The Graham Home For Old Ladies

One of my favorite buildings in Brooklyn can be found at 320 Washington Ave in the Clinton Hill area. Set back a bit from the main street, with a wrap-around driveway and surrounded by lush green trees, it’s in pristine condition for its 160+ years.

Old Ladies 01

Every time I drive by, I’ve wondered what its purpose was. So today, I got out of my car and looked. The answer couldn’t have been made more simple:

Old Ladies 03

Nice…Though I’m not sure my nana would appreciate the name.

Though condoized now, this building actually began life as the “Brooklyn Society for the Relief of Respectable, Aged, Indigent Females.” Founded by a wealthy philanthropist, its purpose was to provide for elderly women “accustomed through life to comforts and refinement, but who in their later years found themselves without relatives or adequate resources.” At the turn of the century, the name was changed to The Graham Home For Old Ladies.

Old Ladies 02

By the early 1960′s, the neighborhood had significantly declined and the home ran out of funds. It shut down, only to open sometime later as “Bull Shippers Motor Lodge,” better known to locals as a brothel. The Motor Lodge closed in the 80′s, and the building was boarded up til it was purchased in 2001 for a full renovation.

Say what you will about condoizing properties like this, but I’d hate it if it looked anything like this. Though they may have horribly gutted the interior of the building (which I’m not excusing), I have to praise the gorgeous condition of the exterior, which really stands out as a masterpiece on an already beautiful block.

-SCOUT

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4 comments

  1. “Brooklyn Society for the Relief of Respectable, Aged, Indigent Females.” Oh, man, I love names like that.

    I work at Columbia University whose site, originally, was the straightforwardly named Bloomingdale Insane Asylum. (Our Maison Francaise is in the sole building that survives from the asylum period; it was the house for wealthy, male lunatics.)

    But my favorite care-giving institution name from days gone by is the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled…which was on the site now gracing the beautiful Chrysler Building we saw below:
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9900EEDB1E3AE633A25754C1A9649D946396D6CF

  2. Pratt Institute is just around the corner from this building. By the time I graduated in 2001, I had seen it go from crack house to meticulously-restored piece of Brooklyn history. Sadly, I believe it now houses one of Pratt’s few fraternities. So much for the interior.

  3. my friend used to live across the street from this building. we did a house tour of clinton hill in 2005, and we got to go inside. it’s all condos (no frat), and the one we saw was pretty great. i think it belonged to an artist. (do art schools have fraternities?)

  4. Yes. Pratt has a frat.

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