Wednesday, June 9, 2010

William H. Childs House, Park Slope, Brooklyn

For decades the Brooklyn waterfront was filled with manufacturing operations that made mundane products like Chiclets and Ex-Lax. Well, somebody had to make Bon Ami scouring powder and that was Mr. Childs, who built a fabulous mansion in 1900 on Prospect Park West (#53), designed by William Tubby. Rumor has it that Teddy Roosevelt slept there. The AIA Guide to New York City indicates the style is Jacobean.

It is now home of the Ethical Culture Society, which evidently makes it available for receptions, which is the reason I got to explore the interior. The front doors are solid wood resembling something off of a medieval castle, the sun room windows look Tiffany-esque, the staircase banister is made of sword scabbards, the 2nd floor library has mahogany-carved ceiling tiles gazing down on an old book collection, including a crumbling copy of the 11th edition Encyclopædia Britannica.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Prospect Park, Brooklyn

This is an amazing vast green space with forests, waterfalls, ravines, monumental architecture and a huge 90-acre lawn, the Long Meadow. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux after they completed Manhattan's Central Park. It was completed in 1873. Several older features were reserved within the Park boundaries, including the oldest bridge in Brooklyn, Endale Arch.

Perhaps most spectacular is the Beaux Arts Boathouse modeled on the Sansoviniana library in St. Mark's square in Venice. By 1960, the boathouse was almost razed by Robert Moses due to poor attendance, but was ultimately saved by preservationists. An abandoned 1869 Pump House designed by Vaux sits by the Lake. Most amazing is the Ravine area in the center of the Park. Off the beaten path one finds waterfalls and rushing streams, fisherman casting lines - hard to believe it is New York City.

At the Prospect Park West exit flanked by panthers, one has a great view of the Litchfield Villa, an Italianate mansion built in 1857. Litchfield was a lawyer whose fortune was made in Midwest railroad development.