Prospect Heights Then & Now

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Mansard roof with dormer windows, Prospect Place. You can see them in the row of brownstones on the left in the second vintage photo, below.

IF I COULD HOP into a time machine and go back to Brooklyn in 1914, I would. I’m not sure how long I’d stay; I’d want an open return ticket, just in case I missed some things about the 21st century.

But old photographs, like the ones in this post from the site Brooklynpix, which claims the most comprehensive collection of vintage Brooklyn photos anywhere, are sure a balm for eyes tired of bad contemporary architecture, ugly cars, brash advertising signs, and lately, heaps of garbage on dirty snow.

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Above, an undated view of Flatbush Avenue looking north (toward downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan) from Prospect Place. The buildings are crisp and uniform, the signage tasteful. Of course, it was all relatively new back then, this area having been developed mostly in the 1870s and ’80s. Below, the same block today.

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Prospect Place in 1914, looking east from Flatbush Avenue, below, had trees and lovely striped window awnings. The turreted building on the right, once a real estate office, is now a burrito place.

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Below, the same block as it looks today (I couldn’t get exactly the same angle as in the vintage shot without standing right in the middle of Flatbush Avenue, which would be foolhardy). The six-window-wide brownstone, third from the left in the contemporary shot, below, is the one in the left foreground of the view above.

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It’s easy to match up the red building with the Romanesque arches in the picture, above, with the same one in the 1914 picture below, a slightly different angle on the same block.

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If I’m not mistaken, the shop with the barber pole in front, above, is now a hairdresser’s. Some things never change.

About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
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10 Responses to Prospect Heights Then & Now

  1. Astor C. says:

    This bit from Orson Wells’ script for “The Magnificent Ambersons” seems appropriate:

    “George Amberson Minafer walked homeward slowly through what seemed to be the strange streets of a strange city. The town was growing and changing. It was heaving up in the middle, incredibly. It was spreading, incredibly. And as it heaved and spread, it befouled itself, and darkened its sky. This was the last walk home he was ever to take up National Avenue to Amberson addition, and the big old house at the foot of Amberson Boulevard. Tomorrow, they were to move out. Tomorrow, everything would be gone.”

  2. cara says:

    Wow, Astor, now there’s a writer. Perfect. Brooklyn has befouled itself. It surely would be a strange city to that little boy standing by the fire hydrant in the bottom picture.

  3. Cher@NR says:

    Is it just me, or were the sidewalks much bigger back then?

  4. cara says:

    hi Cher, you may be right. They’ve probably narrowed them a bit on Flatbush to accommodate more cars. What surprised me in these pics is that Prospect Place was so wide, and there seem to be so few carriages.

  5. Tricia says:

    Just a hi to say how much I enjoy your blog. I grew up in Staten Island and at that time, Brooklyn was not exactly cool (mid 70’s). Now everyone I know aspires to live there while I am in the suburbs of Philly ;) I finally got to drive through a bit more last week enroute to a business trip on LI and I kept thinking of your blog. I will attend a wedding in May at the Montauk Club and can’t wait. Thanks for all the great posts !

  6. cara says:

    hi Tricia, welcome. I know of what you speak! I, too, was of the “Who wants to live in BROOKLYN?!?” school back in the early/mid ’70s, but I got over it and moved to Brooklyn in December of ’77. It still wasn’t cool for at least 15 years after that… A May wedding at the Montauk Club sounds great! Thanks for your readership, glad you’re enjoying the vicarious views of New York’s hippest borough.

  7. i enjoy your blog. I mved to Brooklyn 10 years ago from Manhattan upper west side and I love living here in Brooklyn. Where each neighborhood has its own recognition. Flatbush AVenue from Grand Army Plaza to Atlantic Avenue is the district I mange as the Executive Drector of the north Flatbush Avenue BID. I love looking at old photos of what was this neighborhood and compare it to what it is now and how I can improve. The neighborhood that you decsribe as “ugh” will soon be transformed into a new era. We not only have the biggest entertainment arena in our district coming soon, but as we work with DOT the North Flatbush avenue BID will be transforming the 3 small triangle parks at 6th, 7th and 8th Avenue into public plazas. Adding trees, planters and benches, more bike racks and a wayfinding kiosk. We are working with the Landmark Committee as they get ready to add our district into the Park Slope/Prospect Heights Lamndmark District. With this, we want to maintain a uiiformed business awning for our merchants. By mid summer we will have 6 more new business moving into this area. So, before you UGH an area, remember many folks make a living here and I enjoy my street. By the way, I eat lunch at Burrito Bar 3 or 4 times a week, the food is organic, fresh and healthy with a wide variety of smoothies. On any given Saturday night, the place is packed and during the summer months when there is an outdoor cafe, the wait is 30-45 minutes for a table. And Burrito Bar won The Brooklyn Botanic Garden “Greenest Block in Brooklyn” contest for greenest storefront, 3 years in a row, coming in first place.
    thank you,
    Sharon Davidson
    Executive Director
    North Flatbush Avenue BID

  8. cara says:

    hi, Sharon! So glad you reached out with your thought-provoking comment. I’m not “UGH-ing” the entire area — just that stretch of Flatbush, which to my eye is far from attractive these days. Street trees would go a long way toward improving the overall picture, but I’m guessing that, as on Smith Street (which also suffers from lack of greenery), their absence is because of underground rail/subway lines that aren’t very deep and wouldn’t allow for tree roots. Is that correct? I’m delighted to hear about the coming improvements to the triangle parks and the new store awnings. Like many people in the area, I have a deep sense of foreboding about what the new entertainment arena is going to look like and the effect it is going to have on the surrounding neighborhood. For that I suppose we will now have to wait and see and hope for the best. Thank you thank you thank you for setting me straight on Burrito Bar! I will definitely give it a try (would be happy to meet you for lunch there anytime!) All I can say is, it didn’t appeal to me at all from the outside in winter (I noticed their plants, most of which were dying and should have been brought inside months before). Sorry, but I’m telling it like it is! Again, appreciate your feedback and I am only too happy to do what I can to chronicle the coming positive changes to North Flatbush Ave. All best!

  9. coppermaven says:

    Loved this post, Cara, and all the comments it has generated. Astor, I liked the Orson Wells. It’s strange reading about Brooklyn while I’m in India.

    Coppermaventravels.wordpress.com

  10. sharon says:

    I would love to have lunch with one day at Burrito Bar and I can point out the awards that this restaurant won in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for the Greenest Storefront from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Greenest Block in Brooklyn Contest. You obviously walked passed at the end of the summer when most plants arent surviving the fall cold. my treat!

    I love your new cottage bathroom.
    sharon

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