Victorian Flatbush, Brooklyn

Time Out New York magazine listed our popular tour of Victorian Flatbush, in Brooklyn, as one of “10 fascinating architecture tours in NYC”. We were honored to be included there, and hope you will join us sometime to see why it was spotlighted as a unique NYC experience.

Flatbush itself is one of the original six towns of the formerly-independent city of Brooklyn, dating back to the Dutch colonial era. Remnants of this heritage are seen on the tour, including one of the city’s oldest cemeteries. After Prospect Park was built in the 1860s (back when much of Flatbush was still farmland), developers took notice of the potential for new neighborhoods in Flatbush. Just south of the park, starting the 1880s, several developers worked to build a wealthy suburb that would be different from the brownstone & row-house trend of the rest of Brooklyn. Instead, they aimed to build a more suburban neighborhood, filled with huge homes and mansions, private sporting clubs, all within walking distance of this new park (and a short train ride away from the beaches of southern Brooklyn). Thus was born “Victorian Flatbush”.

Half of these developments across the area were destroyed in the 1930s to make way for middle-class apartment complexes, but several historic districts preserve its more picturesque and historic parts.

Recently, the Brooklyn real estate blog Brownstoner published some unique, birds-eye view photos of the area as it had grown, circa 1907. These are great shots, and experts on this neighborhood’s history will spot some unique finds in the photo, which I’ll spotlight here.

Albemarle.jpg

In this large, panorama shot, on the upper right, I’ve circled a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks (today the tracks are used by the NYC subway). This bridge was placed along the most scenic road— Albemarle— to connect one end of the Victorian neighborhood to the other. Today, the rail tracks largely (with a few exceptions) mark the dividing line between the preserved section of the neighborhood and the post-1930s section. The bridge was demolished about 40 years ago, to meet the angry demands of the wealthy mansion-dwellers to better separate themselves from the working-class populations starting one block over. You can read the fascinating history of this rail line, and the forgotten bridge here.

The Brownstoner article also includes a close-up of the area near that bridge, the intersection of Albermarle and Buckingham Roads:

Albemarle2.jpg

Circled by me there is a mansion that no longer exists. It was built by developer Dean Alvord as his personal new home. He had decreed that, after his death, the home be razed and the land donated to the community for common use. Today, the lot is the home of the Flatbush CommUNITY Garden. If you look at the site today, the driveway and the foundation of the home are still intact, but otherwise it remains a (now membership-only) community garden.

Flatbush CommUNITY Garden

Flatbush CommUNITY Garden

Want to see all of these sites, and the larger neighborhood, as they look today? Take a look at the slideshow of images on our listing page for our Victorian Flatbush tour, and see our calendar of public tour dates. We can also do this as a private tour on many other dates.

Come see gorgeous suburban blocks, Victorian-style mansions, and history in central Brooklyn!

Washington Square Park: The Village's Beating Heart

Since its creation in the 1800s, Washington Square Park has always been the cultural center of Greenwich Village. The land evolved from marshes and farm-land to a military parade ground to a rural hamlet for NYC's elite to a bohemian paradise to a bustling part of downtown New York. On most days, the park today is radiating with energy and noise, in a way that is unique to any other city park.

I have been doing a lot of walking tours of the area this month, and though I would share some images I have taken:

Beyond its central fountain, we see the famous Washington Square Arch (now marble, originally constructed of plaster & wood for the centennial of George Washington's inauguration in New York), as well as a row of Greek-revival townhouses dating back to 1832.

Beyond its central fountain, we see the famous Washington Square Arch (now marble, originally constructed of plaster & wood for the centennial of George Washington's inauguration in New York), as well as a row of Greek-revival townhouses dating back to 1832.

Moving west in the park..

Paul, who lives in a rent-controlled apartment in the neighborhood, is a staple of Washington Square. Known affectionately as the "bird man" or the "pigeon man", he can be found on the same bench every day, feeding the birds he considers his old friends. 

Paul, who lives in a rent-controlled apartment in the neighborhood, is a staple of Washington Square. Known affectionately as the "bird man" or the "pigeon man", he can be found on the same bench every day, feeding the birds he considers his old friends. 

On the southwest corner, at Macdougal Street...

This corner of Washington Square features chess tables where masters &  novices gather to play every day (some for money, some for sport). Child prodigy Bobby Fischer, director Stanley Kubrick, & many others played these tables in their youth. 

This corner of Washington Square features chess tables where masters &  novices gather to play every day (some for money, some for sport). Child prodigy Bobby Fischer, director Stanley Kubrick, & many others played these tables in their youth. 

Are you interested in joining me on one of my next walks/tours? I'd love to share some of the amazing sights of the Village (a home dating back to 1799, the "Friends" apartment, Bob Dylan's old haunts, the birthplace of the LGBT movement, & more!), as we take in its beautiful, tree-lined streets. Every visitor I've had finds something new to discover.

Contact me for dates and options!

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog for Custom NYC Tours!

I founded this company to share my love of exploring New York City with others... whether visitors or locals. Even before I became a tour guide, I loved to find areas of the city I had never seen before, and spend a day walking and exploring them. Not only its many neighborhoods, but all the secret places the guide books never mention. This is a passion I hope to use now to give customers a tour experience they cannot get anywhere else.

The World Trade Center, The High Line, Greenwich Village, Central Park. Let me share their secrets with you. Or show you my favorite parts of the city. That's what Custom NYC Tours is about.

I want to also use this blog to start a conversation. Are you a local? Or an upcoming traveler? Ask me questions, ask for advice, or share your stories! I want to hear from you today.