As I was watching the recent Steven Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies, about a Brooklyn lawyer who defended Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and then negotiated an exchange for a captured American pilot in the midst of the Cold War, I noticed something: lawyer James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) and family lived in a house on a Brooklyn street quite familiar to me.
Indeed, as this Brooklyn Eagle article explains, they rented a gorgeous turn-of-the-century home in Ditmas Park, not all that far from where I once lived (in a modest apartment), and close to--or, potentially part of--the route for my (Not Just) Victorian Flatbush tour.
(The house is on E. 17th Street between Dorchester and Ditmas avenues, and sold for a mere $1.9 million in 2007.)
The Donovan family actually did not live in Ditmas Park/Flatbush during the time depicted in the film--though this neighborhood is understandably a favorite for filmmakers and TV producers because it offers grand houses, reasonable space for street parking, and a lower density of neighbors who might get annoyed.
According to Philip J. Bigger's biography Negotiator: The Life and Career of James B. Donovan, by 1957, five years before the exchange of prisoners, the Donovans had moved from a freestanding home in Bay Ridge, in southwest Brooklyn, "to a fifteen-room, bi-level apartment at 35 Prospect Park West... overlooking Prospect Park."
Wowza. As described on Streeteasy, "designed by the architect Emory Roth, 35 Prospect Park West is a white-glove co-op building with a full maintenance staff and private basement storage for each unit. The 1929 building is home to 74 units over 18 stories, comprised of single floor two bedrooms and spacious duplex four and five bedrooms."
It's located (map) between Montgomery Place and Garfield Place--and on the routes for my Brooklyn 101, Brooklyn 202, and Park Slope tours. In case you're wondering, a 9-room duplex there sold for more than $5 million in 2008. So it's an even more impressive piece of real estate than the one they used for filming. Also, I'm sure there would be way more hurdles for anyone attempting to film there.
The Brooklyn Eagle article, by the way, notes that the film was also shot in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights.
6/10/2017 08:57:49 pm
Yes, beautiful Brooklyn. I remember sitting in our den on the parlour floor (2nd) w/ fire going watching the snow come down. A beautiful brownstone that was never meant to be chopped up into apt.s. We found scrolls and coins when restoring a fireplace which were from the old Dutch who reside in Park Slope in the winter and kept homes in Brooklyn Heights in the summer months to be closer to the shoreline as many were merchant marines. Unfortunately a home always owned by doctors except my family, was used as a tax right off after and they let it fall into disrepair. Finally my childhood home which I view on Google Earth is receiving some love and worth 4 million. Problem is that den is a kitchen and one of the mantels original to the house lies up against a wall and the den is a kitchen. 25 + years of childhood dissected and the many years of my dad painstakingly doing restoration that would've made the old Dutch proud gone. Please people brownstones weren't meant to be chopped up. Historical value is vanishing sad.
Charlotte La Ferrera
7/9/2017 11:49:51 am
We moved into 101 Rugby Road when I was 5! Bought from the estate of Col. Bacon who built it! All original ! The house was termite infested and the porch was gutted! 19 rooms and 125 stained glass windows! Used in Sophie's Choice 2 years after my dad sold it! I shudder to think of the "improvements" he made!
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Touring Brooklyn Blog
Observations and ephemera related to my tours and Brooklyn. Comments and questions are welcome--and moderated.