Carolin Gardens was built in 1925 as part of the emerging Sunnyside Gardens community, one of the first planned communities in the US. The builders of Sunnyside Gardens were inspired by the English Garden City movement of Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin. Architects Clarence S. Stein, Henry Wright, and Frederick L. Ackerman worked with landscape architect Marjorie Sewell Cautley on the design and development. Their philosophical colleague, the urban critic Lewis Mumford, became one of the first residents. The real estate developers were philanthropic idealists, too, and included Alexander M. Bing, William Sloane Coffin, Felix Adler, and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Reserving unusually large areas for open space and minimizing construction costs, the designers created homes affordable to working people by combining rows of one- to three-family private houses with co-op and rental apartment buildings, arranging these around common gardens and parks, and placing stores and garages on the periphery of the neighborhood.
In 2007, the City of New York officially designated Sunnyside Gardens, including Carolin Gardens, a National Historic District. Any exterior work conducted within the district must conform to the standards set by the Landmarks Commission to ensure preservation of the community’s historic architectural character.