The Brooklyn Navy Yard's roots are in Jackson's Shipyard, founded by John Samuel and Treadwell Jackson after the Revolutionary War. In 1801, John Jackson sold the 41.93 acres of waterfront land to an agent of the United States for $40,000. A little more than two weeks later, the land was sold to the navy for five dollars.
The first six buildings of the navy yard, now known as the New York Naval Shipyard, were built in 1805, including the Commandant's House, or Quarter's A, located at the far southwest corner of the yard. Little is known about the exact construction dates of the officer's quarters; however, estimates are a range from 1860 through the early 1900's.
To our knowledge, there is not a lot written about the construction of Officer's Row. An 1879 article in the Washington Post heralds the improved appearance and increased sanitary conditions of the yard, noting enhancements to the officers' quarters and their front lawns. That same year, the Times reported a reconfiguration of the Officer's Row, including the installment of a wire fence, which replaced the previous wooden barrier. In response to these yard improvements, an officer was quoted saying, "It is about time something was done to put the yard in good condition. It has been a disgrace to the Navy Departmentâ€¦The officers have felt ashamed when foreign officers visited it that they should see its unkempt condition."
The surrounding community's interaction with Officer's Row is for the most part undocumented, as well. Based on local newspaper articles, a dichotomy between Officer's Row and the surrounding neighborhood can be evident as early as 1900. A letter to the editor of the New York Times, written by Peter Hetto, demonstrates the inequity of sanitation service in the area. "Take Flushing Avenue, for instance, from Navy Street to Wallabout market, said [horse] manure is laying inch deep along the navy yard wall, blown there by the wind. Three "white wings" [New York City street sweepers] make their appearance at 7:30 at the corner of Navy and Flushing and sweep in front of the officers' quarters along Flushing Avenue. Further up they are never seen."
The City's planned acquisition of 34 acres of the Brooklyn Navy Yard has put several of its most historic structures in peril. The seven remaining houses on Admiral's Row (partially visible from Flushing Avenue) are located on a 6-acre parcel that has until now been under Federal ownership and therefore not landmarked. The City, citing an estimated $25 million in restoration costs, wants to tear the historic structures down; the Historic Districts Council and the Fort Greene Association want them preserved. Orginally numbering 10 houses, Admiral's Row (aka Officer;s Row) was built between 1864 and 1901. Families lived there as recently as the 1970's. Check out the link below to read about the Officer's Row project launched by Corie Trancho and Alexis Robie (of Lex's Folly).
Historic Navy Houses Threatened [Brooklyn Eagle]
March 20, 2005 [Officersrow.org]
July 26, 2005 The Fort Greene Association [FGA] warns the com-
munity of New York of the imminent destruction of the historic
structures known as Admiral's Row located in the Brooklyn Navy
As presented to Brooklyn Community Board 2 on June 23rd by Eric Deutsch of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation
[BNYDC] the buildings which are currently owned by the US Army
Corps of Engineers have been seriously neglected and are to be discharged to the City of New York. Upon completion of this transaction the BNYDC plans to demolish them to make way for
retail box stores.
12 September 1999, New York Times, pg. 849:
Spit and Polish Sought for Navy Homes
Ten houses built between 1864 and 1901 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard have been left to decay since the yard was closed in 1966.
"It is a shame and a travesty that these buildings have been neglected by our own national Government," he (Edward Carter, a director of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation - ed.) said of the seven-acre site, once known as Admirals' Row.