The annual Willowtown spring fair will be held on Willow Place, between Joralemon and State streets, on Saturday, May 15, beginning at 11:30 a.m. This year’s fair will honor Joe and Mary Merz (see photo), architects and Willow Place residents. Food will be provided by Iris Cafe.
From the Willowtown Association:
Fifty years ago this year Joe Merz and his wife Mary started an architectural firm in their carriage house on Grace Court Alley in Brooklyn Heights. They met at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, from which they both earned degrees in architecture. They soon became the owners of four lots on Willow Place in the nearby Willowtown neighborhood. The city had razed the original deteriorated structures on the lots. The three new houses they designed and built there in “international style,” one of which became their own home, sensitively blended the new with the old while respecting the nature and scale of the historic community.
Throughout their meritorious careers Joe and Mary Merz pursued a similar vision even as they did the same for Willowtown and the wider community.
The Willowtown Association is dedicating its 2010 spring fair set for Saturday, May 15, the full length of Willow Place, to the Merzes for their being “Willowtown visionaries.” Remarks about them will be given at an opening rally at 11:30 at Joralemon Street and Willow Place by well-known historic preservationist Otis Pearsall. An exhibition will give a perspective of Joe and Mary’s work over the years.
“We’re working hard to make the fair Willowtown’s best and most welcoming ever for all of the Heights and beyond,” said the two general coordinators, Ben Bankson and Linda De Rosa, president and vice president, respectively, of the 57-year-old Willowtown Association. “We are especially pleased that the food will be by Willowtown’s own Iris Café, hailed by the New York Times as one of the city’s ‘standouts’ in ‘a satisfying bite to eat.’ The music will be by Johnny Sheppard and Billy Swing.”
A new feature of this year’s fair is “It’s My Park Day” at the Palmetto Playground at State Street and Columbia Place. Volunteers will be at work there beautifying the planting areas in cooperation with Partnership for Parks, a joint program of the city’s Parks Foundation and Department of Parks and Recreation.
Another new feature is a “Jumpy Castle” ride for kids. They can also enjoy pony rides, standing games and races with the awarding of medals.
Willowtown’s dedication of the fair to Joe and Mary Merz, natives of Queens and Youngstown, Ohio, respectively, coincides with the 45th anniversary of the designation of Brooklyn Heights as New York City’s first historic district. Joe was part of the effort that brought about the designation. His and Mary’s other projects in Willowtown include redesigning what became the Palmetto Playground incorporating a new dog run and community garden. They also once served as curators, or “watchdogs,” of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The position was part-time and a labor of love.