Category: history

More old pictures of my house!

 NYC is an old city, at least by US standards, and has a lot of old buildings. My previous dwelling was a loft on lower Broadway in Manhattan, in a converted paper goods factory. It was built in the 1870s and the factory allegedly made cardboard boxes for the military during WW1 and WW2 before going out of business in the mid-1970s. Because there are so many old buildings, people want to see what their residences looked like “back then”.  NYC’s Department of Records & Information Services, a/k/a DORIS, has a huge archive of old NYC photos including tax photos

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I found my original C of O!

NYC didn’t start requiring habitable buildings to have a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) until 1938. Since my house was built in 1906… actually the city recently re-evaluated its records and moved this back to 1901 so I guess I’ve gotta change my banner here… it was very possible it didn’t have a CO. Even though NYC law requires either a valid CO certificate or a “Letter of No Objection” from the Dept of Buildings to be submitted at closing, I never saw one. A housing court judge was quoted as saying, “it is more likely that you will see a

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Synchronicity, flashbacks and old photos

Yesterday was one of those strange “theme” days we all experience from time to time. It began with my neighbor, Betsy, and me taking a trip to an art store on 3rd Ave to get some old Brooklyn photos framed that I’d collected over the past year. The centerpiece was something I’d bought from, which I’d discovered on the recommendation of a forum regular on Old House Web. It’s a shot of a freezing cold, February day in Brooklyn Heights circa 1908 with the Manhattan Bridge under construction in the distance. The detail on the photo was mesmerizing (click

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The view from BrooklynRowHouse HQ tonight

I shot the above from my office window a few minutes ago. Tomorrow, of course, is the seventh anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks. Seven years ago tonight, I saw two tall, bright buildings standing there. They were my night light. Tomorrow, the TV will be full of somber ceremonies and remembrances of the 2,998 people killed and the 6,291 injured by sick fanatics. Barack Obama and John McCain are both scheduled to be here for the ceremonies. Flag pins will be worn, anthems will be sung and much patriotic hay will be made. It will continue over the next

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“Moonstruck” house sold

I confess that I like an occasional chick flick and the 1987 Cher/Nicholas Cage flick, “Moonstruck”, was always one of my favorites. It was mostly because director Norman Jewison captured so well the feel of a Brooklyn townhouse and a Brooklyn townhouse neighborhood. This is largely because Jewison shot the movie on location in a real house and in a real neighborhood. There was a scene in the movie when Olympia Dukakis, as Rose Castorini, stands outside the home with her wannabe male suitor. He looks at the house and comments, “My God, it’s a mansion!” “It’s a house!” she

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This would make an awesome train set.

My older brother was a model train buff. I always liked the real thing. As a little kid growing up in Japan, my friends and I used to sneak across the mulberry fields and sit by the train tracks to Yokohama. But the local koban police usually caught us and hauled us back home with a stern warning to our parents never to allow it again. That never deterred us. No question about it, we were American brats. Bay Ridge is in south Brooklyn, on lower New York Harbor. One the benefits of living here is dozing off to fog

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She Talked. This Happened.

Next up in my “Meet The Neighbors” series is one of the largest buildings in NYC, the Brooklyn Army Terminal. It’s not large in vertical terms but as far as the footprint goes, there are few NYC buildings to match it. BAT is located four blocks north of me. Surprisingly, for a complex of its imposing size few people around here know much about it. About the only information I could glean from the locals was, “The Army used to own it. It’s something else now.” With its Pentagon-like utilitarian bulk, the closed-to-the-public perimeter security, the NYPD K-9 facility on

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Welcome to Brooklyn Row House

This blog is about the challenges of renovating an old (1903) Brooklyn, New York row house.

My last major renovation project was the master bedroom, most of which is about finish carpentry. You’ll find other completed home improvement projects in the Projects submenu at the top of this page.

I’m not a professional builder and don’t pretend to be. I’m just an experienced amateur raised in a family of committed DIYers. I try to closely follow local and national building codes but don’t mistake anything on this site to be professional or even accurate advice! Your mileage may and definitely will vary.

This is the third iteration of, from scratch-built to Drupal and now Wordpress. I hope you enjoy your time here.