In 1973, when Robert Thomason and his wife, Jane, bought a house in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, they had to buy it directly from the owner — because no real estate agent would show houses in the neighborhood to prospective buyers who were white.
Determined to create a racially inclusive and welcoming neighborhood, the ordained minister joined with other residents to found the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA) and start a house tour, now in its 47th year.
Its purpose was to show “blacks and whites could live together as neighbors, welcome one another into their stately homes, and discuss ways to build a better community,” as the group’s latest newsletter recounts.
Now the house tour focuses on interior design and sharing contractor recommendations but it also shows the diversity of the neighborhood and its architecture, according to one of its organizers.
On this year’s tour, attendees will see a rental apartment in a former parsonage with built-in storage created by the occupants and a gut renovated former wreck of an 1899 townhouse in which some original features were re-created.
Highlights to see in other homes on the tour include a brand-new Art Deco-style kitchen in a 1920s brick neo-Colonial, a townhouse that marries a “spare aesthetic” with original details, black-painted original radiators, an outdoor terraced seating and grilling area all in bluestone, a kitchen that mixes the old (a vintage gas stove that came with the house) and the new (a brand-new stove), and patterned cement tile in at least two bathrooms.
The group’s message remains relevant today as the diverse neighborhood deals with gentrification, development, and racially charged rhetoric at community board meetings.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $25 or for $30 on the day of the tour, Sunday, May 7, at the IX Cafe at 43 Lincoln Road between Ocean and Flatbush avenues.
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