Special District-Cozine and Gascione District



Speculative housing played a significant role in the development of the Bushwick Avenue Study Area, particularly during the 1880’s and 1890’s, when housing development in the area boomed. Perhaps two of the most prominent developers in this period were John Cozine and James Gascoine of the firm Cozine and Gascoine. This prolific architect/builder/owner team were credited with the construction of anywhere from 800 to 1000 residential structures within North Brooklyn, many of which were built as uniform rows within a six block section along Bushwick Avenue.[1]

Architectural Characteristics

The Cozine and Gascoine rowhouses within this six block area were constructed between 1885 and 1889 and, regardless of built date, are nearly identical in massing and form. The rows of extant houses are consistently comprised of two-and-a-half-story, flat front rowhouses, three bays wide, with a half-story raised stoop located either on the right side (on south-facing buildings) or the left side (on north-facing buildings) of the facade.

Although many of the remaining buildings are largely intact in framing, massing and bulk, a great deal of aesthetic integrity has been lost due to the stripping of original ornamental details, such as porches, lintels and cornices. Furthermore, only a limited amount of information regarding building height and materials (wood frame, brick filled) is available through the original New Building applications filed by Cozine and Gascoine. Due to this loss of facade detailing and documentation, it is difficult to determine precisely the original aesthetic style, although based on extant ornaments, the buildings may be best classified as a simplified Neo-Grec style. Perhaps our best example of an intact Cozine and Gascoine rowhouse is 28 Weirfield Street, located on the south side of the block between Broadway and Bushwick Avenue. This vinyl-sided modest rowhouse boasts a bracketed cornice and shelf-like wood lintels distinguished by a dentil overhang. There is also a stylized wood awning with a matching dentil pattern over a balustrade apron, connected to the structure with brackets adorned by a wagon wheel embellishment. All details were likely machine made and mass-produced to provide cost-efficient detailing for middle-class homes like these.

Statement of Significance

James Gascoine and John Cozine were development partners who lived and worked in Brooklyn’s Eastern District. Sharing similar backgrounds, both gentlemen were born and raised in New York to English-born parents—Gascoine in 1844, and Cozine in 1853. After establishing the firm Cozine and Gascoine in the mid-1880s, the development team designed, built, and sold 800 to 1000 speculative houses between 1885 and 1893. An 1885 article recounting the construction boom and its speculative builders in the Eighteenth Ward (as Bushwick was historically known), declared that Cozine and Gascoine were the “most extensive operators in this line during the present boom,” and were projected to build at least 61 new homes in Bushwick alone. These rowhouses (some of which were built on Weirfield Street, within the Bushwick Avenue Study Area) were built to accommodate two families and were marketed at $4,500 to $5,500. The homes were “usually purchased by persons who wish to have a home of their own and who occupy one floor of the building and rent the other to a desirable tenant.”
A snapshot look at the 1900 United States Census for 1064-1072 Hancock Street, an 1885 Cozine and Gascoine rowhouse development between Bushwick and Evergreen Avenues, confirms that the speculative rows were occupied by two families. Many of the families on this block were of modest means; although no family listed a live-in servant, the families were financially-secure enough so that, unlike typical working class families, very few of the wives or children were employed. The head of the households list their occupations as bookkeepers, clerks, engravers, carvers—jobs requiring education and skill. Most of the residents were second generation families originating from Ireland, Germany and England.

During their height of development between 1885 and 1893, Cozine and Gascoine not only designed and built in the Bushwick Avenue Study Area, they also held offices and lived in the area too. According to the New Building applications from 1885, their earliest known address was located at 307 Evergreen Avenue, between Haman and Himrod Streets. By 1887, the gentlemen listed alternate addresses at 1223 and 1225 Bushwick Avenue located at the corner of Hancock Street. Although no longer standing, contemporary maps show two large single family homes on expansive lots. Even after John Cozine’s death in 1895, his widow Anna continued to reside next door to James Gascoine and his wife Jennie for many years in their townhouses at 1223 and 1225 Bushwick Avenue, bordering tracts of their speculative developments.

Although not much is known about John Cozine, his partner James Gascoine was a prominent member within the greater Bushwick community, whose active social engagements were often chronicled in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Furthermore, as a featured person of note in the 1905 A History of Long Island, Mr. Gascoine was admired for his active role in such prominent and well-known social clubs as the Union League, the Bushwick Club, the Arion Singing Society, and the Eastern District Turn Verein.

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Gascoine’s involvement in Brooklyn’s Eastern District was not limited to speculative housing; in May of 1893, he founded the People’s Bank as a local bank for the residents of his newly developed neighborhood. Gascoine acted as president of the institution from its opening until his death in 1903.

