I couldn’t resist posting this item in advance of some major posts on Greenpoint, to which I did extensive walks in the spring and late December of 2017. I have always been fascinated with the neighborhood, in which I have had friends for the last 35 years and even briefly rented an apartment in 1982, but never moved in. This building is at one of Brooklyn’s few L-shaped intersections, at Oak and Guernsey Streets, and features an impossibly spooky-loooking brick mansion set way back for the street are completely enveloped by foliage, so it can’t be seen very well from the street except in the cold months.

The Greenpoint Home for the Aged was designed by architect Theobald Engelhart; several buildings in Greenpoint are his works including 143 Kent, 122-124 Milton and the St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church which forms one of the “twin spires” seen on Milton along with the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church. It went up in 1887. From the Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report:

Engelhart constructed the building at the behest of former NYS Governor Samuel Tilden, who owned a lot of Greenpoint property and decided to put some of his holdings to good use. At first, 137 Oak Street was a home for indigent women, then became a home for the aged; since 1967, it has been a boarding house or SRO. 

I have also read that it has functioned over the years as an orphanage, a convent, a home for unwed mothers and a cathouse frequented by sailors. (This may sound odd, but I have encountered other Brooklyn buildings that have had similar histories. Houses of high repute often end up as houses of ill repute.) But it has most recently functioned at an SRO (Single Room Occupancy), home to thirteen aged male tenants. 
There was an attempt to sell the place in 2008, but the residents were determined not to budge. That would explain the property’s neglected state; very likely the landlord has not made any recent repairs. According to one report, the residents appear to be dying one by one. Who knows how many are left now. [Lost City]

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  1. Peter says:

    The hand-lettered KEEP OUT sign adds to the character.

  2. Joseph Fliel says:

    The Greenpoint Home for the Aged was incorporated on November 20, 1882 by the Ladies’ Benevolent Association of the Seventeenth Ward (which encompasses Greenpoint). It’s first location was at 69 Dupont St. As the name implies, the Ladies’ Benevolent Association was obviously a charitable organization to help women. No men were ever housed there under the association’s stewardship. Requirements for residency were that only Protestant women could live at the home. The “inmates” were also required to pay $50/year for the privilege. Any property and/or money was to have been signed over to the LBA and the proceeds would be used to pay for their upkeep. Contrary to unsubstantiated stories and rumors, it has never been used as an orphanage, a convent, a home for unwed mothers or as a cathouse frequented by sailors. Its reincarnation as a SRO came late in the building’s existence. Also, stories of the city/state government taking over the institution are also based on half-truths and plain ignorance of the facts. Flisak Co., Inc. owned the property for a number of years and operated it as a SRO. A Tax lien was placed on the property in 2006 and Flisak was able to retain the building. Flisak sold the property to 137 Oak Management on March 4, 2008.

  3. Larry says:

    My 2 x Great Grandfather was admitted into the NY Home for the aged and infirmary – Brooklyn Division on July 17, 1908 and died in 1909. Could this be the same place? I don’t know how many there were in Brooklyn at the time. Any way to get records? Thank you.

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