Sunday, May 18, 2014


I visited New York City many times over the years, but until I moved there I had never set foot in Brooklyn.  When I did, I was amazed -- by the architecture, the neighborhoods, the history, blend of cultures, and the sea.  There were dark aspects and rough places, of course, but all in all I loved it.

My four years in Brooklyn, I lived in a limestone house built in 1905. We call them townhouses in Texas, but in the Northeast they are called row houses or brownstone houses(if made of brown stone, duh).  There are many styles of them built in different eras of New York, and many are being torn down to build modern condominiums and coops in glass and steel.

There were 12 row houses on that part of Ocean Avenue that ran along the east side of Prospect Park (more about that 300-acre park later). The houses were flanked by 6-story, pre-war apartment buildings with the most amazing brick work.  
Two of the houses were federal style and built of red brick.  The other ten houses were limestone and had slight architectural variations from each other.  Each house had a stone terrace in front with stairs leading to a tiny garden.  In the back. there were a much larger gardens that butted up against the subway ditch.  The trains went by every 5-30 minutes depending on the time of day, and that became background noise within weeks.

The interior of the house was amazing. The rooms were enormous with 12-foot ceilings and deep-set, sash windows six feet tall.  Every room in the house, except the bathrooms, had a fireplace, none of them working (although mine leaked gas).  There were elaborate mouldings around the ceilings and light fixtures.  The floors were one-foot oak parquet with borders designed with walnut insets.  The hallways had oak plank flooring, as did the stairs.  The banisters were rich, dark walnut with carved finials.

My living quarters were on the second floor (3rd if you count the basement where the owner lived).  I had a bay window at the front of the house facing the park and a wall of 70-foot trees.  The kitchen was down the hall at the back, a converted bedroom with a bay window overlooking the back garden.

I had driven to New York alone with Agnes, my cat (who died this year at age 20).  The car was jammed with boxes and sundry items.  Aggie found a place in the pile and I didn't see her for the whole trip.  She didn't eat, to my knowledge, or even drink water while we were traveling.  But as soon as I took her into the house in Brooklyn, she felt at home.  She didn't like to go outside - I think the general din of traffic and train noise bothered her -- but she wandered the house making friends with the landlord and other tenant, playing with mice and bugs. She was very content there until I found Dinky on the sidewalk a couple of years later.

Neither Agnes nor I ever got tired of that house.  It was a Brooklyn entity in itself.

Note 1: The house on Ocean Avenue has been turned into Parkside Bed and Breakfast and you can see more exterior and interior photos of it here:

Note 2:  To learn about the different styles of New York's row houses, visit this site: 

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