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Built in 1879, Cobble Hill Towers is an iconic and beloved architectural Landmark. The buildings - with their cross-ventilation, private courtyards and exterior staircases - were an attempt by philanthropist Alfred T. White to create a new model for worker housing. Mr. White was successful in creating other homes for working people in Brooklyn, including the Workingmen’s Cottages (adjacent to Cobble Hill Towers on Warren Place), and the Riverside Apartments on Columbia Place in Brooklyn Heights.
Journalist and reformer Jacob Riis references these building in Constructive and Preventive Philanthropy, published in 1906 (note Cobble Hill Towers was known at that time as the Tower and Home buildings): “The most famous model tenement enterprises in America are the Home, Tower, and Riverside buildings, erected respectively in 1877, 1878, and 1890, by Alfred T. White, of Brooklyn…The buildings, covering about fifty per cent of the lot, are built around three sides of a square, open to the south. They are six stories (sixty feet) high, are almost absolutely fireproof, and have excellent means of egress…Every apartment not only opens outdoors, but has a through draft,…are " self-contained " ; rooms are supplied with water, a clothes-press with shelf and hooks, a place for a stove, and a coal-box, holding a quarter of a ton…. Children can play in the courtyard, and also in the cellar or covered verandas when it rains. There is a band of eight pieces for two hours on Saturday afternoons in summer. The Home building has a reading-room for its own tenants and for those of the Tower building and the general public, which takes daily papers and weekly and monthly magazines, and also has a circulating library of 334 novels. The buildings have open stairways, but the tenants do not seem to object.” Cobble Hill Towers has been modernized throughout its history, and remains a unique model for Brooklyn living.
Architectural Wealth, Built for the Poor
October 10, 2008 — The New York Times
My Brooklyn: Landmark Towers, Still Loved and Lived In
January 1, 2003 — The New York Times