Once a prestigious educational institution for prominent Brooklyn families, this fine home now serves as a light-filled, contemporary single-family home on one of Stuyvesant Height’s prettiest blocks.
Located within the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, 221 MacDonough Street stands at the westernmost edge of a row of 14 uniform brownstones that stretch nearly the entire block between Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Lewis Avenue. Constructed in 1872 by Curtis L. North, a notable developer of the era, these houses are counted as the oldest masonry homes in the neighborhood.
They are each designed with typical Italianate features, including high stoops, rounded doorways and tall windows. Deep front gardens provide a comfortable setback from the street and add greenery to the abundant mature trees that dot this stretch of MacDonough. "These houses, with their balustered stoops and attractive front gardens, firmly establish the quality of this block," notes the historic district's designation report.
Throughout its history, Stuyvesant Heights has been filled with churches, parochial schools and private institutions, and the houses at 221 and 223 MacDonough were included among these ranks. Beginning in 1874, the buildings served as home to the Bedford Institute where "the strictest attention was paid to the thoroughness of instruction and the moral tone of the school" according to an 1882 pamphlet. Sisters Charlotte and Maria Purdy founded the school, which educated boys through primary years and girls into collegiate studies, until it closed 66 years later.
Described in Maria Purdy's 1950 obituary as "once-fashionable," the school is where the "children of many of the borough's leading families learned to read and write." In 1905, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper noted, "The school building is pleasant and commodious, well planned and ventilated and convenient to several trolley lines." By the time the school closed in 1939, it had educated more than 3,000 pupils, but as of the 1950 census, the building had been divided into apartments and was occupied by two families with adults employed as a fireman, elevator operator and private maids.
Left with few original details to retain, the Dixon Projects team re imagined the structure as a bright and airy single-family home for the first time in its almost 150-year history. At just over 18 feet wide, the interior proportions were constrained, so the first order of business was to extend the home to the rear on the garden and parlor floors, adding 19 feet of depth to each.
Subdivided interiors had made the home quite dark throughout. The parlor level, in particular, was closed off with a traditional entry vestibule and just two small windows at the rear. To accommodate contemporary space and light standards, the entire level was opened up from front to back, and a row of windows and glass doors were added to the rear, encouraging sunlight to pour through. In this spacious and sunny arrangement, living and dining areas provide room to stretch out while a powder room adds convenience and distinctive designer touches, like the frond-like Hamptons chandeliers by Aerin, harken to a bygone era of craftsmanship.
The kitchen, which would've been positioned on the garden level originally, was placed alongside the great room in the newly expanded footprint to accommodate lively entertaining and family gatherings. A massive center island is positioned parallel to the rear windows allowing fantastic outdoor views from its wide breakfast bar. Top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances by Wolf, Bosch and Fischer & Paykel fill the space, white-on-white finishes amplify the great natural light, and the glass doors open the area to a roomy deck perfect for outdoor gatherings.
While an added elevator provides effortless access to all levels, the grand central staircase was one of the few original details worthy of restoring at 221 MacDonough Street. Reinforced and refinished — and topped by a skylight above — the stair curves elegantly from the entry to an indulgent full-floor master suite on the second floor.
This sumptuous space includes an over sized custom walk-in closet and a serene bedroom that opens to a rear-facing private terrace.
Running the full width of the home, the en suite bathroom serves as a relaxing oasis filled with sumptuous Carrara marble and bright south-facing windows. A freestanding soaking tub and large walk-in shower soothe away stress, while the unique built-ins accommodate double sinks, a makeup vanity and delightful window seats.
Upstairs, the Dixon Projects team has positioned another bedroom suite overlooking the rear garden, and a third bedroom is placed at front alongside another well-appointed marble bath. In the hallway, a wet bar with refrigeration stocks snacks and beverages within easy reach of the newly added roof deck wrapped in stunning views of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The home's revamped garden level graces this bright home with another bedroom suite, and a large rec room and den that open to the lush, landscaped backyard. A large laundry closet adds convenience here, while additional closets and guest baths have been thoughtfully added throughout.
The entire façade at 221 MacDonough has been treated to a new coat of period-appropriate brownstone. The balustrade has been repaired, the cornice replaced and custom-made entry doors welcome the next generation of residents to this beautiful refurbished Stuyvesant Heights home.