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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Secret on Little Street


Streets, surprises and secrets come in different sizes. What better combination is there than a big surprise and secret at the end of a little street? And what if that street is literally named Little Street?

There is nothing wrong with the beautiful or wonderful that lies in plain view. But somehow it's the secret discovery that really piques one's interest and makes it even more special and its secretness feel like it is yours.

When traveling in Europe, I was often astounded when finding major historical sites located in the midst of contemporary suburban settings. This is common there and I imagine is not seen as particularly shocking. When I first visited Versailles, I could not get over the experience of driving through an ordinary town, turning down a street and seeing something as extraordinary as the palace of Versailles. Or the windmill in the neighborhood of Montmartre in Paris.

One does get inured to the juxtapositions one lives among and here too in New York City, I tend to overlook the outstanding architecture that I see daily - period homes dating 200 years old intermingled with buildings of every imaginable style and period. This city has a rich historical past, and the evidence is everywhere to be seen.

While carousing through Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn, I plied my way to what appeared on my map to be the outer limits of the neighborhood. I was quite shocked to make a final turn from Evans Street at Little Street and be confronted with a gated mansion. A photographer and male model were busy at work, using this little known cul de sac as backdrop for their photo session. These streets abut the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the large white Federal style residence is Quarters A, the former residence of the commander of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, home to Commodore Matthew C. Perry at the time of his opening of Japan. In 2006, Christopher Gray did a story on the home in Streetscapes for the New York Times. From the article:

In a New York of secret delights, the Commandant's House at the Brooklyn Navy Yard is a secret secret. Built early in the 19th century, the big white house, formally known as Quarters A, is the yard's oldest surviving structure, with exquisite Federal-style detailing.

In private ownership since the Navy Yard closed in 1964, the three-story house can be glimpsed only in bits and pieces — over walls, through gardens and, distantly, past high gates. Its broad lawn offers a summer fantasy above the East River.

Just don't spread the news - that in Vinegar Hill, at the end of Evans Street, there's a Big Secret on (a) Little Street :)

2 comments:

designslinger.com said...

can't wait to visit with OUR camera!

Andrew said...

great find - thanks for the heads-up!