Happy 50th Birthday to Phantom Tollbooth, the Book with Brooklyn Heights Roots

As a few commenters have noted, Norton Juster’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth is celebrating its 50th birthday this week. Juster and illustrator Jules Feiffer shared an apartment in Brooklyn Heights where the book was written:

WSJ: I was living in Brooklyn Heights with Jules in a big old decrepit duplex apartment. I had been looking for a place to live and he just happened to be living above [what became] my basement room. That was in the 1950s and it was a very different place. I went back recently to Montague Street and I couldn’t remember a single store or restaurant or anything. Things do change.

But wait… there’s more! The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth is edited by Brooklyn Heights resident Leonard S. Marcus:

Educating Alice: Tracing the publication history of The Phantom Tollbooth led me back to the book’s editor, Jason Epstein, whom I interviewed in his lower Manhattan apartment. Epstein is one of the great innovators of modern American publishing: the creator of Anchor Books and the Library of America, and a co-founder of the New York Review of Books, among other ventures. No wonder he found an adventurous book like The Phantom Tollbooth well worth publishing, even though he was not in the business of publishing contemporary children’s books at the time.

I loved finding out the derivation of expressions like “short shrift” and “to make ends meet.” Almost as a bonus, Jules Feiffer and Norton Juster were both living in the neighborhood where I now live—Brooklyn Heights, New York—at the time they collaborated on The Phantom Tollbooth. So I got to do some historical time travel and learn quite a lot about what life in the Heights was like a half century ago.

Anyone know where Feiffer and Juster’s apartment was in the Heights? The pair are recently seen in front of the brownstone in the video above – can you figure out the address?

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  • Karl Junkersfeld

    153 State Street, if I recall.

  • liam

    We lived there a few years back and I can attest to its decrepitude but it was a beautiful space. Owned by a lovely old couple, the husband Mr Von Muller shot civil war era rifles and made the bullets in the basement. He was still patching up the place right up until he died at a very great age a couple of years ago. They told us the next door building was a brothel in the 50′s…