By 1915, the Bushwick Avenue properties had been bequeathed to Chauncey Cozine, as he was the only son of either partner. Residing at 662 Putnam Avenue with his wife, children, and widowed mother, Chauncey commissioned four large apartment buildings to be built on the former site of the Cozine and Gascoine townhouses. All were designed by architect R. Thomas Short, who had just left the prominent firm Harde and Short. The construction of these apartment houses rounds out the multi-generational speculative development of Cozine and Gascoine in the Bushwick Avenue area.

Potential Threats

The most imminent risks to the historic fabric of the Cozine and Gascoine District are the demolition of the historic structures and out of context development. The original framing, heights, and massing of the 1880s rows still remain intact. Consequently, the demolition of any of the rowhouses would rupture the context of the historic neighborhood.

The current zoning in the Cozine and Gascoine District is R6, which allows for a wide variety of development options, ranging from rowhouses, like the existing fabric in the district, to larger structures, such as tower-in-the-park schemes. The historic Cozine and Gascoine rowhouses are not built to the maximum FAR acceptable in an R6 district, meaning that an owner could add an additional two levels on top of an existing rowhouse, detracting from the established two-and-a-half story building height which unifies the neighborhood. Additionally, if a developer purchased multiple rowhouses, under R6 zoning he or she could easily demolish these structures and reconstruct massive towers in their place, which would ultimately destroy the historic context of the district.

Possible Solutions

Perhaps the most important solution to these potential threats would be community education regarding the historic significance of the Cozine and Gascoine District, and the current lack of appropriate zoning and historic district protection for the neighborhood’s history and character. An increase in community awareness could result in the creation of block associations designed to monitor these potential threats, and give the community a voice in the face of any future development prospects in their neighborhood.

Most of the buildings in the Cozine and Gascoine District have been covered in vinyl or asphalt siding, and have had most of their historic architectural ornament removed, such as original cornices, lintels, and railings. Therefore, even though the original framing, heights, and massing of the structures remain intact, it would be very difficult to have the district listed as a New York City Landmark Historic District, which would provide protection against demolition and out of context alterations, additions, and development. A potential solution would be the incorporation of Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCDs) into the Cozine and Gascoine District. NCDs are essentially local historic districts, regulated by community groups rather than the Landmarks Preservation Commission. An NCD would give local groups the authority to regulate and manage change in their neighborhoods, including proposed demolitions, alterations, and new construction.
Another promising solution to these threats would be the modification to the current zoning, perhaps by implementing a contextual zoning district in the Cozine and Gascoine District. Contextual zoning districts allow for the regulation of the height, width, bulk, and setback of any new construction by the New York City Planning Commission. This zoning would help to retain the character of the neighborhood by protecting it from out-of-context development. However, it would be imperative to have local groups, such as the proposed block associations, request this zoning change from the New York City Planning Commission, as the Commission will not take the initiative in rezoning the Cozine and Gascoine District.

Furthermore, it is recommended that these block associations, in conjunction with local historians and historic societies, implement a plan to further research the surviving building fabric constructed by Cozine and Gascoine in the Bushwick area. It has been documented that there were about 1000 structures in the region developed by the firm, making Cozine and Gascoine some of the most prolific speculative developers of Northern Brooklyn in the late nineteenth century. Unfortunately, much of this construction happened outside of our studio’s Study Area, so the proposed Cozine and Gascoine District only encompasses a fraction of their speculative development scheme. Nevertheless, it provides a fertile foundation for further research and understanding of the historic significance of the area.


[[#_ftnref1|[1]]] “Death List of a Day.” New York Times, 28 November 1903. Page 9.

[[#_ftnref1|[1]]] “Death List of a Day.” New York Times, 28 November 1903. Page 9.

[1] “Death List of a Day.” New York Times, 28 November 1903. Page 9.
[1] Additional development also occurred along Evergreen Avenue, however for the purposes of this report, only buildings in the defined Study Area were examined.
[1] “Brooklyn Realty Matters.” New York Times, 8 June 1894. Page 12.
[1] “Death List of a Day.” New York Times, 28 November 1903. Page 9.
[1] “18th Ward: A Territory Large Enough for a City,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 26, 1885, p4. Cozine and Gascoine are featured prominently in the article.
[1] Ibid.
[1] 1900 United States Census. The 1900 census is the earliest available census for this purpose since the 1890 United States Census records were lost in a fire.
[1] “Brooklyn Realty Matters.” New York Times, 8 June 1894. Page 12.
[1] A History of Long Island: from its earliest settlement to the present time, Volume 3 by Peter Ross and William Smith Pelletreau, The Lewis Publishing Co. New York, 1905 (p92-93)
[1] New Building Permits of 1915 and 1915, New York City Department of Buildings.
[1] “Zoning Reference – Residential Districts: R6.” New York City Department of City Planning Online, 2011. <http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/zone/zh_r6.shtml> 10 March 2011.