Prospect-Lefferts

Lefferts Manor: All In The (Single) Family

Eye On Real Estate

November 12, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is Lefferts Manor, a mini-neighborhood where deed covenants require that the houses be single-family homes, Always And Forever. (Ah, that song by Heatwave.) Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

It’s A Family Affair in Lefferts Manor.

A Single-Family Affair, that is.

(What would Sly and the Family Stone think about this twist to their song lyric?)

This hugely appealing mini-neighborhood in the heart of Prospect Lefferts Gardens, just a few blocks away from nature-lover’s refuge Prospect Park, has something unusual about it.

The properties in eight-block Lefferts Manor were all built as single-family homes — and must stay that way Always And Forever. (The song by Heatwave is stuck in our head.)

Preservation-minded New Yorkers — and happy home buyers — have a scion of one of Brooklyn’s unofficial founding families to thank for this requirement, which has kept the architectural features of the area’s century-or-more-old, middle-class housing stock remarkably intact.

In 1893, James Lefferts decided to divvy up and sell land from a family farm. He created a restrictive deed covenant for each of the resulting 600 lots — which were to be used to build single-family homes that would remain that way, never to become multiple residences.

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In hard times, owners of some historic homes in fancier Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Brooklyn Heights turned their properties into multi-family homes or boarding houses. Lefferts Manor properties were never altered in this manner.

“Due to the efforts of the Lefferts Manor Association, founded in 1919, the area has remained one of the few in New York City where the original deed covenants are still in force, thus giving much of this eight-block section of the Historic District a special cohesiveness,” notes a 1979 city Landmarks Preservation Commission report related to the designation of the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Historic District.

This neighborhood association continues to be active today.

 

ALICE WALKER LIVED IN LEFFERTS MANOR   

The group maintains a website full of intriguing info about Lefferts Manor, whose boundaries are Lincoln Road, Flatbush Avenue, Fenimore Street and Rogers Avenue.

One tidbit from the site that got our attention: Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Color Purple,” lived at 55 Midwood St. in the 1970s.

We spoke to neighborhood resident Judy J., who recalled swapping stories about the South, where her family hails from, with Walker. They were friends. So were their daughters.

Walker’s Midwood Street house also has the distinction of having belonged to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick when he was an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York.

City Finance Department records indicate Walker and then-husband Melvyn Leventhal owned the house from July 1974 to October 1977. Patrick and his wife Diane Whiting were its owners from November 1983 to September 1986, the property records show.

THE VIRTUES OF A NEIGHBORHOOD FULL OF SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES  

As for Judy J., she moved from Park Slope to Lefferts Manor in 1974 after learning about the latter at a brownstone fair.  

One thing that drew her to Lefferts Manor, she said, was  that “this was an integrated neighborhood. We were not interested in living in a neighborhood that did not reflect diversity.”

The idea of an entire neighborhood of single-family houses was appealing as well. Once she moved in, she discovered just how tranquil it was.

“It just wasn’t as dense, coming from Park Slope,” she said. “It felt quiet. I even heard a rooster once.

“It was just very nice, a nice place to raise a family.”

 

 

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