Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Flatbush, Brooklyn

Who'd a thunk that deep in the bowels of Brooklyn such a jewel of a "suburban" enclave is hidden to most of the world ? It all has to do with the historical development of this area and it's proximity to Prospect Park. Many of the large mansions on Albemarle, Argyle, Buckingham, Marlborough, and Rugby Streets occupy the northern edge of Flatbush and are considered Prospect Park South. They are a product of a retail manufacturing industry endemic to Brooklyn, where huge sums of money were made selling retail products like Chiclets, Fruit of the Loom, Ex-Lax, and Gillette razor blades. Flatbush was an independent municipality, take a look at Town Hall built in 1875. The most spectacular house is the Japanese pagoda style home at 131 Buckingham Rd. built for Frederick Strange Kolle in 1902, a german physician and inventor of the X-ray.

I took a long walk in the neighborhood in November and caught the Fall colors on a crisp sunny day. Brooklyn College has a huge green quad and stately Georgian library - this school, dubbed the poor man's Harvard, was a WPA project built in 1937 with New Deal funds. Famous alums include Irwin Shaw, Paul Mazursky, Alan Dershowitz, Barbara Boxer, Frank McCourt, and Jimmy Smits.

More fascinating than that is Erasmus Hall on Flatbush Ave, this imposing edifice rises above the street level shopping chaos. Founded in 1787, this is the second oldest high school in the country. Mae West, Barbara Stanwyck, Eli Wallach, Lainie Kazan, Arthur Frommer, Mickey Spillane, Neil Diamond, and Barbara Steisand are among the quarter million graduates in the last two centuries

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