Meet the Belle of Avenue I in Flatlands

April 26, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Meet the Belle of Avenue I, as we call this eye-catching Flatlands home. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Eye on Real Estate: Fourteen-room Victorian house overlooks Amersfort Park

Old houses need love and care. If they’re lucky, they wind up with owners who are willing to give them these things.

Artists need work spaces with lots of natural light. If they’re lucky, they wind up with houses that are able to give them these things.

Such is the case with Steve and Pat Yamin and their picturesque 14-room Victorian house, which has a turret and three porches —  or four, actually, when you count a small rooftop space that’s referred to as a widow’s porch.

“We can have our professions and we don’t get in each other’s way,” said Pat Yamin.

She’s a quilter who has written seven books about her craft. She co-founded a guild called Empire Quilters that now has 500 members. Use the name of her business, “Come Quilt With Me,” when you look online for examples of quilting templates she has designed.

Steve Yamin is a printmaker with a master of fine arts degree from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Use the name “Steven Yamin” when you look online for examples of his prints.

Their house at 3903 Avenue I in Flatlands was built in 1896, the year William McKinley was elected President.

The married couple bought it in 1979 for $49,500. Cobi and Lura Brothers were the sellers, city Finance Department records indicate.

Pat Yamin, who at that time worked for New York State as a vocational counselor, knew Lura Brothers because she also worked for New York State.
Prior to their Flatlands house purchase, the Yamins had lived for more than a decade in a five-room railroad flat above a Chinese laundry and a candy store at 180 DeKalb Ave. in Fort Greene.

That may sound big as apartments go. But his art studio and her quilting room took up so much space that they slept on a pullout couch.

This house is a jealous mistress

But back to 3903 Avenue I. As befits an old Victorian house, it is occasionally visited by ghosts, Pat Yamin said — very polite ghosts.

“I’ve heard them a couple times, going up the attic stairs,” she explained.

The house is an eye-catcher, in a prominent location on the corner of East 39th Street across from Amersfort Park.

The Yamins gave us a tour of their home. We got a good look inside its high-ceilinged, graciously proportioned rooms. Original details abound, including stained-glass windows, elaborate woodwork, decorative brass doorknobs and a gigantic bathtub with claw feet. There are three gas fireplaces.

Sunlight streams through tall windows.

Even the garage is charming. Its interior walls and ceiling are made of chestnut wood. As recently as the 1960s, it was used as a horse stable.

The house’s serene interiors give no hint of the messes the couple had to deal with when they first relocated to Flatlands.

There was a rotting picket fence that had to be removed. The garage roof had a hole in it. The weekend they moved into their house, the back porch steps collapsed.

Making those repairs launched them into an unceasing cycle of home-improvement chores.

Every season, there’s a new to-do list: “Lots of caulking. Lots of painting. Lots of scraping,” said Steve Yamin, who by the way is the president of the Nieuw Amersfort Civic Association.

Keeping the house in good shape eats up his time and attention.

“The house is his mistress — so I named her Sophie,” Pat Yamin said.   

In addition to that jesting nickname, the couple also call their home Hubbard House.

That’s because Pat Yamin pored over old property records at Brooklyn Borough Hall and discovered that members of the Hubbard family built it and were its original owners.

After doing genealogical research at the Brooklyn Historical Society, she thinks they were descendants of James Hubbard. He emigrated from Langham, England in the 1600s and came to Gravesend with Lady Deborah Moody, who was a proponent of religious freedom.

Over the years, some of the Hubbards married into Dutch immigrant families who lived in the area.

The name Hubbard House also refers to a Dutch-American farmhouse at 2138 McDonald Ave. in Gravesend that was built in the 1830s by Nelly Johnson Hubbard and was probably initially occupied by her and her son Samuel Hubbard. That house was designated as a city landmark in 2009.

Unsolicited purchase offers

The Yamins are frequently approached by folks who inquire about buying 3903 Avenue I — which sits on a 90-foot-by-90-foot lot — or purchasing its side yard as a development site.

Some people just want to know if there are rooms available for rent.

Three years ago, the couple considered an offer from a man who planned to tear down Hubbard House and construct a six-unit multifamily building with onsite parking. The idea of selling the house was tempting to the Yamins, who at that time were thinking about buying an unusual home in the town of Somers in northern Westchester County — a converted barn with a silo.

His offer didn’t pan out, though.

Reflecting on the sale that didn’t happen, Pat Yamin said the demolition of  3903 Avenue I would have been “a terrible thing.”

Even after four decades, the house still has surprises to offer the Yamins. Recently their son, Jared, was removing wallpaper on the third floor — and uncovered a fresco.

The lovely painting depicts a ship called the Mist heading towards a lighthouse.