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Brooklyn, New York

Admiral's Row

Abandoned 19th century homes once occupied by naval officers, soon to be demolished 

At the time of the Civil War, the southwestern edge of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York was the site of Admiral’s Row, a gated community of Second Empire-style mansions occupied by naval personnel. Today, the Row is a series of dilapidated, abandoned structures and the subject of much heated debate between New York City officials and historic preservationists.

Also known as Officer’s Row, the eleven structures were built between 1864 and 1901. Home to high-ranking naval officers and their families, the compound included tennis courts, communal vegetable gardens, and a stable that converted into an ice skating rink during winter months.

The base was decommissioned in 1966, but records indicate that naval personnel inhabited the homes through the 1970s. Since then, however, the structures have been abandoned and left in a considerable state of decay. Though Admiral’s Row remained under the jurisdiction of the National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it has been the site of much vandalism and squatting over the past thirty years.

Locals walking down Flushing Avenue have witnessed the decline of the two centuries-old mansions, now completely overgrown with weeds. Much of the original bathroom tiles, lighting fixtures, and grand staircases still remain intact, providing a small sample of the site’s rich historic significance.

In the past decade, however, the City of New York has acquired much of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and intends on converting it into an industrial park. Operated by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, there is a plan to demolish all but two of the remaining Admiral’s Row structures to make way for a commercial complex.

Though the development company insists most of the homes are beyond repair, some historic preservationist groups argue that at least half of the buildings are salvageable. Over the past few years, these groups have presented a number of alternative plans to better incorporate the historic structures into the new commercial complex. It remains to be seen if these plans will be adopted.

Update: As of November 2016, all but one of the houses have been demolished. The remaining building is said to be a future supermarket.  

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