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


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The Hunterfly Road Houses,
Crown Heights

In 1838, James Weeks, a stevedore and freed slave from Virginia, bought a plot of land in Central Brooklyn from Henry C. Thompson, another freedman. Bounded by present-day Fulton Street, East New York Avenue, Ralph Avenue, and Troy Avenue, Weeksville, as the village came to be known, quickly became a thriving destination for African Americans, boasting its owns newspaper, school, and the highest number of African American-owned properties and businesses.

Following the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, New York City expanded deeper into the borough, and Weeksville was gradually swallowed up by Crown Heights. But in 1968, the historian James Hurley led a search to rediscover the historic village. On a flyover tour of the area, Hurley saw that four houses just north of Bergen Street were crookedly angled—they faced an old dirt lane wending across the block. The lane was the remnant of Hunterfly Road, which ran along the eastern edge of the old Weeksville. The houses, in disrepair but still occupied, were one to two-and-a-half story wood-frame dwellings, erected no earlier than the 1860s.

The Hunterfly Road Historic District was established to supervise restorations, and now the four houses are under the auspices of the Weeksville Heritage Center, which has a museum on the grounds and leads tours of three of the homes (the fourth burned down in the 90s; a replica is now used as an office). The houses are furnished to reflect different time periods in the village’s history. 1700 Bergen, the house pictured above, dates from the 1880s, and has been refurbished to circa 1900 with several turn-of-the-century amenities, including an icebox in the kitchen and a radio in the “best room.” The two-story house was inhabited by three generations of the Johnson family, beginning in the early 1900s.

Photographs by Rory Gunderson

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