Focus on Fort Greene


IT’S NOT NEWS THAT BROOKLYN’S FORT GREENE NEIGHBORHOOD has some of the most elegant brownstones in the borough. And that Fort Greene Park, designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, like Central and Prospect Parks, is no less a masterwork of 19th century landscape architecture.

But as is often the case in a complex place like Brooklyn, where stylistic layers have accumulated over the decades and where there’s just so much to look at as you barrel along, even a longtime resident like myself is constantly discovering new (to me) blocks and buildings.

Out for a walk last Sunday and wanting to try out the camera on my new iPhone 6, I strolled down Cumberland Street, which I knew had at least one very fine freestanding mansion, above, and found many more wood frame houses than I expected, and much else to keep my eyes busy.

Most of the houses in this post are on that one street, with the exception of the three old brownstones with intact parlor-floor storefronts and gabled roofs; those are on Greene Avenue. Thirty-five years ago, when we were a young couple and had recently bought a fixer-upper on the fringe of the fringe of Boerum Hill, we briefly knew another young couple who had bought one of those three buildings in even more derelict condition and were giving it a go. I wish I knew what became of them, but I don’t remember their names. Perhaps they still own it. Or perhaps they got quickly discouraged and moved away. Or perhaps they held on to it for decades, sold it and made a killing. Whether they’re there or not, the buildings remain. And that’s what’s so great about Brooklyn.

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The Filet of the Neighborhood

Part four of the apartment-hunt quartet and then we’ll give it a rest.

Sunday morning I saw a historic goodie of a flat in Fort Greene, on a block I was always curious about: the glorious Washington Park, northernmost rim of Fort Greene Park, elegant since Edith Wharton’s day.

It was half the top floor, 2BR for $2,300, overlooking Olmsted and Vaux’s sea of green. The front parlor and attached alcove were good and intact, the back bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom very East Village in the ’70s.


It was four enormous flights up – and once inside the apartment, the second bedroom is a loft reached by ladder. Not for me, I told the broker, panting – for someone younger. (Not just that – it was very close to Myrtle Avenue and the projects, not the tonier, more beautiful, DeKalb Avenue end. If it was at the other end, I might have gladly climbed those stairs.)

Indeed, there was a young couple looking at the place. I hope they took it.


Then I drove around Clinton Hill, going up and down streets I hadn’t paid much attention to since my days at Pratt in the late ’80s (I’m an architecture-school dropout). On St. James Place and Cambridge Place, above and below, between Lafayette and Greene, I was amazed once again at the architectural richness of this borough.


Stumbled into one of the houses on the Society for Clinton Hill House Tour, below, a wood-porched Victorian relic.


I’m visualizing a nice, wide parlor floor with terrace in that area.