Two Houses In HABS

First, Bodine Castle, demolished 56 years ago in Long Island City (Queens), near the East River. The name of “Ravenswood” is no longer used for the neighborhood, although it is attached to the huge electric generating plant that took over the property for an expansion. John Bodine modified an existing eighteenth-century house in the 1850s into this gothic-revival country villa in a suburban town. That town was heading for industrial use before the end of the century, and Bodine apparently lost interest in Ravenswood after losing an election to local office.

Gothic revival was, to modern eyes, a very strange style to use for a private house. It doesn’t look domestic to us and it doesn’t look welcoming. The picture above shows it as it was when HABS got there in the late 60s, but it didn’t look less weird when it was in better condition:

The only photo of a piece of finished interior has ornate plaster to remind us that this was a house with some social pretensions:

But then we have a door to the outside – a service entrance? a coal chute? – that brings us right back to weird:

That’s a nice brick vault on top of stone kneewalls.

The second house is less odd inherently, but its presence in the historic buildings survey is odder. It’s titled “Flushing Avenue (House), Junk yard, Brooklyn, Kings County, NY” and the HABS documentation consists entirely of two photos of the house, one overall and one a close-up of shingles.

There’s no information about the date, no location other than a junkyard on Flushing Avenue, and, in my favorite touch, “Date and photographer unknown.” It appears that a HABS photographer, perhaps on their way to another site, saw this house and took a couple of photos which somehow became New York survey number 6266. Meanwhile, the use of wood shingles as siding, the fact that the chimney projects partially through the wood wall, and the fact that the chimney is ashlar masonry all suggest that this may actually be a very old building. But without more information, that possibility is effectively meaningless.

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