20 April 1931
Brooklyn Standard Union

Aldermen May Order Fence to Protect Adjoining Property

The skeleton of Willoughby avenue's old PRATT mansion, the building extending 
from Clinton to Waverly avenues, which a generation or less ago was 
considered on of Brooklyn's residential attractions, is facing the prospect 
of being barricaded behind an official fence.

 When the Aldermen of the Prospect District's Local Board meet this afternoon 
at Borough Hall, according to information which became available today, they 
will consider whether or not a fence of the type sometimes used to enclose 
vacant lots will have to be erected on the property.
A petition, calling for the erection of a fence, is on the local board's 
meeting calendar.
If the petition is adopted by the Aldermen, the residents of Clinton avenue 
and the immediate vicinity, including a number of social registerites, may find 
their view of the one-time home of Herbert Lee PRATT, the Standard Oil 
financier, relieved, in part of least, by a fence that is a six-foot affair or one, 
perhaps, or larger dimensions.


The official regulations, governing fences that Aldermen order erected, are 
said to permit of a degree of latitude that runs to fences twenty feet or so in 
height and made of metal.
The expense involved would have to be borne, it is said, by the owners of the 

While officials at Borough Hall were uncertain as to the action the Aldermen 
would take, records on filed in the Bureau of Buildings disclosed that today's 
petition shaped up as the latest of a series of vicissitudes through which 
the one valuable property has passed. An official notice of violation placed on 
the building by the bureau holds that the building, which has long been 
unoccupied, is in an unsafe and dangerous condition.

When the property was built by Mr. PRATT in the days before the penthouse and 
the kitchenette era, it is said to have cost him $200,000. In 1916 it was 
valued by the city for assessment purposes at $167,500. Today, according to the 
figures of the Department of Taxes and Assessments, it is down to $70,000.
At the time of its construction the interior of the building was reported to 
be of costly trim. Hardware finishing, much of it gold-plated and costing 
about $35,000, was reported to have gone into the building. an organ in the music 
room was reported to have cost $30,000. The art gallery included works of the 
old masters.

    WAS SOLD IN 1916

When Mr. PRATT moved to Manhattan he deposed of the property and two years 
later, in 1916, it was purchased by Commodore J. Stuart BLACKTON of the old 
Vitagraph Company from the Ridgewood Park Realty Company in a transaction which 
was said to have involved $750,000. The property was subsequently sold again.
In recent years the building had been unoccupied.

Less than a month ago, records on file in the Bureau of Buildings show, a 
notice was served that the bureau had imposed the violation on the building. The 
notice was served on a Manhattan lawyer who is listed as representing the 

The violation imposed by the Bureau of Buildings asserted the building was in 
an "unsafe and dangerous condition." The Building Bureau's report asserted 
the building was unoccupied; that doors and windows were open and unprotected 
"and easily accessible to malicious, undesirable and unauthorized persons;" that 
all the stair balusters were broken down or removed; that all elevator shaft 
doors were removed; that an open hatchway in the attic was unguarded; that an 
iron marquise over the main entrance was corroded, loosened and liable to 
fall; that several sections of the slated roof had been removed; the plaster 
ceilings and cornices had been loosened and had fallen, partly because of exposure 
to rain and storm and that a brick retaining wall with a heavy stone coping on 
the east side of premises was liable to fall.


All this, the bureau's report charges, constituted a fire hazard and an 
unsafe condition.
Edwin W. KLEINERT, the acting superintendent of buildings, served notice, as 
a result, that unless the bureau received an immediate answer he would direct 
the institution of court proceedings to have the structure declared dangerous 
and unsafe and to compel repairs, the expense of which would become a lien on 
the building.

An inspection of the property disclosed today that scores of windows in the 
building had been shattered. The whole appearance of the building is one of 
considerable ruin. An iron fence and a low stone wall front the Willoughby avenue 
side of the property and extend around to the Clinton and Waverly avenue 
sides. There are hedges on Clinton and Waverly avenues, but the rear of the 
property is not enclosed. It is used as an improvised playground by children in the 

The condition of the property is in marked contrast to the appearance of 
other parcels, mainly on Clinton avenue, where private dwellings and apartment 
houses are located.

Transcriber: Lois O'Malley