January 2007 photograph by RunsBrooklyn
When I got off the G train at Classon Ave, I felt like I was on my way to finally meet the girl I had been in an internet relationship with for 5 years.
Will she show up?
Does she look like the pictures she sends?
Will she see me first, or will I see her?
God I hope we like each other.
I had butterflies as I clumsily stumbled through Bed Stuy. If my memory served me correctly, Dave Chappelle said in Block Party that the intersection was Downing and Quincy. I remembered that there was a school and a Salvation Army on the same street. I really hope he didn’t make these streets up.
Finally I found Downing and marched down the street. At each intersection I’d peek to the left and peek to the right, expecting to see this architectural beauty in the horizon. After 3 intersections, I reached Quincy and there she was. The Broken Angel House at the corner of Downing and Quincy, just as Dave said. She was even more beautiful than I expected.
To be completely honest, I expected there to be an onslaught of people taking pictures of the unique building when I finally found her. While Block Party is one of my top five favorite films, this building serving as its backdrop, and the inhabitants providing an essential plot line to the movie, I often forget this isn’t true for everyone. I’m glad it isn’t.
I wasn’t alone, however. The owner of the place, Arthur Wood, was outside, making a phone call. I stood outside for a few minutes in amazement, analyzing the building from all angles, then watched him go inside. Realizing I needed to somehow get to West Harlem in 30 minutes, I took a few pictures and left. I’m surely glad she showed up to our date. I love No-Class Thursdays. Do or Die, Bed Stuy.
Each September, the city begins its age-old ritual of turning transplants into New Yorkers. Atlanta-native Rembert Browne just started an urban planning program at Columbia. Today he went in search of the Broken Angel House from Dave Chappelle and Michel Gondry’s 2006 documentary, Block Party. More sculpture than building, the house was a creative feat built over decades, beginning in 1979 when the owners purchased the old Brooklyn Trolley factory. A fire in 2007 sadly destroyed the chimerical roof and patterned windows, after the owners had been repeatedly threatened with eviction for building code violations. And now in 2010, here is Rembert’s ode to the house, which is a now mere shell of its former whimsical self. But for Rembert, I could sense the beginning of a love story with what is to soon become his city, a place of possibility where structures like the Broken Angel House are built by ordinary men and women.