March 7, 2005

Little House

Date unknown:



One of the first homes that jumped out at me when I moved to Brooklyn Heights was 135 Joralemon. In an orderly neighborhood it is neglected. Then in January it was boarded up and now it is abandoned. I pass the house every day and virtually every day it makes me stop in my tracks. It evokes The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. I've been a fan of Burton's work as long as I can remember. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was an early favorite, as was Choo choo: the Runaway Engine, but the story that most fascinated was The Little House which I knew as La Casita (one of the few children's books in my grandparent's house in Mexico). It's the story of a house built in a the country that gets swallowed up by the big city. I was compelled by that idea and still am.

A bit of research shows a house at 135 Joralemon was listed as "longstanding" in a survey done in 1830. Most of Brooklyn was rural back then with large wooded tracts, creeks, and farms. In the 1820's developers started building heavily in Brooklyn Heights with Federalist style rowhouses on 25 foot plots. It's possible 135 Jorolemon predates that first burst of development but a more likely scenario is that a house existed on the land and was torn down to build a the current rowhouse during this era. Stone and brick homes didn't appear in the neighborhood until the 1830's and 40's and it was in that era that most Federalist homes like #135 were torn town and replaced with brownstone. While this house had probably been swallowed up by it's neighbors by the mid 1800's, it's clear the owners tried to keep it up to date. The metalwork and porch date from the Civil War when these 'southern style' details were in vogue. The earliest photo I could find was labeled 1870 (although there is some doubt as to the date) showing the house much as it is today, although obviously in much better shape. By the 1930's it was already looking run down and slightly haunted (the picture from that era shows a "for sale" sign outside). Today the house seems abandoned. I know it won't happen, but part of me wishes it could be put on a truck and sent out to the countryside where it could breath again.

posted at 11:53 PM by raul

Filed under: east coast

TAGS: children's books (12) curious (1) joralemon (1) little house (1)


03/08/05 04:53 PM

This is a lovely section in your blog, and a subject that interests me a lot ( old houses). 135 Joralemon is a symbol of survival. Being small, it's a bit like 'Stuart Little' orthe pig and the spider in 'Charlotte's Web'. It does stir feelings of protection, and fantasies of rescue. There's something of the old urban/rural dichotomy built into its predicament.

05/26/05 06:34 PM

A good friend of mine lives just down the street from this and just as you said, everytime I go to visit, this building stops me in my tracks.

I was quite suprised that I recognized it immediately in the 1870s photo since I am only familiar with it in its most current state.

03/14/06 11:16 PM

My family used to talk about that house. I believe my great grandmother work there as a housekeeper around 1901. The occupant was John P. Lord, an attorney. He helped by great-great uncle become a citizen. Is it still there?

03/14/06 11:28 PM

The house is still there. I was was walking down the street just yesterday and a lady who had read this blog post said she heard from the owners that it would go on the market soon. Let's hope the new owners repair the fire damage and bring it back to it's former glory.

05/11/06 02:58 AM

The "1870's" photo was taken closer to 1900 I think. The large building on the left was built in the 20th century. Great post though.

08/16/06 03:12 PM

If anyone has a story or info about this site, Brooklyn Heights Blog ( would like to know.... webmaster AT


06/28/10 05:17 PM

ok guys, i know who are the people that is living in the house , you dont have idea how beautiful it is!! old house is amazing! really nice inside and at first sight on street!! i would like yo post a picture, or some pictures from this!! now is a home again, now is perfect, when i found this blog i coulnt believe that the house hurted all that, now i see 135 joralemon and i cant understand how they repaired this!! please someone answer me , or search house on google earth , there is a picture from new 135 joralemon !!!


06/28/10 05:19 PM

my email,

08/05/10 09:25 AM

As I passed 135 Joralemon St. this morning I was in awe at the wonderful restoration which is not complete without the shutters. Shutters would be the finishing touch to its past glory. I understand that one of the owners, before the fire, removed the shutters and was cited by Landmarks Commission to replace them but they were never replaced. Shutters in place this would be the crowning glory of Brooklyn Heights.

The frontage of this house has a wonderful well kept English Garden.

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