Neighborhood walks: Brooklyn Heights

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Looking for bucolic brownstones, tree-lined streets, quaint cafes, and unparalleled views of Lower Manhattan? Head straight to Brooklyn Heights. Dubbed “American’s first suburb” (this was one of the first neighborhoods New Yorkers “commuted” from in the 1800s), the neighborhood has retained most of its historic architecture. A walk through Brooklyn Heights is like walking through early Brooklyn, and that plus the views from the Promenade make it a popular spot for film and television shoots.

Brooklyn Heights brownstones, photo courtesy of Mato via Flickr.

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The starting point: The walk begins at the very northern point of Brooklyn Heights, near the border of Dumbo. Take the A/C subway lines to High Street, the first stop in Brooklyn. From the subway, walk one block north and take a left onto Middagh Street. Middagh is a quaint residential block that leads to the modest Squibb Park and the Squibb Park Bridge, where you can get your first views of Lower Manhattan.

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Squibb Park Bridge | Jessica Dailey via Flickr

In the 1940s, Robert Moses’ plan for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway originally called for the highway to cut right through Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood which had fallen on hard times. Local homeowners organized to fight the plan, and the compromise is what led to the design of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which opened in 1950. Still, several blocks of Brooklyn Heights were razed to make room for the expressway, including Middagh Street. One of those houses, 7 Middagh, was over the years the home of such famous writers, composers, and artists as Carson McCullers, W.H. Auden, Paul and Jane Bowles, Richard Wright, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, and Salvador Dalí.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park | Chris Brueckner via Flickr

Take the Squibb Park Bridge down into Brooklyn Bridge Park. This waterfront park, still under construction, offers expansive green spaces, walking paths, playgrounds, and recreation facilities. Walk down the park all the way to Joralemon Street, where you’ll take a left back into the residential portion of the neighborhood, crossing underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

iris-cafe-brooklyn-heightsIris Cafe | IrisCafeNYC via Twitter

Walk up Joralemon Street, one of the only streets in the neighborhood that retains its original cobblestone. Two of the best restaurants in the neighborhood are near the corner of Joralemon and Columbia: River Deli and Iris Cafe.

grace-church-brooklyn-heightsGrace Church interior | GraceBrooklyn.org

Turning left onto Hicks Street at the top of the hill, you come to Grace Church, an Episcopal church built 1847-1848 from a design by noted architect Richard Upjohn. Before the church was built, Grace Church parishioners from the then rural Brooklyn Heights used to have to go to the waterfront on Sunday mornings and blow a horn to summon the boatman who would take them over to their church in lower Manhattan. They finally decided that the trip was too arduous and built their own church in Brooklyn. During a recent renovation of the church, the ceiling was gently washed to uncover a stunning painted field of red, yellow, and gold stars.

70-willow-house-brooklyn-heights70 Willow Street | via MyHomeBrooklyn.com

Walk three blocks, across Brooklyn Heights main shopping street, Montague Street — don’t worry, you’ll come back to it — and take a left on Pierrepont, followed by another quick right onto Willow Street. There you’ll find Truman Capote‘s old home at 70 Willow, between Pineapple and Orange Streets. This is where the author wrote his classic In Cold Blood. The building recently was sold to the creator of Grand Theft Auto for $12.5 million.

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Brooklyn Heights Promenade | Ann Althouse via Flickr

Take a left onto Orange Street to access the pride of the neighborhood, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, one of the most romantic spots in Brooklyn. The promenade offers the best views of Lower Manhattan and plenty of bench space to enjoy it by. It’s a great way to end your day, especially if you can catch the sunset.

brooklyn-historical-society-montague-street-brooklyn-heightsBrooklyn Historical Society

After a leisurely walk down the Promenade, take a left onto Montague Street with its shops and restaurants, described in more detail in this post. When you get to Clinton Street, make sure to take a left to check out the Brooklyn Historical Society, located on the corner of Clinton and Pierrepont. The Historical Society lives in a stately, four-story, Queen Anne–style building completed in 1881. The building is open to the public and shows exhibitions on Brooklyn history. Don’t miss the Olin Levin Warner busts of Michelangelo, Beethoven, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, and Benjamin Franklin on the building’s exterior.

The ending point: Walk back out onto Montague Street, heading east until you hit Borough Hall. From here you can catch the R/2/3/4/5 subway lines.

 

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