Nico Ornamental Works

Hubbard.Street.2502.watermarked

Postcard advertising the creations of Nico Ornamental Works, 2502 Hubbard Street, Brooklyn. {Collection of Joseph Ditta}

If you live here in what the historian Thomas J. Campanella calls #deepsouthbrooklyn, it’s possible you’ve seen some of the pebbly garden sculptures on this postcard for Nico Ornamental Works. When I was young, the thing that made visits to the dentist mildly less painful was that I’d get to see the pebble village that filled the yard of the house above his basement office (861 Avenue Z at the northwest corner of East 7th Street). I wish I could recall exactly what was there, but I think it included a windmill, and possibly the large Japanese garden, or some multi-tiered bird bath. I used to imagine tiny people occupying these fanciful structures. (What can I say? The dentist used laughing gas, and even intravenous sedation. It was the ’70s!) Today there are only a few round planters left at the site, and some pebbling along the walkways.

Nico, I’ve learned, is short for Nicosia, as in Epifanio Nicosia (1882-1970), an Italian immigrant who once lived at 2502 Hubbard Street and sold these decorative pieces to homeowners in the area. Today some are better preserved than others. A few forlorn examples survive outside Nicosia’s former residence. If you know where others are hiding let me know. Let’s see how many we can find!

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UPDATE!!! Since posting this yesterday I’ve heard from some of Epifanio Nicosia’s lovely descendants, who shared an important detail: after 2502 Hubbard Street, he lived around the corner, at 610 Avenue Y. A photo taken in front of the house shows a large painted sign advertising “Nico’s Rock Gardens.” Searching for 610 Avenue Y in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle brought up this wonderful profile of Nicosia and his work from June 30, 1952:


Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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10 Comments

Filed under Nico Ornamental Works, Nico's Rock Gardens

10 responses to “Nico Ornamental Works

  1. Candace Wilmot

    I’d love to have seen the pebble village.

    • It might not have been as grandiose as I’m remembering it, but you know how it is when you’re a kid: everything seems magical!

      • Fvitanza

        Funny, my dentist was on Ave.Y corner of east 6th. I remember passing a house that had a yard full of these including a large gazebo structure. And a windmill. My parents still have two flower pots in the front yard on Ave W that I think my father pilfered from one of the neighbors!

      • Too funny! We went to Dr. Primes on Avenue Z and East 7th. The yard was FULL of these pebbly things. I wish I had a picture of them . . .

  2. Fvitanza

    My dentist was on Ave Y corner of East 6th. I remember a house with a yard full of these including a table and benches, windmill and gazebo. My parents still have two pots in their front yard on Ave W. Think my Dad pilfered them from one of the neighbors.

  3. charliecuneo

    Great article and great find! I have been documenting pebble-studded flowerpots and structure in south Brooklyn for years. I even tried to map them but became overwhelmed when I started looking at the treasure trove that is Sheepshead Bay! (Kings Highway is also rich with these objects.) You can read my blog posts here: http://www.iitaly.org/bloggers?goTo=http://www.iitaly.org/38098/decorated-flowerpots. Nico must have been one of a few outfits creating and supplying these objects to housing developers and contractors because there are simply too many in the borough in row housing built after World War II. I discovered another Italian immigrant, Giovanni Crozzoli of College Point, Queens, who also made and sold decorated flowerpots and other items. I’m planning on blogging about next month. For more on my ongoing search/research, see this NYT article: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/12/garden/italian-decor-rooted-in-pottery.html. Again, thanks for this enlightening piece! Joseph Sciorra

    • Hi Joe.

      Thanks so much for getting in touch. I’ve been a longtime fan of your work on yard shrines and the like. (I think we’ve shaken hands once or twice at some Calandra event or other.) I obviously did not dig too deeply into this topic, or I would have come across your great posts (who knew Governor Cuomo’s grandfather was a pebble artisan???). I collect whatever I can find that documents the history of Gravesend. This Nico Ornamental Works postcard had been in my collection for a long time before it dawned on me to look for the Hubbard Street address in the census. That lead to the discovery of the surname “Nicosia” and the realization that it was the source of “Nico.” Anyway, I look forward to your future discoveries. Please let me know if I can help. You’re certainly welcome to anything I’ve found.

      All the best,

      Joe.

  4. JosephSciorra

    Joe, I know this may sound silly to some but your discovery was very exciting to read. An early Christmas gift of sorts. 🙂 I’ll let you know about when I write/post about Crozzoli’s decorated flowerpots. Meanwhile, what I have written so far about him and his other creations: http://bloggers.iitaly.org/bloggers/40380/giovanni-crozzoli-immigrant-tower-builder.
    I look forward to meeting you again. Merry Christmas!
    Joseph

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