Sunday, August 11, 2013

Venice in Brooklyn, NY

A view of the late 19th-century Montauk Club in Brooklyn's Park Slope Historic District
I'm not sure whether you should take this post as a sign of homesickness, as it's only been 3 days since we left Venice and arrived here in our old neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY and we're quite happy to have the chance to visit after nearly 3 years away. But this morning I sought out the Montauk Club, the closest approximation one can find of Venice in New York City.

Those lions don't look like any of the various lions I've seen in Venice, but at least they're lions
The clubhouse was constructed in 1889-1891 by (according to Wikipedia) prominent members of the area excited by Brooklyn's economic boom after the construction of the famous bridge to which it gave its name. (Before the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn was a city in its own right; afterwards it was incorporated into the city of New York and became one of the city's 6 5 sestieres boroughs).

It's hard to reconcile a Venetian style with a club named after a local Native American tribe, but this is it's front entrance
The club, like many such clubs, fell upon hard times in the last decades of the 20th century and was forced to sell its upper two floors as apartments. In recent years, however, the club (located near Frederick Law Olmstead's and Calvert Vaux's Prospect Park) seems to have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance.

The top hats in the above panel make it clear that we're a long way away from any Doge or Council of Ten
Sandro did not accompany me to see the Montauk Club, but Venice seems to be never too far from his mind, much as he's enjoying it here. On our first morning here, walking down streets he last saw when he was still just 2 years old, he paused and pointed to a row of "brownstones" (or townhouses like those below) and announced, "The people here are very clever."

"What makes you think that?" I asked.

He pointed at the stoop of one of the brownstones, at the flight of steps leading up to the front door, and said, "They put their front doors up high here, to keep out of the acqua alta."

A row of brownstones, well-prepared for acqua alta

11 comments:

  1. What a great comment from Sandro. Our son lives in Brooklyn and I love to walk around looking at the architecture.

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    1. And now you'll understand the logic behind those stoops the next time you're walking in Brooklyn, Andrew--though it makes one wonder what the ground floor or 1/2-basement residents were supposed to do. I'm not sure Sandro saw those doors below the stairs, or he may have simply assumed, as I think most Venetians would, that they led to magazzini.

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  2. Yes, you're homesick but enjoy your visit, and hurry back home.

    I wonder who had the idea to use Venetian architectural elements in the clubhouse?

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    1. A bit puzzling, isn't it, Yvonne? I wonder if the prominent fellows who were behind the building saw the Brooklyn Bridge as opening up vast new avenues of commerce and trade and wealth-building and, though the bridge spans merely a river and not the Mediterranean, identified with the commerce and trade and wealth of the Venetian Republic. (Especially as the panel relief on the front features settlers trading with Native Americans.) Is such an identification absurdly grandiose? Of course, but we're talking American businessmen here, whose grasp of and perspective on history has always tended toward the self-inflating...

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  3. Sandro could be right if what they say about global warming and the melting of the ice caps turns out to be true.

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    1. True, Bert--or simply in the case of another hurricane.

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    1. Thanks, Ms Cat, it's certainly nothing that ever would have occurred to me.

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  5. Out of the mouths of babes...

    I hope you are enjoying your visit. I imagine the top floors of apartments in the Club are a very pleasant place to live!

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    1. They probably are, indeed, Susie, except for when there are parties below!

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