landmarking Willoughby and Hart is crucial to the preservation of our community and will help inoculate us from the devastating impact of deed theft that has decimated Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. Landmarking ensures that the legacy and contributions of homeowners and long-term tenants will be honored and carried forward for future generations."

The row houses that line the Willoughby-Hart Historic District are largely designed in the neo-Grec style faced in brownstone, along with examples of Second Empire houses with mansard roofs.  Additionally, examples of Queen Anne/Romanesque Revival houses on Hart Street retain their typical rusticated stone facades.

Almost 50 buildings within the Willoughby-Hart Historic District, including nearly all the houses on the north side of Hart Street, were designed by the architect Isaac D. Reynolds, who worked primarily in the popular neo-Grec style, creating a cohesive uniformity on these blocks. Other architects working in the neo-Grec style within the district include Thomas McKee and J.W. Parkin.

All the homes were built within a 20-year timeframe beginning in 1871, during a time when the area that would become Bedford-Stuyvesant was transitioning rapidly from farmland to dense residential development after newly expanded transportation options strengthened Brooklyn's connection to Manhattan.

The Willoughby-Hart Historic District reflects the changing demographics of this area of Brooklyn over the years. The earliest residents within the historic district were predominantly middle-class German immigrants. By the early 20th century, the neighborhood became home to a large Russian Jewish population who owned many businesses in the area. In the 1950s and 1960s many Black families moved to the neighborhood – driven both by job opportunities in the borough, as well as discriminatory housing policies that restricted their ability to rent or buy in white neighborhoods; as a result, Bedford-Stuyvesant eventually grew to become the largest Black community in New York City. The Willoughby-Hart Historic District itself was home to prominent Black residents, including jazz drummer Max Roach, who lived at 448 Willoughby Avenue in the 1950s, as well as everyday working people. Many current residents of Willoughby-Hart Historic District represent the latest of multiple generations of families from the neighborhood. As the demographics of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood have shifted in the 21st century, the Willoughby-Hart Historic District now consists of a community of many backgrounds, including the Orthodox Jewish community.

LPC's work is guided by its Equity Framework to ensure diversity and inclusion in designations. Today's designation furthers those goals as the Commission continues to prioritize designations that represent New York City's diversity and ensures the agency is telling the stories of all New Yorkers.

Images: Photographs of the Willoughby-Hart Historic District are available online

About the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City's architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than more than 38,000 buildings and sites, including 1,464 individual landmarks, 123 interior landmarks, 12 scenic landmarks, and 158 historic districts and extensions in all five boroughs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/landmarks and connect with us at www.facebook.com/NYCLandmarks and www.twitter.com/nyclandmarks.