BEHR HOUSE, Brooklyn Heights

by Kevin Walsh

Perhaps the handsomest building in Brooklyn Heights, the Herman Behr House at Pierrepont and Clinton Streets  is an exquisite Romanesque Revival mansion designed in 1890 by Frank Freeman. The massive style was popularized by Boston architect H.H. Richardson in the 1880s and is characterized by heavy masonry walls, a fortresslike design, terra cotta ornamentation, tile or slate roofs with gables and chimneys, and a pleasantly asymmetric composition.

In 1919 this was turned into the Hotel Palm and was later owned by nearby St. Francis College, my alma mater, as a home for novitiates when nuns were the only females admitted (the policy changed beginning in 1969).

2/23/15

9 comments

Al Trojanowicz February 25, 2015 - 6:59 am

Among Frank Freeman’s other local projects are the landmarked 1889 Brooklyn Fire Headquarters at 365 Jay Street near Willoughby, and the 11 story 1892 Margaret Hotel at Columbia Heights and Orange Street which was destroyed by fire on February 1, 1980.

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BobK February 25, 2015 - 5:23 pm

A “novitiate” is a building or other facility housing a “novitiate”, a program of formation and education for apprentice nuns, brothers, monks, and other vowed religious, who are called “novices”.

Pre-Vatican II octogenarian Catholics, who had in-group English beaten into them by Sister Agatha’s ruler, learned that “novitiates” are things, while “novices” are people. We never forget Sister Agatha’s lessons.

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Ken B. February 26, 2015 - 10:13 pm

Sister Agnes had many colleagues, one of whom so thoroughly instilled sentence diagraming into my brain that I sometimes find myself doing it today.

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BobK February 27, 2015 - 11:26 am

Indeed! Just so! Thanks to those nuns, geezers from our generation can still write elaborate sentences which, despite excessive modifiers, countless commas, and a ridiculous number of subordinate clauses, nonetheless make sense. We can bloviate anyone to sleep.

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Tom Walsh February 27, 2015 - 6:59 pm

Did I dream this, or was this the Long Island Historical Society headquarters in the early 1980s? I went in a couple of times back then when I had jury duty. The Society, I see, no longer exists.

By the way, great event at Neir’s the other night. My new favorite place.

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Chris March 1, 2015 - 8:19 am

I’m surprised that Henry didn’t pipe up and say “That’s on my street corner!”.
But, alas, Clinton was always such an attention hog.

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Frank Lynch March 1, 2015 - 10:39 am

More history, and a shot of a lovely sandstone dragon at Wikipedia.

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David March 2, 2015 - 5:51 pm

The reason that Tom walsh could not see the Long Island Historical Society (now the Brooklyn Historical Society) in the building is because the BHS is in the basement of the building at Clinton and Pierrepont, but the Behr House is a block away at Henry St (not Clinton) and Pierrepont. And it was the Hotel Palm in 1919, not 1991. Finally, I lived never door, in 90 Pierrepont St. for a year in the late 1970s. I paid about $275 for a one bedroom.

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chris March 2, 2015 - 10:26 pm

Back in the 60s we would sometimes ring the doorbell at night to rouse the custodian when it was
the long island historical society building.
The old man would come tearing out after us wearing just his jockey shorts and slippers,even in the winter
Guffaw! Guffaw!

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