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Bay Ridge’s ‘Doctors’ Row’ could be neighborhood’s first historic district

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“It’s been a long journey,” said the neighborhood’s district manager

The proposed historic district runs on Bay Ridge Parkway between Fourth and Fifth avenues.
Landmarks Preservation Commission

After years of neighborhood advocacy, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will consider Doctors’ Row in Bay Ridge for landmark status.

LPC unanimously voted to review the proposed Bay Ridge Parkway Doctors’ Row Historic District, which runs on Bay Ridge Parkway between Fourth and Fifth avenues, for possible landmark protections. If the LPC approves the plan, the stretch of 54 row houses would become the Brooklyn neighborhood’s first historic district. And with a “high degree of architectural integrity and overall aesthetic consistency,” the block is deserving of the distinction, said a preservationist with LPC.

“Due to its high architectural quality and consistency in combination with the parkway’s boulevard feeling and its history as a Doctors’ Ropw, it has a strong sense of place that merits consideration as Bay Ridge’s first historic district,” MaryNell Nolan-Wheatley of LPC’s research department told commissioners at a Tuesday hearing.

The block features limestone row houses that were constructed by the Bay Ridge Development Company between 1906 and 1913, and designed in the Renaissance Revival style with some incorporating Colonial Revival element, according to Nolan-Wheatley. Miraculously, the more than century old buildings are largely intact with bowed fronts, low stoops, and cornices embellished with foliage and garlands typical of Renaissance Revival.

Some of the buildings have been altered to include basement entrances for doctor’s offices, where the block gets its namesake. Only a smattering of medical professionals had offices on the Bay Ridge block in the early 1900s, but by the 1950s, more than half of buildings featured medical practices, according to Nolan-Wheatley. One of the first references of the block as a Doctors’ Row is in a 1949 real estate advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Today, dentists’, podiatrists’, and general practitioners’ offices dot the area.

Joshphine Beckman, the district manager of Community Board 10, which includes Bay Ridge, recalls trekking to Bay Ridge with her family as a kid living in Carroll Gardens to visit an orthodontist on Doctors’ Row.

“We traveled there and for so many other people it’s such a part of not only our Bay Ridge history but Brooklyn history, city-wide history,” said Beckman. “It’s the architectural design and beauty of the buildings, but also the historical significance of Doctors’ Row.”

The Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association submitted the historic district proposal with the support of the Historic Districts Council. The LPC will hold a public hearing on the proposed designation in the coming weeks, followed by a public meeting where the commission will render its vote.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Beckman. “It’s been talked about for many, many years but in the last two years there’s been a real, roll-up-the-sleeves effort by homeowners on the block to get this done. We’re looking forward to the continued conversations.”