A Very, Very, Very Fine House: The Stories Behind Five of Brooklyn’s Most Interesting Houses


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155-57-59 Willow Street,
Brooklyn Heights
This trio of three-story Federal-style rowhouses have been listed in city directories prior to 1830
(a data map created by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications estimates a construction date of 1829). They’re so old that the houses don’t sit exactly parallel to Willow—the street was reoriented sometime after they were built.

Federal-style architecture was characterized by formal restraint, smooth facades, and classical symmetry. These houses were built using brick laid in Flemish bond and are perhaps the best surviving examples of early 19th-century Federal rowhouses. Nos. 155 and 157 have the original pitched roofs and dormers, according to Charles Lockwood, author of Bricks and Brownstone: The New York Row House 1783-1929 . An underground tunnel leads from No. 159 to No. 151, where a post-Civil War stable once stood. The tunnel is lighted by a skylight, which you can still see in the pavement near the gate at No. 157.

In the early 1950s, Arthur Miller owned No. 155 and wrote The Crucible there, and a plaque outside No. 157 says that the underground tunnel was used to hide runaway slaves on their journey northward to Canada.

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