Carroll Gardens

Our historic house is haunted, Carroll Gardens funeral directors say

Eye On Real Estate

September 2, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is the John Rankin House at 440 Clinton St. in Carroll Gardens. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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With a mansion this old and this fine, you’d hope there would be a ghost or two floating around, to amp up the sense of antiquity.

And this stunning Greek Revival landmark does not disappoint.

Just ask Frank Guido, who has seen silent specters in the hallway on the top floor of 440 Clinton St., AKA the John Rankin House, which was built when Martin Van Buren was President.

“Two women pass at times, one in a white dress, one in a blue dress,” said Guido, who has lived and operated a funeral parlor for more than a half-century in the historic Carroll Gardens manse.

“They are long dresses, almost like a nightgown,” said the fourth-generation funeral director of F.G. Guido Funeral Home, whose great-grandfather launched the undertaking business in 1883.

His daughter, Maria-Ray Guido, said that when she and her brother were kids growing up in the house, they saw the two spirits.

“It was frightening because we were young,” recalled the fifth-generation funeral director. “They would come at night. We would be having a heart attack and calling for our parents.”    

Father and daughter graciously showed us around the elegant square-shaped house.

We were on a quest to photograph 10 of Brooklyn’s lesser-known but lovable landmarks, all of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Clinton Street house was added to this Federal landmark registry in 1978.

John Rankin House “is one of the finest Greek Revival residences in all the five boroughs,” according to a report about its 1970 designation as a city landmark.

When the wealthy merchant built the house in 1840, the area was dotted with country estates.

Sadly for our thrill-seeking self, the long-gowned ghosts did not appear during our visit. We were there on a sunny morning, which was the wrong time of day.

We saw antique furniture and objets d’art and a grand French walnut staircase with burl-paneled wainscoting. The house has 16 fireplaces — and a bread oven in the basement.

Frank Guido said he bought the free-standing red-brick home for $60,000 in 1959 — at a time when neighborhood brownstones were selling for $10,000 to $12,000.

For Guido, who majored in history at Villanova University, it has been a joy to own this architectural treasure from Brooklyn’s distant past.

“I’m very proud of it,” he said.

Before he moved to 440 Clinton St., his funeral home was located on nearby President Street. There was a stable at Hamilton Avenue and Rapelye Street for horses that drew its old-fashioned hearses.

Even now, Guido owns 28 carriages, and can accommodate requests for horse-drawn carriages at funerals.


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