Bay Avenue, Greenport

A FIELD GUIDE to 19th century American architecture, all on one block in one town. Not even that long a block either: Bay Avenue in Greenport, on the North Fork of Long Island. There’s everything from a c.1820 Greek Revival sea captain’s cottage to squared-off Italianates of the 1840s, front porch farmhouses, and turreted Victorians. Take a walk and gawk with me…

Got a favorite?

The Insider: Clinton Hill Classic in Modern Dress


Hard as it may be to believe, ten years ago this immaculate 1873 brownstone on one of Clinton Hill’s most elegant blocks was chopped into six SRO [single room occupancy] units, sharing four kitchens between them. Its wood floors were so grimy no one knew they were parquet. Its imposing arched entry door had cardboard panes instead of glass. The sky was visible through holes in the top-floor ceiling.

When the current owners — a couple with two teenagers, who live on three of the four floors and rent out the garden level — bought the building in 2001 and embarked on a renovation, the house more than met them halfway…

To read all about it and see lots more pictures, click here.

Born-Again Savannah Mansions


THIS JOB DESCRIPTION caught my eye as I was flipping through the latest issue of O magazine: “Historic Home Renovator.” Oprah’s magazine often spotlights female entrepreneurs; this was the story of Tammy Jo Long, a 48-year-old single mother, who in 2003 quit her corporate sales job in Chicago to pursue her obsession with the romantic 19th century mansions of Savannah.


Jones Street Suites

Since then, Long, who had little prior experience with construction, has restored five of them, some that had been vacant so long “they had rats you could put a saddle on.” She’s brought back their grand staircases and elaborate plasterwork, winning local, state, and national awards for her strict adherence to preservation guidelines, and decorated them, for the most part, in traditional formal style.


The Washington Square Collection

The spiffed-up landmark properties are now vacation rentals. Long’s company, Luxury Living Savannah, markets them as 16 units, starting with a 1 BR, 1 bath for $175/night and ranging up to an entire 8-bedroom mansion for $7,450/week, for weddings, reunions, getaways and gatherings of all sorts.


The 1871 Forsyth Park Mansion, above, took 18 months to restore.


The Wedding Cake Mansion, left

To read more about Long’s inspiring dream job and success story, and see interior and garden photos, follow this link.

Saratoga Sojourn


THERE’S ONE AUGUST RITUAL my wasband and I cherish, and it’s something even being un-married cannot undo: our annual trip to the horse races at Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, followed by ‘taking the waters’ at Saratoga Spa State Park.


Every summer, I admire the amazing two-tone Italianate facade of the 1877 Adelphi Hotel on Broadway, a three-story arched loggia rendered in brick. This year we actually stayed there, and I was not disappointed. The Adelphi is a rare American example of High Victoriana in architecture and decor, with lush gardens, a romantic pool, and endless nooks, patios, and verandahs.






The races, though fun, are the least of it. The track is of the same vintage as the hotel, a real national treasure. It’s a very democratic scene; general admission is $3.


Not being much of a gambler, I conservatively bet on favorites to show, and thus increase my starting cash by enough to buy a beer by the 5th race.


Saratoga’s famed mineral waters — there are 18 naturally occurring springs — are what drew people there in the first place. Pavilions throughout town are often crowded with people filling jugs with water either clear and sweet or smelling strongly of sulfur, said to have various properties from aiding digestion to improving the complexion.


The historic 1933 spa complex at Saratoga Spa State Park, which once included a concert hall and restaurants, is now much reduced, but the Roosevelt Baths & Spa inside one of the Federal-style buildings is open for business.



There are massage and beauty services, which you can get anywhere, and deep, no-frills soaking tubs filled with mineral water drawn to just the right temperature for 40 minutes of muscle-releasing, soul-satisfying relaxation ($25), which you cannot.

Bohemian Splendor in Cobble Hill


ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT BLOGGING is making new friends. Lula and I met only a few months ago, when she stumbled upon my blog and contacted me. We soon discovered we are neighbors in two places. She has an adorable cottage a few blocks from mine in Springs (East Hampton), N.Y., as well as a parlor floor she’s owned for 16 years in a classic 1850s Italianate brownstone in Brooklyn, top and below, virtually around the corner from where I lived for two decades (though we had never run into each other).


She lives in a state of Bohemian splendor, presently suspended in mid-renovation. Having peeled off old wallpaper, the walls have a Venetian plaster look but await further plaster and paint. The ceiling has been stabilized in parts where it was falling down. There are nearly intact plaster cornice moldings all the way around, with what Lula calls her ‘Shakespearen troupe’ of faces. A new kitchen is in the cards, and there’s a potential terrace at the back which is just tar paper, no railings, at the moment.


Most of the elaborate plaster cornice is in great shape, above. Other parts, below, not so much.


Lula is grappling with the questions endemic to living on the parlor floor of a brownstone.


  • Where to put the kitchen so it’s functional but unobtrusive? Right now it’s in the middle and will probably remain there for plumbing reasons, but in what configuration?
  • How to create a bedroom with privacy? She’s got a small one in the former hall space at the back, and uses the back parlor as a sort of den/guest room, above — but could it be better used as a master bedroom or dining room (currently in the kitchen area)?
  • And what about those magnificent original wood doors and moldings? Were they painted back in the day (she thinks so) and should they be painted again, or refinished and stained? Should perhaps the doors be left wood and just the moldings painted?


All that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the place has great cozy charm. With all that original detail, antiques acquired piecemeal over the years, an overstuffed sofa, plants on the window sills, and faded Oriental rugs, it feels much like being back in the Victorian era, for real.


After my first-ever visit to Lula’s apartment, we went and checked out the new Fork & Pencil warehouse on Bergen Street, above, a few-months-old, crammed-full, well-vetted consignment store — a spin-off of the smaller storefront on Court Street — whose proceeds go to non-profit conservation, arts, and other organizations. It’s more Lula’s kind of place than mine, filled with traditional antiques, but more to the point, I don’t need anything at the moment. Browsing there is purely a theoretical exercise for me. I admire, appreciate, and move on. Don’t need anything, thanks!


We had a civilized late lunch nearby at Broken English, the sort of self-conscious industrial chic space one used to expect only in Manhattan. I’m glad it’s come to Brooklyn, because my rigatoni with marinara and basil was scrumptious, and the salad, bread, and olive oil were tops. You can tell the quality of a restaurant by its bread and salad, I once read, and I think that’s on the mark. Broken English is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ignore the snarky online reviews from amateur critics and give it a try. It’s a welcome addition to the nabe, in my book.