Looks like the Hell House has been granted salvation.
Since November of 2010, contractors have been renovating the spacious white-colored house where legendary animator Winsor McCay once resided, and now the property owner said the project is almost complete – and has a price tag nearly six times the amount he paid.
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When renovations began in November at the McCay House (a.k.a. Hell House, a.k.a 1811 Voorhies Avenue), we worried that the original stained glass might be lost or destroyed in the construction. But Lisanne Anderson reports that it’s still there and doing just fine, as this photo proves. This is a photo of the interior view of the window, which Lisanne captured from an angle through a removed window frame, so those who worried about trespassing can be at ease. She previously snagged an excellent shot from the outside, which you can see here.
The demolition crew posed through the torn out windows of the McCay House - aka the Hell House
Current state of the McCay House (click to enlarge)
New owners of the problematic “Hell” house at 1811 Voorhies Avenue have started on a much-needed overhaul, including a complete gut renovation of the interior.
The news is a mixed bag for history buffs, who are interested in preserving the building after it was discovered that Winsor McCay, considered the grandfather of American animation, lived and possibly worked there.
On the one hand, the building won’t be torn down and replaced with condominiums, as the previous landlord sought. Nor will it be used as a halfway house, another failed attempt to change usage. The new owners, EEI Properties, wants to fully restore the house for two-family usage, preserving the facade and keeping the columns and exterior features that date back more than 100 years.
“This place was a junkyard,” Isaac Itah, a representative for EEI Properties, told Sheepshead Bites. “We’re keeping the nature of the house. The outside we’re keeping the same, and the reason is very simple. I believe the outside is beautiful.”
Windsor McCay House: the past and the future.
I stopped by the Winsor McCay “Hell House” (1811 Voorhies) yesterday to snap photos of the damage left by Friday’s fire. I spotted this stained glass window that I never noticed before. I couldn’t get a good shot of it without trespassing, so I let it be and moved on.
Lisanne, however, is an adventurous soul who braved the wilds of the neighbor’s yard, and got this great shot. Not only is the glass cool – and probably original – but the aesthetics of the photo itself are really spectacular. The green moss contrasts the purple hue of the glass, and then there’s orange and blue – I mean, this photo just came out way better than mine. Props to Lisanne.
Damage didn’t appear to be too bad to the exterior of the Winsor McCay “Hell House” (1811 Voorhies Avenue), and the structure seems salvageable. The second floor windows were boarded up along the front. On the side, only one window – the forward-most one – was boarded. All others were intact, suggesting that the worst of the fire may have been contained to the front of the house.
Below is a gallery of photos. The ones of the damage were taken by Sheepshead Bites. The ones of the fire were taken by Eugene D., a reader who happened to be going by during the fire. He sent them this morning.
View the Winsor McCay
We are heartbroken. The “Hell House“, which we discovered to be the one-time home of famed cartoonist Winsor McCay, was set ablaze on Friday morning.
The Sheepshead Bay “Hell House” earned its moniker Friday morning after a smoky fire forced panicked residents out into the two-day blizzard.
Firefighters responded at about 8:30 a.m. after the blaze broke out on the second floor of the three-story, single-room-occupancy building at 1811 Voorhies Avenue.
It took upwards of 60 smoke-eaters nearly a half-hour to beat the fire down.
No injuries to either firefighters or civilians were reported.
The cause of the blaze, which erupted on the second floor, was still unknown by Friday afternoon, but fire sources listed it as suspicious. Fire marshals were investigating.
FDNY sources said that there was “a good amount” of fire and water damage because it took so long to put the blaze out.
We haven’t been to the location yet to view the damage ourselves, but hope to this afternoon. We’ll let you know if it’s as bad as it sounds. We’re hoping that this doesn’t mean a restoration is totally out of the question, or that it is so damaged it must be torn down.
We’ll watch closely and get back to you as we find out more.
After seeing our posts about 1811 Voorhies Avenue, now known to some as the “Hell House” for its graffiti and nefarious residents, local historian Joseph Ditta sent us the above photo of the same house published 101 years ago.
According to Ditta, the photo came from a very rare 1909 marketing pamphlet titled Views of Picturesque Sheepshead Bay. The home was occupied at the time by Winsor McCay, a pioneering cartoonist who influenced Walt Disney, Moebius, William Joyce, and Maurice Sendak. His most iconic series was Little Nemo in Slumberland. McCay died in 1934 and was buried at the Cemetery of the Evergreens.
Now, more than a century after it was built and lived in by a historical icon, the property’s owners seek to tear down the structure and replace it with condominiums. Failing that, they’re attempting to subcontract it to the city for a new life as a halfway house or homeless shelter. Such a turn would seal its fate to further destruction, until it’s finally pulled down and forgotten about like so many of Sheepshead Bay’s notable structures.
What should be done is a full restoration and landmarking. Evidence of Sheepshead Bay’s rich cultural history is fading fast, and homes like the Winsor McCay House ought to be preserved to remind people of our past. Like the other historical homes of Brooklyn, the McCay House could be a museum, cultural center, and pillar of community organizing for generations to come – a far more desired asset in Sheepshead Bay than another condo or halfway house.
The owners of the two houses at 1809 and 1811 Voorhies Avenue told Courier-Life reporters they would prefer to subcontract the houses to the city for use as a halfway house or homeless shelter.
We wrote about the houses last week, after tenants at 1811 Voorhies sprayed graffiti reading “Welcome to Hell” and “Bed Bugs Paradise” along the front. The graffiti has since been removed.
One can only wonder what set Courier-Life on the case (hmm…), but reporters spoke to the owners, Iliya Honovich and Vladimir Parsol, who said they bought the properties back in 2006. They are approved only for single room occupancy (SRO) so they can only serve as rooming houses. The duo bought the pair of houses hoping to rezone it to build condos, but Community Board 15 rejected their attempts saying there are already too many condos in the area.
“Having an SRO is like a suicide deal. There’s always going to be some kind of problem. There’s always bums and weird people that live there,” Honovich told Courier-Life.
Now the owners are seeking to subcontract the buildings to the city for use as a shelter or other institutional housing, saying the guaranteed rent from the city would afford them better security and maintenance. To simply turn the houses into two-family homes would involve a lengthy, expensive battle through housing court.
Screw Red Hook and Real World, and screw Jersey Shore and their shore house. I think we just found our shooting location for Sheepshead Shore.
We received a number of e-mails and photos about this building at East 18th Street and Voorhies Avenue. Apparently, unhappy tenants got tired of airing their grievances to the landlord about the bed bugs, and now they’ve made it public. I’ve seen “Welcome to Hell” painted on the building several times over the years.
Does anyone know what the deal with this house is? I’ve heard it was a halfway house or some other sort of institutional housing, while others have told me it’s a boardinghouse for illegal immigrants. That’s a “For Rent” sign on the column, so that may nix the first idea, and – awful as it sounds – the grammar is a little too good to be done by ESL residents.
This has always been one of my favorite houses in Sheepshead Bay, if only for the big mystery it presents and its film noir grittiness. I mean, come on, can’t you just imagine the drama, the drugs, the sex, the murder that tiny, cold door?