25 January 2010

Big Brownstones on Second Place

I'm used to seeing brownstones as I walk down the blocks of Carroll Gardens. Two, three or four stories tall, two or three windows across, door on the side. Same basic building, again and again. So used to seeing these houses am I that I don't even notice what's staring me in the face sometimes.

During a recent pass down Second Place between Clinton and Henry, however, I did pause and notice. There was something odd about the houses on the south side of the street. What was it? They were four windows across, and the door was left of center, with windows on either side! A completely different set-up. And not just one building, but several in a row, from No. 30 on down. Something about the structures told me they were not a string of mansions. Something else. So I did so looking around.

Turns out there were a row of boarding houses. Not sure why this particular block had so many boarding houses on it. Or if that made it a disreputable block. But I found Brooklyn Eagle advertisement for most of the addresses. No. 16 was the subject of an ad listing rooms for let. "Also single rooms for gentlemen," it read. And "Southerners accommodated." (!) Since this was the 1870s, shortly after the Civil War, I guess that was an issue. Rooms could be let at No. 18, too, and No. 24.

The most interested address, however, was No. 20 Second Place. This was Mr. and Madame Don Bernard's French and English Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies in the 1850s. The school advertised heavily in the Eagle. Mr Bernard, from Paris, was late a french professor at University of New York and Mrs. Bernard was a french teacher at Rutgers. Something tells me the Bernards were flim-flam artists. Can't say why.

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