Thursday, April 30, 2009

Come on in: Doors open on some of the most fascinating homes in Brooklyn

An example of a Victorian style home. Photo: Judith Angel
By Helen Klein

(Published in the 4.30.09 issue of 24/Seven)

The doors of stately Brooklyn homes will be swinging open in welcome, as house tours in historic neighborhoods around the borough get underway in May.

In all, eight neighborhoods will host the popular annual events, which give prospective homeowners, as well as interior design junkies and the merely curious, the opportunity to peek beyond the curtains of borough houses with a pedigree. In addition, glorious gardens in Brownstone Brooklyn will be open to view during a tour in the communities of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights.

First up is the Clinton Hill house tour, scheduled for Sunday, May 3rd, from noon to 5 p.m. Sponsored by the Society for Clinton Hill, the tour features an inside look at some of the neighborhood’s glorious residences, dating to the 19th century, when the neighborhood was the borough’s esteemed Gold Coast.

This year, the tour includes three mansions, as well as several other venerable homes, and the Queen of all Saints Church, at Vanderbilt and Lafayette Avenues. In addition, there will be an organ concert at the church, as well as a chamber music concert at the Charles Pratt Mansion, 232 Clinton Avenue, and a beer tasting courtesy of Kelso Brewery, a microbrewery located in the neighborhood.

For the first time, tour-goers will be able to download an audiotour from the society’s website ($10.00 additional) onto their MP3 players.

Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 on the day of the tour. For further information, including how and where to purchase tickets, email, call 917-292-8042, or log onto

On Saturday, May 9th, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Brooklyn Heights Association will hold its 23rd annual house and garden tour, which offers tour-goers the opportunity to enjoy an inside look at some of the area’s Greek Revival homes, including one on the neighborhood’s prestigious Mansion Row. The oldest home on the tour dates was built around 1839 and is replete with period details.

Tickets cost $30, and can be purchased in advance through the Brooklyn Heights Association, or on the day of the tour at 129 Pierrepont Street. The price includes tea and pastries at the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, on Orange Street, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. For further information, call 718-858-9193 or log onto

A week later, the scene shifts to Park Slope, where the Park Slope Civic Council hosts its 50th annual house tour, from noon to 5:30 p.m.

Tours start at the Poly Prep Lower School, 50 Prospect Park West, and include a bevy of the neighborhood’s distinctive late 19th and early 20th century rowhouses that display a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne, Neo-Grec, Neo-Georgian and Neo-Classical, as well as a Victorian villa dating to 1878. Also included in the tour is a slide show, “The Architecture of Park Slope,” narrated by Francis Morrone, scheduled to begin at Congregation Beth Elohim, Garfield Place and Eighth Avenue, at 6 p.m.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of the tour. For information on purchasing, call 718-832-8227 or log onto

On Sunday, May 31st, from noon to 5 p.m., the 39th annual Prospect Lefferts Gardens house and garden tour will be held. The event, sponsored by the Lefferts Manor Association, provides an overview of the neighborhood’s varied architecture. Included in the tour’s 11 stops are a 1905 brick home, a 1907 limestone, a 1915 neo-Tudor rowhouse, as well as an apartment and a Southern-themed garden complete with waterfalls. There will also be complimentary refreshments.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of tour. For further information, call 718-284-6210 or 718-462-0024, email or log onto

Urban oases are the highlights of the Brownstone Brooklyn Garden District Garden Walk, which will take place on Sunday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Among the highlights of the tour are a double garden that has been designed to mimic a Roman ruin, and another double garden, shaded by flowering trees, designed in collaboration with jazz singer Betty Carter.

Tickets cost $15 in advance, $20 on the day of the walk. For further information, including details on purchasing tickets, log onto

The large, free-standing homes of Victorian Flatbush -- replete with details galore -- are featured on the Victorian Flatbush house tour, organized by the Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC), which will take place on Sunday, June, 14, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Ten homes in Prospect Park South, Albemarle-Kenmore Terrace, Ditmas Park, Ditmas Park West, Beverley Square West, Beverley Square East, Caton Park, West Midwood, Midwood Park, Fiske Terrace and South Midwood will be open to view on the tour, including examples of Colonial Revival, Tudor and Greek Revival architecture, built around the turn of the 20th century to appeal to urban dwellers who craved a country-in-the-city lifestyle, complete with spacious interiors, broad front porches and over-arching trees.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of the tour. For further information, call 718-859-3800, or log onto

There will be three house tours held in the fall.

The first, on Saturday, October 3rd, from noon to 5 p.m., will be the Crown Heights North house tour.

Sponsored by the Crown Heights North Association, the event will feature a variety of structures that exemplify the diverse architectural heritage the neighborhood enjoys including Neo-Grec, Italianate, Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival and Romanesque Revival.

The starting place will be St. Gregory’s Church, at Brooklyn Avenue and St. John’s Place. The goal, according to organizer Suzanne Spellen, is to include properties from the portion of the neighborhood now seeking landmark status.

Tickets cost $20 in advance; $25 on the day of tour. For further information, call 917-748-4664, or log onto

Next up is the 31st annual Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant house tour, which will take place on Saturday, October 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There are “typically 10 buildings” on the tour, noted organizer Crystal Bob-Semple, who said that this year’s tour would start with the annual home-buying workshop. The structures open to view generally exemplify the community’s diverse housing stock, mostly dating from the 1880s through the early 1900s, including brownstone and limestone townhouses as well as buildings in the Romanesque style.

Tickets cost $15 in advance; $20 on the day of the tour. For additional information, call 718-953-7328 or log onto

Rounding out the house tours for the year is the Prospect Heights House Tour, scheduled for Sunday, October 18th, from noon to 5 p.m.

Sponsored by the Prospect Heights Association, the event will start from 659 Vanderbilt Avenue, and is expected to include about 10 Victorian-era brownstones -- many with original details -- that feature the styles prevalent in the neighborhood such as Neo-Grec, Neo-Romanesque, Italianate, Eastlake, Queen Anne and Second Empire.

Tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 on the day of the tour. For further information, call 718-393-7653, or log onto


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