In a neighborhood chockablock with rich architectural forms, Public School 39, at 6th Avenue and 8th Street in Park Slope, is a standout even among such nearby treasures as the Beaux Arts Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library a block away at 9th Street.
The school opened in 1877 and is a prime representative of the French Second Empire style popular at the time; FSE buildings are recognizable by their use of slanted roofs, known as mansards in the architectural world. The school was subnamed for Henry Bristow (1840-1906), whose home was used as the school during construction of this building; Bristow was a local Congressman, school administrator, member of the Brooklyn Board of Education, and a police justice.
Architect Samuel Leonard added Italianate elements to the building such as arched windows, cornices with medallions, and paired brackets.
Unlike most public schools, whose websites do not talk about the schools’ history and design, PS 39’s website provides rich details such as a history of public schools in Kings County.
Personally, I had spent a great deal of time in Park Slope in the 1980s and 1990s as two pals from college lived there, as well as a cousin and her husband. However, I never encountered this gem until just a couple of years ago!