This is the first in a series of articles showcasing the different kinds of multiple unit housing developed to accommodate the growing number of people moving into Brooklyn between 1880 and 1930.
The turn of the 20th century saw great population growth in all corners of Brooklyn, which was now a part of greater New York City. The single family house no longer met everyone’s housing needs. Luxury apartment buildings and buildings with the new “French Flats” had been springing up in the better parts of town since the 1880’s, and better, more spacious tenement flats were being built for lower income renters by such social visionaries as Alfred Tredway White, and other flats, in general, were improving. Some enterprising builders were constructing two family houses that from the street looked exactly like their one family row house neighbors, and in 1907, a radical new type of house hit the market: the Kinko Duplex House.
Kinko houses were developed by the Kings and Westchester Land Company, and designed by the NY firm of Mann & MacNeille. Horace B. Mann and Perry R. MacNeille practiced between 1902 and 1931, were brothers-in-law, and very successful designers of upper class suburban houses, including several fine Tudor and Arts and Crafts homes in the landmarked Fieldston section of the Bronx. They are also known for schools and civic buildings, as well as being specialists in industrial housing. They designed several important company towns, such as Goodyear Heights in Ohio, and worked with Thomas Edison in engineering some of the first concrete houses for residential use. The Kinko houses were built in Crown Heights North, on St. Johns and Brooklyn Avenues, Sterling and Hampton Places, all in the area around St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, between 1907 and 1912. Their most radical departure from tradition was to give each duplex unit its own front door and house number, stairway, porch and cellar. Both units consisted of a living room, dining room and kitchen on the first floor, and a private stair leading to the second floor with four bedrooms, a hallway, and a bathroom. The lower unit had access to the back garden, the upper unit, which was reached by a private stairway to the third floor, had stairs leading from the 4th floor to a private roof garden. Originally, deliveries to the top unit were made by way of a dumb waiter installed in the cellar. The interior of these houses was the new Arts and Crafts style, featuring simple brick fireplaces with plain oak mantles, dining rooms with tall, wall to wall oak wainscoting with a plate rail and cabinets, A&C style sconces and other fixtures, oak flooring, and a new, efficiency kitchen and pantry for a servant-less household.