Greeter Brad Smith, a longtime resident of Brooklyn Heights, is known for his melodious baritone. His voice is so rich, it almost doesn’t matter what he says. But, because he’s so interesting, it matters.
This outing, Brad explained, was to learn about Willow Street in all its glorious details. Speaking of glorious, on our way to the Heights, we passed the Brooklyn Post Office, an example of the elaborate Romanesque Revival style.
We knew we had reached Brooklyn Heights when we came upon low-rise buildings. In 1965, the Heights became both a New York City and national historic district because of its elegant and architecturally significant homes.
As we walked on Middagh Street, settled by the Dutch in 1624, Brad pointed out Parker’s drugstore. In later years, novelist Carson McCullers, who lived on the block, regularly used the drugstore’s scale. Customers often caught Mrs. Parker sneaking a peek at her weight!
When we reached Willow Street, we saw the 19th century brownstone home of Henry Ward Beecher, both preacher and philanderer. He was known for his support of the abolition of slavery, and in an 1875 adultery trial, he was sued by a husband for alienation of his wife’s affections.
Most of the magnificent homes were Greek Revival style, with much variety in doors, gates and gardens. Attached to one home was a beautiful carriage house where the horses and carriages were kept.
Some of the cross streets had fruit names – Orange, Pineapple – and the exterior of the brownstone at 19 Cranberry Street was used in the movie Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicholas Cage.
While renting a basement apartment at 70 Willow Street, Truman Capote wrote “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1958. After a renovation, the building sold for twelve million dollars in 1972. It is being renovated again, and one can only imagine the price it will command.
Soon we passed a woman who was a 43-year resident of Willow Street. She told us Willow was “the prettiest block in Brooklyn.” We have absolutely no reason to doubt her.