WHEN IT’S DAMP AND DRIZZLING AND DARK BY 5, and some trucker has sideswiped your car and taken off your driver’s side mirror, and you find yourself walking home in the rain from an auto body shop in gritty Gowanus, you’ve got to seek out beauty wherever you can find it (or become powerfully depressed).
A pretty iron railing, a rare gem of a 19th century wood-frame row house with a mansard roof, the warm light emanating from the windows of a brownstone parlor, whimsical stone faces carved in a Romanesque facade…
a purple painted doorway in a montone row of brown stone, a crazy turquoise bay on an otherwise somber apartment building…there’s plenty to smile about, even through the raindrops.
Things are changing in Gowanus, signified by the coming of Whole Foods, announced yesterday. A movement associated with the Park Slope Civic Council, Future of Fourth Avenue, hopes to beautify what seems a hopelessly ugly strip, below.
Within three blocks of the body shop, where used to be other auto body shops and a church called Jesus Never Fails Church of God, there’s the welcoming Bar Tano, on the corner of Third Avenue and 9th Street; the three-month-old Michael & Ping’s which bills itself as modern Chinese (the decor may be modern, the food seems about the same); and a tin-ceilinged pie shop called Four and Twenty Blackbirds, filled this afternoon with laptop-wielding hipsters with a hankering for homemade bourbon sweet potato, honeyed pumpkin, or caramel apple pie ($4.50/slice). I resisted.
Romanesque Revival mansion on Sterling Place and 7th Avenue, Park Slope
I’ve been reading about the history of my new neighborhood, Prospect Heights. It boomed in the decade between the 1873 opening of Prospect Park and the 1883 opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. Horse-drawn omnibuses plied Flatbush Avenue from Fulton Ferry landing, from which 1,200 ferry boats a DAY made the crossing to and from Manhattan.
Romanesque Revival apartment building, Prospect Place near Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Heights
Romanesque Revival style prevailed, with hefty arches over doors and windows, and terra cotta facades heavily carved with flora and faces and other motifs (maybe because Chanukah starts tomorrow, I kept seeing six-pointed stars, below).
Brooklyn is rich in architectural decoration. That’s even more apparent now that I’m living deep in late-Victorian territory. There’s always something new to notice.
Above, Disgruntled, apprehensive, rageaholic: three faces from the facade of the red Prospect Place building above.
Anybody care to venture a guess as to who these gargoyles were, and why they look so pissed off? Were the faces modeled on real people? They look anything but generic.