Folks never used to sell brownstone houses here in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn — they passed them down to their children. For two years, my husband, Rick, and I bled away crazy rent on a duplex in Cobble Hill, all the while praying that someone, anyone, in Carroll Gardens would diss their kids and put a three-story house up for sale. When our landlord threatened to hike our rent (again), we gave up and went to contract on a house in nearby Boerum Hills. When even that deal fall through, we cursed our luck. And then our brownstone came on the market.
It’s an old house, leaning on the rest of a row slanting down toward the Gowanus Canal. The row was built in 1899, and from a sign at the corner of the block, I’d thought it was part of the Carroll Gardens Historic District. But it turns out that district ends just west of us — more luck in disguise, as our house needed renovation (it had been used as a rental property, not a home), and this way, as we tore down walls, put in a laundry room and a kitchen, and cut a door from the kitchen into the garden, we dodged the hassle of historic district red tape.
Our house has sheltered us as our daughters have gone through elementary school, junior high school, and high school; it’s even welcomed our oldest back from college. We’ve shoveled the sidewalk each winter, planted flowers in the windowbox each summer, all the while leaning cheerfully on the houses on each side. Only when a brownstone collapsed a couple of blocks away did it occur to us that any of our houses could fall.