Brooklyn Heights

See the Brooklyn Heights street where Truman Capote and Arthur Miller lived

Eye on Real Estate

August 17, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Truman Capote, at left in this 1959 photo with actor Horst Buchholz and actress Tammy Grimes, lived on Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights. AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman

Brooklyn Heights. See it like a native.

Where did Truman Capote write “In Cold Blood” — Willow Place or Willow Street?

Where did Arthur Miller write “The Crucible” — Willow Place or Willow Street?

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If you can explain which Willow is which, you really know your way around this beloved brownstone neighborhood. For those of you who aren’t 1,000 percent sure, we’ve compiled some fast facts about the two Willows.

First, the answer to both questions is Willow Street — which runs from the northern edge of Brooklyn Heights near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to Pierrepont Street.

Willow Place is a single-block street at the south end of Brooklyn Heights. Possibly you’ve never seen it, unless you’re a big fan of pre-Civil War architecture.

You have passed it, though, if you’ve walked down Joralemon Street from Borough Hall’s subway station to get to Brooklyn Bridge Park. The entrance to Willow Place is there on your left. It ends at State Street.


Where’s that iconic yellow house?

Second, here’s a more detailed answer to our literary quiz:

* Truman Capote lived at 70 Willow St. when it belonged to Broadway set designer Oliver Smith and was painted yellow.

These days, visitors who come looking for the iconic yellow house they’ve seen on tourism websites wind up confused. The 1830s-vintage Greek Revival-style house is covered in scaffolding and construction netting. And “Grand Theft Auto” video-game creator Dan Houser and his wife Krystyna, who bought the house for $12.5 million in 2012, have stripped the yellow paint off the brick.

The other day, when the construction-fence door was open, we saw a bulldozer in a hole behind 70 Willow St. Is the rear yard being prepped for the swimming pool the Housers reportedly plan to build?

* Arthur Miller lived at 155 Willow St., a Federal-style red-brick house built in the 1820s. He moved out when he left his first wife for Marilyn Monroe.

The queen of Brooklyn Heights

Third, there are many other eye-catching Willow Street properties. For instance:

* The clapboard Federal-style house at 24 Middagh St., which is on a Willow Street corner, may have been built in the 1790s, Robert Furman writes in his book “Brooklyn Heights: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of America’s First Suburb.”

The house is sometimes called “the queen of Brooklyn Heights.”

* Cher’s character in “Moonstruck,” the movie for which she won an Oscar, lived in the 1830s-vintage house at 19 Cranberry St., which is on the corner of Willow Street.

* A lovely 1820s-vintage Federal-style house on the corner of Orange Street, 57 Willow St., is painted a beautiful shade of buttery yellow. It will soothe your eyes after you’ve stared at Truman Capote’s scaffolding-covered, no-longer-yellow house.

*  Striped window awnings add an extra dose of charm to the brownstone at 75 Willow St.

* A spectacular former hotel built in the 1920s, The Towers, occupies a stretch of Willow Street from Pineapple to Clark streets. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have owned this property at 21 Clark St. for four decades, have put it up for sale.

* Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

The beautiful blue-painted shingle house at 104 Willow St., which sold for $10.625 million in 2014? This Federal-style home was built in 1826, in case you’re wondering.

Or on the opposite side of the street, also-beautiful 113 Willow St., which was built in 1829?

It’s clad in mahogany planks painted gray-blue, which are replicas of the clapboard that originally covered the house. Before a recent renovation, 113 Willow St. was covered with unsightly asphalt shingles for at least a half-century, which prompted us to nickname it the “Asphalt Jungle” house.

* There’s a patch of sylvan greenery that runs alongside a handsome carriage house at 151 Willow St. The green oasis is situated on land that long, long ago was an extension of a sweet little street called Love Lane.

The greenspace is protected from development by the thoughtful actions of two of the heroes of New York City landmarking, Otis and Nancy Pearsall.  

In 1977, the couple, whose house is just down the block, purchased the carriage house and the vacant land. And they drew up “preservation easements” that forbid the construction of new buildings or changes to the landscaping without the approval of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.       

Which way to Colonnade Row?

Enough about Willow Street. Fourth, there are numerous historic homes — and a former church — to see on the other side of the neighborhood, on Willow Place. For instance:

* Gothic Revival-style duplexes at 2-8 Willow Place, built around 1847, have front doors with porches framed by colonnettes. Their upstairs windows are decorated with distinctive chevron patterns.

* The 1850s-vintage red-brick rowhouse at 11 Willow Place has wonderful floral wreaths on its front door plus great stoop planters and window boxes.

* The almost-matching brick rowhouses at 23 and 25 Willow Place have eye-catching arched windowsills. These homes were built in 1854.

* Remember John Ruskin, the 19th-Century English art and architecture critic? A former 1870s-vintage Unitarian church at 26 Willow Place was designed in Ruskinian Gothic style. Willow Place Chapel is now the Alfred T. White Community Center, which the Heights Players and other organizations use.

* Greek Revival-style houses at 43-49 Willow Place are known as Colonnade Row because they share a single portico with tall columns. These homes were built in 1846 through 1848.   


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