Thursday, February 5, 2009
THE STREET OF "LITTLE DOORS"
Not much is really known about this tiny block of tiny homes with tiny doors. Dennet Place is tucked between Luquer and Nelson Streets and between Smith and Court Streets in Carroll Gardens. I remember about 10-years ago, one of the old Italian guys in the neighborhood telling me about the block over a few beers at a local bar. I kept asking him, "Show me, show me." Finally, we wandered down the street and he started pointing at the doors, under the stoop. "See, there's one. There's another," he boasted. Most were about four to five feet high. "No midgets, here," my drinking buddy explained. But, "Why the small doors," I wondered. "Don't know," he told me.
Historically, we know that homes built back in the 1700's typically had smaller interior doors, because, people then were shorter. But, these 2-to-4-story homes were built in the late 1800's. One recent real estate offering showed a four-story townhouse built in 1899 for 1.2 million dollars. But, another web search revealed that in 1860, a family named Sweeney lived on the block. Dennis Sweeney, an immigrant from Ireland, was a longshoreman, like many of the folks who settled in Carroll Gardens at the time. The Irish populated the neighborhood in the 1800's and were followed in the 1900's by a large Italian population.
The origin of Dennet Place still remains somewhat of a mystery. One can only speculate why all of those small doors were installed in the first place. One popular belief is that the doors, located under the stoop of the townhouses, were more of a utility to gain access to the basement, much like storm doors in rural communities. Whatever the reason, Dennet Place has always resembled a small European village and to this day, nearly 150-years later, the block still maintains its quaint charm. (Special thanks to forgotten-ny.com for the photos and some background)