09 January 2007

Visiting the Broken Angel of Clinton Hill

Tuesday 1/9, Run #106: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill

Distance: 8.08 miles
Time: 1:00
Pace: 7:25
Temp: 38
Wind Chill: 29
Weather: partly cloudy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.64
Total Unique Miles: 824.65
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 47.33
For the complete route, click here

Notes: Usually my routes are dictated by the geographic logic of the "big map," but today marks the first day I planned a run in order to see a specific place. This morning, I headed back to Bed-Stuy (or, to be a bit more precise, the fringe of Clinton Hill on its western border) in order to visit the Broken Angel, an impressive piece of "outsider" architecture and an oddly compelling part of the local streetscape whose origins and impact have sometimes led it to be compared to the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Starting with an old building they picked up cheap in 1971, owners Arthur and Cindy Wood have continuously built up and out and onto, adding several stories as well as all kinds of ornamental detail. A fire last October led to quite a bit of local attention (with the best coverage coming from several Brooklyn-based blogs) and numerous questions about its future. According to Brownstoner and Gowanus Lounge, the Woods have been unable to raise the funds or hire the contracters necessary to bring the structure up to code (apparently, the city didn't give them a lot of time), and the property is now for sale. Click here to see a terrific set of photos (both interior and exterior) from the Woods' son, Christopher.

Anyway, I figured it was worth a trip to see the place before it gets torn down and replaced by condos or whatever other fate may be in store for it. It is indeed a very impressive and very cool-looking building, and it's easy to see why so many locals are worried about its seemingly imminent demise. And while I have virtually zero knowledge about architecture, homebuilding, or city codes (and thus can't really comment on the Broken Angel's safety or structural integrity), I think it's still kind of amazing that the city let the place stand as long as it has. But as of today it's still there, and however small the chance, maybe something will get worked out to let it stay.

Otherwise, today's run also had a lot going for it besides getting to see a storied piece of local color -- plenty of unique miles, lots of other stuff see (including a good number of small churches and groceries), and great weather (except for the pretty stiff wind). I'm still not feeling 100%, however, so I'll probably take tomorrow off before trying to run again on Thursday. See you then.

Update, 1/11: Broken Angel to be Saved, in a Way (from Gowanus Lounge)

Broken Angel pictures:

broken angel, clinton hill 4
Looking north on Downing Street

broken angel, clinton hill 3
The front (4 is the address on Downing Street)

broken angel, clinton hill 1
The view looking west on Quincy Street

Other pictures:

liquor store, bed-stuy
Classon Avenue

church, bed-stuy
Church on Quincy Street

mural, bed-stuy
Downing Street

a gospel feast, bed-stuy
Stuyvesant Avenue at Quincy Street


At 9:26 AM, Blogger Feminist Runner said...

I've got a make a trip to see Broken Angel -- ever since I saw it on Dave Chapelle's Block Party I knew it was going to have to come down.
Another's Fedder's building to add to the homogenization of Brooklyn!

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Yes, do see it. It'd make a nice run, too -- it's on a pretty quiet street without a lot of vehicular traffic, and not too far from the the Pacific Street stop on the R.

At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Michael said...

Thanks for the tip, I ran there on Sunday. I also figured out how to see the NY1 News story "on demand". Wow


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