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WITH DAFFODIL FOLIAGE PUSHING UP in the front yards of brownstone Brooklyn, the winter of my content is coming to an end. I’ve enjoyed this uninterrupted two-month spell of life in my ever-amazing home borough, where you see things like the movie shoot, above, on Prospect Park West, when you go out for your Sunday morning walk.
We’ve had our bit of snow (that’s the cherry orchard at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, with the Brooklyn Museum in the distance, above, as it looked a week ago Friday, and the view from my front window, below). I’ve caught up with old friends and gobbled down some culture (the Matisse show at the Met, the Museum of Arts and Design, French lessons on Saturday afternoons, even an afternoon at the ballet), though not enough of either.
And at long last, I’m in sight of a closing date on the property I’m buying in East Hampton. On Friday, the house passed its inspection for an updated Certificate of Occupancy, meaning, the Town deems it safe to live in (and that the backfilling of a derelict swimming pool, which I oversaw last month, was done to their satisfaction). And this afternoon I got an email from the seller telling me he is “putting together a crew” to move his two boats and the accumulated furnishings and stuff of 30 years out… this week.
Ye gads. It’s really happening! This means that after weeks of lying on the sofa, leafing languidly through books on Japanese landscaping and ripping pages out of decorating magazines, I’ll soon be putting in actual hard labor. All too soon, perhaps. Am I ready to plunge full-tilt into cleaning, painting, gardening, renovation? It makes me want to settle back on the couch with “The Art of the Japanese Garden” and a cup of tea. I’m already reflecting nostalgically on this temporary period of being a one-home person. I haven’t missed the Long Island Expressway one bit.
Soon enough, I’ll be in the woods, at the beach, breathing country air and enjoying country silence. Meanwhile, I’m appreciating the beauties at hand, like the freestanding mansions of Victorian Flatbush, above and below, where I went earlier this week for the annual ritual meeting with my accountant.
Mostly, though, what I appreciate is my Prospect Heights pied-a-terre, below, where I’ve been cozily cocooned. Its cheery yellow walls never fail to boost my spirits, and its two south-facing windows have served my houseplant collection well.
As the days lengthen, then, onward to what’s next.
EVERY SO OFTEN, a truly splendiferous house comes to market, like this turreted 15-room, 5,200-square-foot mansion in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park South Historic District. The AIA Guide to New York City calls the 1905 building by architect John J. Petit “Shingle Style with a Colonial Revival, Tuscan-colonnaded porch” — altogether fitting for a neighborhood that is itself an eclectic mix of styles popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
First listed in September 2007 for $2,595,000, it sold last month for $1.6M (go here for more about the house’s price history).
The new owners, Brooklyn residents since 1992, intend not only to bring the house back to its original state, but to blog about the renovation on Brownstoner.com as they go. The first post appeared last Friday.
They have their work cut out for them. The house is a Victorian extravanganza, laden with woodwork, chandeliers, stained glass, a wraparound porch, grand staircase, an extraordinary oval dining room, and nooks and crannies galore.
But the kitchen had been banished to a back hall during the house’s years as a doctor’s home and office (the spectacular dining room was used as a waiting room). There’s vinyl siding, miles of excess wiring, cracked plaster, and lots more to do and un-do.
To get a sense of the project ahead, go to the Albemarle Reno Blog and follow the transformation.
Not so in Columbia County, where brilliant yellow birches and red maples are coloring the hills right now (I was lucky enough to be there last weekend). And not so in Brooklyn, whose varied street trees can be positively stunning in October, especially in a wet year like this one.
Next Saturday, October 24, a Brooklyn blog, Sustainable Flatbush, is sponsoring the first-ever Fall Street Tree Walking Tour in Victorian Flatbush, an autumnal counterpart to its successful springtime walking tour.
Tour guides will be Tracey Hohman, a professional gardener, and Chris Kreussling, aka Flatbush Gardener, both neighborhood residents. They’ll lead you down Albemarle Road’s planted median, flanked by spectacular architecture and beautiful private gardens; ID the neighborhood’s trees, some of which are 100 years old; and point out the lasting impact of the great Brooklyn Tornado of August 2007 (why don’t I remember that?) Soon you’ll be able to recognize Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum), a native with leaves of yellow and purple on the same tree, and many more.
A map with a complete list of trees is here.
There are two departures, at 11AM and 12 noon, both starting at Sacred Vibes Apothecary, 376 Argyle Road, just south of Cortelyou Road.
The 2-hour tour is FREE and takes place rain or shine.
Photo: Chris Kreussling, Flatbush Gardener