Image by Thomas Johnson
Walt Whitman is one of America’s literary giants. The poet lived and worked part of his life in what was then the independent city of Brooklyn and the now borough permeates much of his work. Although more than a century of transformations have significantly changed the Brooklyn that Whitman knew, if one looks close enough it is still possible to see remnants of Whitman’s time.
We previously compiled a list of the Top 10 Coffee Shops in Manhattan for design buffs and now we’re tackling Brooklyn. The following is by no means a complete list of coffee shops in Brooklyn, but after checking out many, many coffee shops, we decided to highlight some of our favorites.
Naturally, we were intrigued when we heard about this flower shop/coffee shop that opened recently in Greenpoint. Homecoming—formerly called Spina, which means “thorn” in Italian—started as a floral design company. Owners Vanessa Chinga-Haven and Paul Diaz hope to lure people in the door with Blue Bottle coffee and donuts by Dough, then keep them hanging around for floral arrangements and gift items. There’s not a lot of space to sit, but the pint-sized shop is a nice place to stop for a coffee and flower bouquet to go. (more…)
Brownstones in Fort Greene. Image via Flickr by by rutlo
According to The New York Times, Fort Greene is having a bit of an identity crisis. It currently multitasks as a mecca for foodies, a center for African American pride and culture, and a new place to settle for the “nouveau riche.” Today, we’ll pick up where the Times left off to discuss the architecture of the neighborhood.
Fort Greene was listed as a small yet mighty historical district in 1983. The area with the most history is perhaps Fort Green Park. According to the National Register Report for Fort Greene, the 1776 Battle of Long Island was fought here, which left 11,500 dead. This battlefield also featured a fort used during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, constructed by General Nathaniel Greene (Fort Greene’s namesake).
A few weeks ago I attended a screening of the new movie My Brooklyn at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (LAPC) in Fort Greene. This strongly built Romanesque Revival church stands at the corner of South Oxford and Lafayette and is part of the Fort Greene Historic District. Immediately upon entering the main hall, I was struck by a mural that wrapped around the upper balcony. While so many churches have beautiful stained glass windows and large art depicting religious icons, this mural unassumingly displays completely normal people, wearing bell bottom pants, jeans and suits. The movie screening in its own right sparked considerable discussion, but I left the church with the need to know more about the mural I had just seen.
After reaching out to the church for more information, they put me in touch with Ed Moran, a longtime church member who was able to give me background history on the mural and the church. Moran told me that the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church was completed in 1862 by the architecture firm of Grimshaw and Morrill. Romanesque-Revival was a popular form for urban churches during this period, and was perfect for Presbyterians who didn’t need pomp, gothic details and ceremonial space like Roman Catholics. The Pastor at the time was a man named Rev. Theodore Cuyler, known for his dynamic personality and his fierce abolitionist views. A strong Unionist, his editorials in the New York Independent denouncing slavery were cut out and collected by President Lincoln. Rev. Cuyler and the church made national headlines in later years after allowing the first female, a Quaker no less, to preside as preacher over a Presbyterian service in the United States.
With all the power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy, you might have turned to your bookshelf for entertainment, only to discover that you needed a new book to read. Well, never fear, Brooklynites! Our bet is that you’ll probably find what you’re looking for at one of our eight favorite bookstores in the borough. Inspired by our list of the Top Ten Bookstores in Manhattan, we’ve scoped out the best independent booksellers from Williamsburg to Prospect Heights to Park Slope, and what we found is pretty exciting.
True to its name, powerHouse Arena in DUMBO is known for keeping a packed schedule of high profile, interesting, and sometimes zany literary events that are open to the public. Perhaps my personal favorite of the best bookstores in Brooklyn, powerHouse is also one of the most massive, boasting 24-foot ceilings and six rows of built-in concrete amphitheater-style seating for their events, which usually feature free drinks from Brooklyn Brewery. Unfortunately, like many of the local shops nearby, the bookstore was hit hard by the hurricane–their 5,000 square foot ground level experienced a foot and a half of water damage during the storm surges, and within only 20 minutes, the bookstore was flooded. Dedicated to staying strong through this crisis, the store is holding a #SandyHatesBooks fundraiser in order to pay for the damages (they don’t have flood insurance). In the meantime, we’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed for a speedy recovery for powerHouse.