The Fleet Mansion

Full-Screen-enlargeThe Fleet Mansion, north side of Fulton between Duffield and Gold.

The Fleet name, still seen to mark various locations around the downtown and Fort Greene areas, is not maritime or waterfront related but an old Long Island family (thought to have been shortened from Fleetwood), a wealthy scion of which was one Samuel Fleet, who made a large fortune in the War of 1812 selling grain from his Huntington farm. He multiplied his capital in early Brooklyn real estate, and in 1819 built a stately homestead on Fulton between Duffield and Gold.

The mansion and its grounds were much beloved by the people of Brooklyn for the grand aspect it brought to the main thoroughfare of Fulton Street (then Fulton Avenue), especially as it stood for the better part of fifty years and offered an increasingly picturesque anachronism against the relentlessly encroaching city. By the time this picture was made, most of the surrounding lots were already crowded with urban style dwellings. Inevitably, the estate gave way to commercial exuberance, first by way of the street-fronting grounds, and then by sacrifice of the house itself.

Whitman would have known this location well, as it was just around the corner from his Prince street residence in the late 1840s.

About the artist, from the Brooklyn Museum collection at

Frances “Fanny” Palmer was a professional artist who worked for the famous printmaking firm of Currier & Ives for twenty years. Although watercolor was considered a polite accomplishment for genteel women—what an 1856 writer referred to as a “husband-catcher”—it was rare for a woman to have an artistic career in the mid-nineteenth century. This picture of a handsome Neoclassical mansion on Fulton Street in Brooklyn demonstrates Palmer’s deft control of the watercolor medium and her eye for anecdotal detail.

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Image Details:

Brooklyn Museum Collection


Period Color


Circa 1850


Fort Greene