The streetscapes of Brooklyn are shaped by the work of countless builders and architects, some famous, some obscure. Some deserve their obscurity. But there are many too who may not have achieved fame, but whose fine work continues to anchor neighborhoods and arouse interest in passers-by.
Axel Hedman is a name known to people who like to read guides to architecture and Landmark Designation Reports. Hedman's buildings are dotted through several Brooklyn neighborhoods. Born in Norrkoping, Sweden, in 1861, Hedman immigrated to the U.S. in 1880. He was naturalized in 1901 and lived in Brooklyn until his death in 1943. Barbara Hedman-Kettell, Hedman's great-granddaughter, has been researching her ancestor's buildings in preparation for a celebratory family tour, and is creating a list of his work gathered from various sources including the Brooklyn Collection. Domestic architecture predominates, but the list also includes some familiar public buildings in Brooklyn and other parts of the city.
Hedman is responsible for a fine group of houses on Maple Street, as well as dwellings on Third Street in Park Slope, Dean Street in Crown Heights, Greene Ave in Clinton Hill, and Decatur Street in Bedford Stuyvesant, and many others. He built the old Swedish hospital, a public bath house at Hicks and Degraw that must have given way to the BQE, and the Parkville Congregational Church that stood at the corner of 18th Ave and East 5th Street. Hedman also carried out extensive renovations to Brooklyn's Borough Hall. Another Hedman building of note is the Congregation B'nai Jacob on 9th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.
Built in 1913 for Congregation Beth Shalom, this building was sold to an American Legion post in the 1950s. In recent years Congregation B'nai Jacob has restored it to its original purpose, carrying out extensive renovations and adding stained glass windows.
Hedman lived at various times on Livingston Street, East 4th St not far from the site of the Congregational Church he designed, and later, on Avenue L. With offices in the old Arbuckle Building in Downtown Brooklyn and the bulk of his work in his adopted borough, Hedman had a lasting and positive impact on Brooklyn's urban fabric.
Photos: Axel Hedman, courtesy of Barbara Hedman-Kettell
Houses on Maple Street. Brooklyn Public Library--Brooklyn Collection