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!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)