written and researched by Phoebe Neidl
I set out to research the history of a home on a street I always found to be one of Brooklyn’s most charming: Verandah Place.
The street is uncommonly narrow. It’s more of an alley, and indeed, in some of the documents squirreled away at the Brooklyn Historical Society, it is referred to as “Veranda Alley.”
No. 16 seemed a little different from the rest. It stands three stories high, but it’s wider than most of the other homes on the street, and shows its age a bit more, in a good way. Four small, black iron stars ornament the center of the rough red brick façade. Its front door, currently adorned with a black and white striped awning, is flush against the sidewalk and there are no front steps. Above the second and third floor windows, inlaid bricks arch like eyebrows. But the two ground floor windows are out of step with the rest; large and unevenly spaced, with no eyebrows, just plain cement-colored lintels. The roofline dons a simple white cornice. Beneath that a wooden beam protrudes out with a hook and pulley dangling from its end: the remains of a hayloft hoist.
An 1860 atlas of the neighborhood indicated the building had been a stable. An advertisement from March 2, 1875, for “Privates Stable to Let, No. 16 veranda place; ample accommodation for four horses, carriages and good quarters for coachman and family…Apply at 157 West Warren, or to G.W. Bee, Cotton Exchange, N.Y.” confirms it.
The Bee family owned the house until 1899; George’s wife Emma sold it a year after he died. It is likely that the two buildings—157 Warren and 16 Verandah—were still one property at this time, but sometime in the next 20 years they were sold separately. By 1921, 16 Verandah Place pops up on the city register; the ownership was being transferred from a Paul Morrison to an Adelaide Morrison.
Frustratingly, there is no entry for 16 Verandah in either the 1930 or 1940 census. I don’t know if that means it was unoccupied, or illegally occupied, or if people were just not home. But it was a working class street, if the neighbors’ occupations tell us anything: waitress, typist, butcher, longshoreman, machinist, chauffeur.
The writer Thomas Wolfe lived down the street at 40 Verandah in 1931 and wrote of Brooklyn, “All the underdogs in the world live here…”
16 Verandah was serving as a two-family house when it was bought by a new owner and converted into a one-family in 1966—right around the time that Cobble Hill Park was built.
The land that is now Cobble Hill Park was once occupied by two old mansions and an abandoned church, and rather than being fronted by a half-acre of green space, Verandah Place was hemmed in by a long brick wall. A corporation bought the land and in the early 1960s proposed to build a supermarket. They sold to a private developer who wanted to build a large apartment building. But neighborhood residents, led by the newly formed Cobble Hill Association, demanded a park and successfully petitioned the city to build one. The park was dedicated on July 14, 1965.
Ownership of 16 Verandah changed again in 1977, this time to its current owner.