The surviving carriage houses of Brooklyn Heights lure the passerby with the charm of their diminutive scale and inspire the covetous urge to imagine dwelling within. Tucked into the neighborhood’s Willow Town area is an enchanting example at 21 Willow Place.
Like most of Brooklyn’s remaining carriage houses, 21 Willow Place was built in the mid 19th century and converted to automobile use in the early 20th century. While the exact building date is unknown, it was completed by 1878. An auction ad for the stable that year describes it as a two-story brick stable with four stalls, a cow shed and a second story “fitted up.”
Digging into architectural history leads to some interesting tangents — in this case a classified ad from the 1870s revealed a stray “coach slut” had turned up on the property. A coach slut was a carriage dog: Able to travel long distances and comfortable around horses, they provided security for travelers.
While Dalmatians were frequently used as carriage dogs in the 19th century, there is no description for the one found on the property, merely an offer to return her if the “owner can prove property.”
In 1917 the Chauncey Real Estate Company appealed a zoning resolution to allow the conversion of the stable into a garage in the largely residential area, and a new certificate of occupancy issued that same year classified the building as a garage. If you were looking to house your motor car, storage at 21 Willow Place would have cost you $10 per month in 1917.
The two-story brick carriage house is now a single family residence. The openings of the first floor are simply ornamented with brownstone lintels but the whole is charmingly topped with a slate-tiled mansard roof.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
- Room for a Horse: The Charm of the Carriage House
- Design Brooklyn: The Many Lives of a Carriage House in Brooklyn Heights
- Feast Your Eyes on This Amazing and Unique Gothic Revival Row in Brooklyn Heights