In 1660, Dutch immigrant Leffert Pietersen van Haughwout founded a farm at the northern edge of the town of Flatbush, what is today Lefferts Manor. The farm stayed for generations and the area around it stayed mostly rural until the 1800s.
After nearby Prospect Park was completed in 1873, the town of Flatbush was being built up and the direct descendant of van Haughwout, James Lefferts, realized the residential value of the Lefferts farmland.
In 1894, he divided the homestead into 600 separate lots and sold them to builders. Lefferts gave restrictions however, that Lefferts Manor would only be developed with single-family residences in hopes of attracting a stable middle-class population. Specifically, each house had to cost at least $5,000 to build, be constructed by brick or stone, be at least two stories high and be set back from the street at least 14 feet.
Without building restrictions outside the manor, two-family row houses popped up and in the 1920s and 1930s, large apartment buildings followed.
How Prospect-Lefferts Got Its Name
The Dutch colonist Pieter Janse Hagewout, a farmer and cobbler from Holland, came to New Amsterdam aboard “De Bonte Koe” (“Spotted Cow”) in 1660 and settled in the area called Vlacke Bos on the northern edge of Flatbush, at what today is Lefferts Manor.
In 1687, Hagewout’s son Pieter Lefferts bought 58 acres in the area that was named for the Lefferts family, the area now known as Prospect Lefferts Gardens. He built the original Lefferts Homestead, which was purposely burned down in 1776 to keep it from the invading British. (The Lefferts family had left the area.) The house was rebuilt in 1783 and relocated to Prospect Park in 1918. It is now a museum.
The area itself was developed after Prospect Park was completed in 1873.
In 1894, James Lefferts subdivided the family home into 600 separate lots and sold them to builders, but he restricted the Lefferts Manor sector to one-family homes. He also ensured that the homes there be at least two stories high and made of brick or stone, along with other restrictive guidelines for builders.
[Lefferts Manor was to prohibit “stables, pigpens, forges, iron foundries, fertilizer, gunpowder, saltpeter, soap, candle, ink, glue, and varnish factories, tanneries, breweries, etc., as well as hospitals, theaters, apartment houses, tenements.”]
Between 1905 and 1911, more than 500 houses were built in the planned community now called Prospect Lefferts Gardens, which is bordered by Flatbush Ave., Empire Boulevard, and New York and Clarkson avenues. (An occasional hyphen pops up in the name of the neighborhood, but the preferred spelling is without it.)
Lefferts Manor has been designated a historic district.
Brooklyn-born Norm Goldstein is retired, after working 44 years for the Associated Press, the global news agency, where he served as a reporter, feature writer, editor, author and administrator. He also worked for AP as director of Educational Services and editor of the AP Stylebook.
He graduated from Brooklyn College and the Penn State Graduate School of Journalism.
He currently lives in Brooklyn Heights.