You might assume that the cul-de-sac is an invention of post-World War II suburban sprawl, but the neighborhoods of Brooklyn’s Flatbush include several of these charming courts. It’s a reminder that decades before the war, Flatbush was a destination for families looking to move beyond the City’s urban core.
Although Flatbush was founded as a village during colonial times and has some of New York City’s oldest buildings, much of the area that once formed the Town of Flatbush remained relatively rural or undeveloped throughout the nineteenth century while Manhattan and other parts of Kings County urbanized.
In the early twentieth century, Flatbush experienced a residential real estate boom as the expansion of the subway system into the area made it attractive to middle and upper income New Yorkers looking to move away from areas crowded with industry, traffic, and other urban conditions. While most of the new residential development occurred along the streets of Brooklyn’s grid system, some of Flatbush’s real estate developers also built housing around private dead-end streets.
This is not to suggest that cul-de-sacs originated in Brooklyn during the early decades of the twentieth century. Horace Court and Temple Court are cul-de-sacs in the Windsor Terrace section of Brooklyn dating from the nineteenth century and earlier examples of housing built around courts can be found elsewhere. But, Flatbush’s cul-de-sacs are evidence of its role as a bedroom community and of the enduring appeal to some of a private, quiet street with no outlet.
“Suburbs, Virginia,” image via Flickr Creative Commons by “La-Citta-Vita on Flickr”
Here are six examples of Flatubush’s cul-de-sacs which continue to provide a home and a community for their residents.
Locations of the 6 cul-de-sacs featured in this article. Map by Michael Curley
Marlborough Court, located in the Ditmas Park section of Flatbush, is a cul-de-sac lined by nine single family, detached houses built in 1913.
The developer touted the houses of Marlborough Court as a bungalow colony on a private street with modern conveniences and close proximity to the Newkirk Plaza subway station.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 21 September 1913, accessed via Brooklyn Newsstand/Brooklyn Public Library
Over a century later, the Marlborogh Court bungalows retain a decidedly suburban character with their gardens, porches, chimneys, and sloped roofs.