Want to see the sort of wooden house we actually wanted? Brooklyn blogger IMBY has a sweet mini-tour of some of the precious li'l frame row houses still hanging on in the 'South Slope' (the part of Brooklyn's Park Slope that never quite made it into the 'Brownstone Belt').
The years have not been kind to most of them; unlike this gingerbread doll-house, the vast majority fell victim to the tin men (and vinyl men), and had their little touches of workingman's class, their cornices and porchlets, amputated, and facades slapped over with siding or faux-stone. We used to call them 'rat shacks' (a term I owe to Tom Wolfe). But some sensitive souls are saving what's left and retrofitting what was lost, with delightful results. These blocks have a great vibe, too--a jumble of big roughhouse buildings and these farmhousey gems, all scrambling up the Slope with New York Harbor sprawling in the distance.
When we were house-hunting 20 years ago, our first dream was, "a little brownstone." Bwah-hah-hah, those were already bespoke, far out of our price range--even the tiniest, crummiest ones, even then. Then we thought, how about a South Slope brick? Nope--people were flipping them like hotcakes. Okay, we figured, how about a South Slope rat shack? We could fix it up, make it cute. By the time we looked, the rat shacks too had floated above our fiscal grasp--location, location, shaddup, we know, it's Park Slope after all. And that is how we found Flatbush, and instead of getting an expensive little ratshack, got a dirt-cheap 3,000-square-foot rat palace.
Well, 'dirt-cheap' until we got our first heating bill. There is nothing quite so good at disseminating heat into the outside world as uninsulated woodframe construction, and there was a reason that enormous ratty old wooden freestanding houses weren't selling like...hotcakes. At least the South Slope rowhouses have the protection of party walls, huddled next to each other like penguins for mutual warmth. Anyway, for those who ask why one little couple bought such a big house to heat, that's the story of how we couldn't afford a smaller house...like the cuties on IMBY. (Which is, by the way, a very bleak/funny chronicle of the grab-n-greed school of quickie real-estate development in that area; check out his archived posts on demented demolition teams, tree-mutilators, and other outlaw construction madness...)