“I like skylines,” says Miss Cave. “I like the way the lights from each building kind of blend together to form a still light show. The way the sky looked, the way the clouds reflected a yellow light over the building also encouraged me to take this picture. I like taking rooftop pictures because the sky symbolizes heaven even on its worst days. Being further off the ground brings me close to my mother Sheila James Cave who passed three years ago. And every time I develop a picture of a sunset or skyline, I hope to see my mother’s eyes hidden in the scene somewhere.” (Miss Cave is the daughter of the well-known photographer, the late Robert D. Cave, Sr See page 22.)
THE BROWNSTONERS OF BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, CELEBRATE 20 YEARS OF PRIDE
20th Annual House Tour to Take Place Rain or Shine
Throughout New York and its many urban enclaves there are neighborhoods where generations of African-American families live surrounded by stately elegance and grandeur. The members of the Brownstoners are the torchbearers of the untold strength and beauty of one such neighborhood: Bedford-Stuyvesant. Their story is as much about a neighborhood and its housing stock as it is about the way of life that thrives in this community. In fact, it is the coexistence of family, community, and striking residential architecture that make the Brownstoners’ story unique.
Over twenty years have passed since a small group of neighbors–gathered together socially in a tranquil backyard retreat on Chauncey Street–decided to form an organization devoted to celebrating the history, culture, and people of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Insightfully, the Brownstoners’ founding members settled on a house tour that would illuminate the rich architectural and cultural heritage of the neighborhood, as the perfect venue to introduce, and in many cases, reintroduce their community to prospective homebuyers. Since that first event back in 1978, the Brownstoners’ House Tour has become a highly anticipated and enjoyable neighborhood event. Over 6,000 visitors have walked our streets and toured our homes, marveling at the timeless beauty of Bedford-Stuyvesant and catching the enduring spirit of the many families who so graciously opened their homes to tour-goers.
Presently, Bedford-Stuyvesant, like many communities in New York City, is enjoying the spillover effects of the current economic upturn-sharp increases in property values, numerous home renovation projects and an exciting mix of new businesses, operated by community residents are emerging throughout the neighborhood. While some describe this recent activity as a rebirth, many Brownstoners consider it an awakening of outsiders to what they have always known to be true–Bedford-Stuyvesant is and has always been a viable community to raise children, open up shops and purchase homes. We who live here bask in the warmth of good neighbors and the spiritual presence of our historic churches. As well, we take enormous pride in our economic, cultural, and educational institutions. It is through our annual house tour that many city-dwellers continue to experience firsthand, the best that Bedford-Stuyvesant has to offer. Our repeat visitors agree and often point to the encouragement they receive from home-owners and the information they learn at our Home Buying Seminars as pivotal elements in their decision to purchase a home in the neighborhood or renovate their existing property.
On October 17th, the Brownstoners will welcome visitors into Bedford-Stuyvesant and inside some of our wonderful homes for the 20th celebration of the people, houses and community of Brooklyn’s “best-kept secret.” Here is a sampling of what is in store.
On the day of the tour visitors will be transported to an era of bygone splendor where inside and out, late 19th and early 20th century nuances abound. The exteriors of the buildings on display-some of which are among the earliest structures built in the neighborhood-are reminiscent of the many architectural styles of the period. Along one street, a stately row of landmark buildings display varied forms and styles, which include Romanesque Revival, Federal, Queen Anne and Spanish Renaissance elements. On the inside of these magnificent residences are many items original to the homes including elephant skin wall coverings, working dumbwaiters, built-in iceboxes, coal-burning stoves, vetted tapestries, an antique French shower with brass piping and the fittings of a central vacuuming system from the 1800’s.
Some homeowners have undertaken projects to restore homes to their original beauty and will feature renovation projects completed by award-winning master craftsmen. Intricately designed fretwork, balusters, pilasters and spindles have been recreated to exacting detail. Others have combined the conveniences of modern life with vestiges of the past in a way that balances the old with the new. Most all utilize African art and design either as an overall theme or as decorative accents.
Finally, many of our homeowners describe their kitchens, both new and old, as the heart and soul of their respective homes. From those with beautifully designed center-islands, granite countertops, spot lighting, and maple cabinets to others with 8-ft stained-glass windows and one that looks out on a serene reflecting pond, these rooms are a back-drop to the ebb and flow of family life in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
We invite you to come and see how people have been inspired, how they have been energized and why, year after year, they continue to “Come on Home to Bed-Stuy.”
About the Author
Crystal Bobb-Semple was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant and answered the call to “come on home” after attaining her Bachelors Degree in Economics from Hampton University and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Delaware. She and her husband, Walston, managing producer of The Armchair Millionaire, a common sense saving and investing website, reside in the turn-of-the-century limestone they purchased in 1995.
Saturday, October 17