I believe Jane Austen gave us all good advice, in Pride and Prejudice, when she had Elizabeth Bennet tell Mr. Darcy, “You must learn some of my philosophy. Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”

We bought the 4-story brownstone in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn in 1981, when our son was 3 and our daughter not yet born.  The house was built in 1870 and has some historical lineage.  It’s possible that Clarence Birdseye, progenitor of most of the frozen peas we eat, was born in the study.  It was certainly the Birdseye family home.

We didn’t buy the house for its history as much as for its beautiful, and remarkably intact, Victorian details–plaster ceiling medallions, a 14′ ceiling height on the parlor floor, intact crown moldings, 2 marble fireplaces, pier mirror,

The Parlor

pocket doors and brass door knobs.  It also had a lamp in the shape of a voluptuous female nymph, attached to the newel post on the parlor floor staircase.  It was probably originally for a gas fixture but had been updated for electricity.  It was captivating.  We subsequently named her, “Gladys”.


The deal-maker was probably the light, that streamed into this 50′ deep corner brownstone on 3 sides, unlike most of its dark neighbors that can rely on light only at either long end.   A 3-story bay window, facing south, was a contributing light force as were the generously-sized windows, which were over 7′ on the parlor floor. I bought a small ficus tree, originally about 2′ high, that eventually took over the rear corner of the parlor and which I had to keep pruning back and, finally, had to cut down a few days before my move.  Storage warehouses do not offer optimal growing conditions for trees and I couldn’t easily take it with me to my little 1-bedroom sublet. Nor did any neighbors seem to have big enough spaces for it.

The house was narrow–just a hair under 15′. The kitchen was on the ground floor and 4-stories below the top floor where our son and daughter had bedrooms growing up.  To save me a trip up to their rooms on school mornings to make sure they got up with their alarm clocks, I gave each a different colored bean bag which they dropped down the 4-story center stairway.  The bags would land with an enormous thud in the ground floor hallway, invariably causing me to jump.

It was a wonderful house.