Taking in the 2007 edition of the Brooklyn Heights Association's House Tour, one is forced to ponder the question — is this an annual opportunity to steal a glance at the hidden details of historical landmarks or a perennial peep show?
Given the accompanying literature provided by the BHA, it would be difficult to argue that the tour is all about history. The background information of each home is peppered with as much, if not more, information regarding the ephemeral possessions of its current owner as with the historical detail of the structure. And while the BHA guides in each home were very friendly, we heard more about teddy bears and photos on the tour than we did about how each home fit into the historical make up of Brooklyn Heights.
There were two highlights on the tour — 212 Columbia Heights and 135 Joralemon Street.
The Joralemon home, aka "The Little House that Could" was both exhilarating and disappointing. Ever since the fire that nearly destroyed the home a couple of years ago, neighbors have been rooting for its resurrection. When word came that a local contractor would take on the challenge, speculation shifted to what the interior would look like and what the eventual asking price would be.
The exterior restoration itself should earn its owner, Howard Haimes, the Key to the City. Inside, the home is still a work in progress. The work so far — while notably Herculean in its scope — appeared a little underwhelming. The basement apartment, while not restored to historical accuracy, is spectacular. We're hopeful that the excellence exhibited there will be reflected in the finished product.
212 Columbia Heights was the jewel of the tour homes, breathtaking and intimidating. In fact, it seems like it was designed to make a visitor bow down in awe to its enormous wealth. Present pretensions aside, the view of the East River and Manhattan from all floors was worth the $30 admission for all houses alone.
Related link: Heights House Tour [Sean T. Conrad]