Just a block away from the busy department stores, supermarkets, and fast food joints of Church Avenue in Brooklyn is a portal into the early 20th century and the birth of the automobile era.
Tucked behind the Flatbush Reformed Dutch Church—itself a landmark and the namesake of the street it’s on—the Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District is a set of bucolic cul-de-sacs lined with 32 houses in the Colonial Revival style (Albemarle) and the English Arts and Crafts style (Kenmore). The architects, Slee & Bryson, were inspired by the 1876 Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia to build something that invoked and honored the early years of the United States.
The homes are relatively small and cozy, but a few of the houses on Kenmore are actually a bit bigger due to the car ramps and garages built into them. While most old garages in New York are actually converted carriage houses, these are some of the earliest purpose-built car garages in America, created to house Model T’s and their ilk, not horses.
Between the houses on Albemarle and Kenmore, as well as behind the southern row of buildings on Albemarle, are intimate walkways connecting all the wooded gardens. Unfortunately, these paths are closed to the public, as are the homes themselves.
If you’re interested in touring the interiors of the houses (many of which have their original moldings and trim), you should try to attend the annual Victorian Flatbush Tour held in June by the Flatbush Development Corporation. While not guaranteed, on some years owners of houses on Abermarle or Kenmore may open up their homes to the tour.
Know Before You Go
Take the B or the Q to Church Avenue and walk three blocks east to East 21st Street; the historic district is right behind the cemetery and parsonage. The B41/B41 LTD also stops at the corner of Church and Flatbush, one block away in front of Erasmus Hall. Tickets are required for the Victorian Flatbush Tour held every June.