Nico Ornamental Works

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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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Hallelujah!

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The Lady Moody – Van Sicklen House, 27 Gravesend Neck Road, Brooklyn, New York.

It took them half a century (plus two months), but today — at 10:19 a.m., to be precise! — the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) finally designated the Lady Moody – Van Sicklen House an official landmark. That means it cannot be altered or demolished without the permission of the LPC (click here for more about designation). That permission is granted only rarely, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

This great news has me feeling elated and exhausted and a million other things at once. I send my deepest gratitude to everyone who wrote to the LPC, or spoke at the hearing last fall, or just kept their fingers crossed and sent good thoughts for this magical outcome. I can’t imagine a Gravesend without this house. And now, thankfully, I don’t have to!

I’ll share the LPC’s detailed designation report as soon as it’s published.


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

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Your time has come, Lady Moody!

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The Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House, 27 Gravesend Neck Road. {Photo by Joseph Ditta, Saturday 26 March 2016}

On Tuesday, April 12, 2016, fifty years plus two months after it was calendared by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House at 27 Gravesend Neck Road, may finally get the recognition it deserves. The Commission will spend just ten minutes listening to the findings of its research staff, and then vote for designation. (Notice that I didn’t write “for or against.” I don’t want to jinx it!) If you’re free and would like to attend the meeting, here’s the detailed schedule; the Moody House is set for 10:20-10:30, but these things are never set in stone. How will I manage to sleep between now and Tuesday?


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

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Pony Express

Sometimes I get lucky. That was the case on March 13th when I won on eBay the two framed horse racing photographs seen here. No one else bid (my many arch enemies must have been napping) and I got them for a song. According to the inscribed brass plaque on the base of its frame, the photo on the left captures a moment in the Steeplechase, the second race run at the Brooklyn Jockey Club’s Gravesend track on Monday, June 8, 1908. The winner was “Simon Pure,” followed by “Henderson,” “Waterspeed,” and “Boadwee.” The four small plaques on the base of the other frame name the horses above: “Agent,” “Alfar,” “John M. P.,” and “Haylas.” This was the second race of the Coney Island Jockey Club at the Sheepshead Bay track on Saturday, September 8, 1906. John M. P. won, followed by Agent, Alfar, and Haylas.

If only the pictures had arrived as fast as these horses raced. . . . They came from Florida, and were delivered on March 18th five days after purchase. Pretty good time, actually. Or so I thought. When I opened the giant box, it held stereo speakers. Yes, stereo speakers. Turns out the seller shipped two boxes simultaneously: mine with the photographs, the other with the speakers. The speakers were destined for California. They came to Brooklyn instead. You know where this is going, right? Yes, my pictures went to California. Luckily, the shipping company picked up the speakers the following day, but it took another week for the photos to cross the country. Another week of me anxiously checking the tracking location, praying that these 108- and 110-year-old images in fragile, 20″ by 30″ frames would survive the journey. They did, thankfully, but Pony Express might have been quicker!

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

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Gelukkig Pasen!

That’s Dutch for Happy Easter! It’s a bit late in the day (I was busy stuffing myself at Gargiulo’s!), but I hope those who celebrate have had a wonderful holiday. Here’s a program from the Easter service at the Gravesend Reformed (Dutch) Church on April 17, 1892.


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

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