Monday, June 29, 2015

A Walk Through Bed-Stuy

If you find yourself near where I live, Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood, this is a tour of the interesting things in the area, that is so short (2.5m / 4k), it will only take about an hour of your time.
We begin at the enclave of Weeksville in Crown Heights. The village was founded a little after its namesake, freed Virginian slave James Weeks, bought a plot of land in central Brooklyn's Ninth Ward from another free African-American, Henry C. Thompson, in 1838 (eleven years after New York abolished slavery). At the time, black businessmen and investors purchased land in the surrounding borough's then-called Bedford Hills area, creating  one of the nations first freemen villages, with more than 500 residents by 1850.

On Buffalo Ave, between Bergen St and St Marks Ave, you can take tours of some of the original homes at the Weeksville Heritage Center (every Wed & Fri @ 3pm - click here for more info), and that includes seeing the Hunterfly Road House, which was built around 1840.

Heading west, we zigzag through Bed-Stuy to see the "Queen of Hancock Street", the Moran Victorian Mansion, at 247 Hancock Street.

This huge home was constructed for water-meter magnate, John C. Kelley, in 1887, by the then-still-very-young Montrose W. Morris, who modeled the home after Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave estate.

When headed to the next stop, you can see two other Morris-developed beauties - Renaissance Apartments (on corner of Hancock), and The Alhambra (two blocks south on the corner of Macon St) - on Nostrand Avenue. Of course, Morris' creations make up only a small part of the 577 buildings landmarked within the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District.
Before the last stop, two blocks west of Nostrand, we have the infamous mural of Ol' Dirty Bastard's 1995 debut LP, on the corner of Franklin and Putnam Aves.

It was first painted by Vic Goldfeld (see original here) in 2006 for a documentary, but later repainted by Ibrahim Yaqut in 2010. The owners of the storefront holding the work claim visitors as far as France have come just to photograph the scene.
This trip ends in the Clinton Hill neighborhood, on the corner of Gates and Grand Aves, at The Vendome.

Built in 1887, by a currently-unknown architect, 363 Grand Avenue is Brooklyn's first multi-family apartment building.

The six-story structure was seized in 1982 over taxes, after it sat in disrepair since a fire left it a mere shell in 1980. It was to be demolished in 1987, but many in the area fought to save The Vendome from destruction.

It was finally given a grant the following year by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to repair and restore the 24-unit home.