This entry was originally drafted in 2006. I rescued it from an ancient Livejournal.

You’ve seen Broken Angel, the derelict dream on Quincy and Downing. Multiple levels, impossible angles, architectural ingenuity that’s been slowly shattered by the oppressive grinding onslaught that is the unnatural wear and tear of Brooklyn. One can never see it anywhere other than from the direct front; though it’s the tallest building for blocks in any direction, the neighborhood camouflages it, hides it. As an embarrassment or a precious treasure, you idly wonder. Then a corner is turned and it unfolds its presence, like a chapter out of Lewis Carroll.

Have you seen the old man? His tattered heavy-duty leather toolbelt hanging like a vestigial limb from his hips. He walks toward the door that loudly proclaims 4BROKENANGEL in blazing white on a chipped red surface, the only gloss that remains. His skin, you notice, his hair, his pants, and his belt all settle into a blended shade of gray, as if they all decided as one to assume the tired, faded hue of the sandblasted flagstones across the lower wall.

He moves shudderingly, a subdued jack russel terrier at his side and doesn’t even turn his dusty-eyed glass lenses upward to regard me. His skin hangs in the same manner as the house; once full of dreams, desires and transcendence, long past. He’s used to people looking, used to the house taking the attention so he can avoid being seen. He’s grown tired of the fake interest, the curious stares, the vacuous smiles that encompass nothing but the house.

Windows cemented shut. Windows made from ancient colored glass bottles. Windows torn out, windows gaping open with chicken-wire teeth, windows gutted by age, boarded down, cracked, murky, faded, what was it about.

He sides the mail slot across a way, and doesn’t so much insert a key as perform an arcane gesture of the hand and a nod, a whispered incantation within the hole where a lock should be. I get the impression I am being watched from a thousand small places. As if seeking the invisible doorman’s approval.

The mail slot is replaced. The door creaks open as only a cliché can, accepts its quarry, and shuts imperceptibly, latching twice for good measure. It occurs to me suddenly that I will never see the old man again, hunched, short, and ignorable. The house is too big.

What’s in the Broken Angel?

Sadly, the art-house no longer exists in its original form. The last time I walked by the structure, its top section had been removed. I don’t know what happened to Arthur Wood or his struggle to save it. If you want to read more about the house and its history, check these articles out:

NY Times 1
NY Times 2
Kickstarter (failed)


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