In today’s Friday Five I’m taking you with me on Reggie’s morning walk. Welcome to Brooklyn.
1. I find these carvings all along our usual morning walk. They are tucked away in crevasses and corners of building facades. A typical brownstone might have two or three, while the larger apartment buildings can have a dozen. They’re called grotesques, even though they weren’t necessarily designed to scare passersby. It’s from the Latin and then Italian word grotteschi, meaning grottoes. (I knew my Italian would come in handy eventually.) Some of them have been eroded away a bit like this lion, but many retain a lot of the original details. Some are a combination of humans and animals. Each one is unique so you really have to keep your eyes open. (Cocktail party tidbit: A gargoyle is a grotesque used as a drain spout to shunt water from the side of a building.)
2. O Romeo. You don’t find balconies too often in my neighborhood, especially on a brownstone. This one was most certainly the product of a recent renovation. If I had to guess, I’d say it was originally a window that the owners removed. Look closely and you can see several small grotesques hanging around like a Where’s Waldo scene.
3. I love the glass mosaic and bronze canopy over the entryway. It just recalls another era. This home sits directly across the street from the park. By Brooklyn standards it is a mansion. Although the building’s footprint is small, it’s five stories, including the basement. Note to the owners: Reggie thanks you for leaving all of those crumbs on your steps every morning. (Do you all have holes in your pockets?)
4. Reggie and I always round the corner to head back home just before we get to Grand Army Plaza. Brooklyn’s Arc de Triomphe leads to the entrance of Prospect Park. It was designed by the dynamic duo of landscape architecture – Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who both designed Central Park also. It took about 25 years from concept to completion.
I thought you’d like this circa 1940 shot above. Everything looks pretty much the same, no?
5. This brownstone is at the end of my block. It’s pretty typical of what you find in this neighborhood. The term brownstone used to mean a type of building material, but now most people use it to refer to the style of building. These were built somewhere around the 1870s. When you get a glimpse of an entire block of uninterrupted brownstones, it feels like the facades will go on to infinity.
Not all brownstones are brown. But they should be. It’s not an exaggeration that everyone who lives in the neighborhood knows this place. They say that dogs are color blind, but I think that even Reggie could pick it out.
Have a great weekend!