For those who love hunting the nooks and crannies of Brooklyn for architectural surprises, a hidden street is always a treat. Brooklyn boasts a number of tiny streets, including Barwell Terrace, located off 97th Street between 3rd and 4th avenues in Bay Ridge.
Tucked off a public residential street, Barwell Terrace is an unusual, private Brooklyn street — not a mews or cul de sac at street level, but a private little oasis accessible via 97th street only by climbing a flight of brick stairs.
Completed in 1926, the small complex includes 18 single-family houses, two with entrances on 97th Street and the rest with entrances facing the terrace.
Declared “old English” in the sales speak of the day, the houses fit in with the Tudor and Storybook “historic” residences that were popular in the early 20th century. There’s a bit of half-timbering, decorative brickwork, arched doorways and picturesque rooflines.
The private terrace is narrow and divided at points via a landscaped median. Each house has a postage stamp-sized yard facing the terrace — some grassy and some now paved.
Unusually for Brooklyn, the rear of the houses face alleys, allowing for access to the garages — an amenity boasted about in the 1920s advertisements for the houses and still a bonus for homeowners today.
On the interior, the houses had steam heat but also atmospheric wood-burning fireplaces. Ads of the time listed other interior details, including parquet floors, breakfast nooks and tiled showers.
When they first went on the market in 1926, they were priced at $9,750 — that’s about $134,000 in 2017 dollars. One of the corner houses sold this spring for $745,000.
One of the famed dwellers of the tiny terrace was named, appropriately enough, Pee Wee. The Brooklyn Dodger Pee Wee Reese and his family lived on the terrace in the 1950s. A former babysitter for the Reese family told Brownstoner that Pee Wee rented 9714 Barwell Terrace until 1957.
The complex was recently in the news as one of four private streets in Brooklyn facing the end to their garbage pickup. After 80 years of garbage pickup via rolling carts, the Department of Sanitation ruled that homeowners will now have to bring their trash to the nearest cross street so it can be picked up via truck.
[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]
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