Sunday, November 13, 2011

Subway Series #1 - The Station Formerly Known as the Real Estate Office of T.B. Ackerson

Welcome to the Frogma Subway Series!

Nothing to do with baseball, of course. My main interest in baseball tends to be limited to wishing the Mets would maintain momentum one of these seasons because that would make my honey very happy.

Nope - the Subway Series I've been thinking about doing for a while? Just a series of posts featuring photos of the stations that make me want to slow down. As a carless New Yorker, I rely on our public transportation system to get around, and usually, when I'm on the train, I'm in a hurry to get somewhere - but every now and then I'll find myself walking through a station with which an artist has gotten to have his or her gleeful way during a renovation and slowing down because the public art is particularly beautiful or entertaining. Ever since TQ gave me a camera that can handle indoor shots better than my Optio WP, I've been thinking it would be fun to share some of my particular favorite installations.

I've already done a couple proto-Subway-Series posts, both of which ended up being pretty popular. One was a video of a giant-scale zoetrope that an artist created in the "ghost station" at Myrtle Avenue, the former last stop on my line. You see it from the Manhattan-bound B and Q trains after leaving the present-day last stop in Brooklyn, DeKalb Avenue. With my animation obsession, I naturally always get a kick out of watching it and one day I got a whim to share it here, so took my little Optio to work with me one day, worked past rush hour & then simply rode back & forth across the Manhattan Bridge, filming the zoetrope each time, until I got a decent shot. Just discovered that I'll have to redo that, I'd put that on Yahoo Video which I've JUST discovered is now entirely devoted to pet-food-manufacturer-subsidized cute animal videos - no more you-tube-esque user uploads & sharing, my video is gone & the 2008 Masstransiscope post just shows a black square. BOO! Can't find the original clip anywhere so I'll just have to redo it. The other one, of course, was last February's Duke Riley Cracks Me Up.

I'm kicking this off today, with a station that hasn't even been artified yet (although there are artistic plans in place that actually sound sort of neat), because I really enjoy it when I find out that something I've walked past time & time again without really noticing it actually has a pretty interesting history.

This time, it's the station house at the Avenue H stop of the B and Q lines. I almost never stop there, it's 1 stop past my stop & unlike the next couple of stops, there's nothing specific that I would usually stay on the train for. I would go on to Avenue J for DiFara's Pizza, and before a sushi place opened on Cortelyou Road I used to go to a place on King's Highway when I got a craving for raw fish - but after I'd gotten the pizza or the sushi, I'd usually walk home and that would take me right past the station house.

I never particularly noticed it because most of the stations around here have some sort of little houselike affair as the entryway - like this one at Cortelyou Road:


In addition, it hasn't always looked this quaint - here's a pre-renovation photo of the headhouse that I found last night on Wikimedia Commons . Would you look twice? I didn't.

However, it turns out that this station house actually must have been one of the first structures in my very nice neighborhood - as I found out earlier last week in a quick post about the nearly-complete renovation on the Ditmas Park Blog, it started out as the office of T.B. Ackerson.


No, no, no, not the wine merchant. THAT T.B. Ackerson's is a modern Cortelyou Road tip-of-the-hat to the original T.B. Ackerson, the real estate agent who first developed much of my neighborhood in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn.

It's an unusual neighborhood for NYC - there are a few nice old apartment buildings like the one I live in, but you wouldn't really notice those so much as the lovely, big, freestanding single-family homes, each with its own green lawn, all on shady tree-lined streets.
025 -

Suburban vision, early variety.

Some of the area homes border on "mansion" - not quite the massive structures the ultra-rich of the time lived in, but still quite grand and unique (especially by today's standards) -


But there was also a nice variety of interesting and comfortable pre-planned home designs for those with a little less money. I'm not sure I ever would've noticed this without going on a tour of local architectural styles run by the Levys, longtime local residents who have a family tour business, Levy's Unique New York, but they were talking about the prefabricated nature of the less expensive homes in the area and sure enough, for all all the homes look so individualistic at first glance, as we were walking down the street, sharp-eyed patrons started noticing repetitions!

Like this -

or this!

It's actually easier to spot these in the wintertime, when the trees are all bare, and the tour was in the wintertime, but they're around to see if you're looking for them.

I ran over to check out the renovation myself yesterday, with this post in mind (as I mentioned with yesterday's fall foliage shot), and they did a very nice job on it -


Oh, and the art?

At some point, bronze rocking chairs will be installed on the porch.

For a photo of the station in its original incarnation as T.B. Ackerson's real estate office, plus a very good article about how local support for the old station (even with the old battered paint-job and 70's-industrial-blah interior that made me miss ever seeing anything special here until it was specifically pointed out to me) saved this station from the MTA's original wrecking-ball plans, visit The Third Rail Online's article. I found it a very interesting read.

Want to see a few more of the colorful homes in my neighborhood? Check out my Full Spectrum in Victorian Flatbush post - I went out one day with my camera in hand, determined not to come home until I'd found a house for every color in the rainbow!


pia said...

Thanks Bonnie. You manage to find the uber cool in NY. I so miss it. Didn't realize that my DNA screams "NY"

bonnie said...

Pia, I always find myself thinking "oooh, Pia is going to enjoy this one!" when I'm writing one of my "New Yorky" posts. Always happy to give you a taste of NY!