Considered by many to be the most magnificent residence in all of New York City, Brooklyn’s Gingerbread House is one of the finest representations inside and out of the Arts and Crafts style still standing in America.
Here are the facts you ought to know:
– built in 1916-17
– designed by architect James Sarsfield Kennedy (who also designed the Picnic House in Prospect Park and the boathouse for the Crescent Club, an athletic facility now part of Fort Hamilton High School, across the street)
– commissioned by shipping magnate Howard E. Jones and his wife Jessie
– official name: The Howard E. and Jessie Jones House
– also referred to as: The Mushroom House, The Hansel & Gretel House, The Witch House
– rooms: 6 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, full basement
– living area: 5,743-square-feet
– material: uncut stone
– listed at $10.5 million in 2014 (down from $13 million in 2010)
The home was actually a cottage house to a larger, pink, Mediterranean-style mansion that sat across the street on Narrows Avenue. That mansion was torn down in the 1950s or 1960s, and five homes now stand in its place.
There are three bedrooms on the second floor, a two-bedroom guest suite on the first floor overlooking the pond, fountain and gardens, and a bedroom (labeled the chauffeur’s room on the floor plan) in the basement.
The master bedroom is about 800 square feet, and has five walk-in closets, a powder room and two stone terraces flanking a fireplace.
The den is about 650 square feet, the kitchen is 570 square feet and features 50 feet of countertops, there is also a 20-foot-long butler’s pantry.
The basement includes a recreational room/theater, workshop and wine cellar. Despite the local legend, there is no bowling alley.
On the southern edge of the house, the hearth (chimney) rises three stories high and serves three wood-burning fireplaces.
The roof was designed to imitate the thatch roofs of English rural cottages, but is actually made from asphalt shingles laid randomly – there are no straight lines.
The parlor room has wood-beamed ceilings and carved woodwork.
Floors are made of Burmese mahogany.
Stained glass windows are scattered about the home and have been preserved by the homeowners.
Ceiling panels in the dining room are hand painted.
There is an original turning platform in the garage — to turn a parked car around, so it wouldn’t have to be backed out of the garage.
The 4th owners, the Fishmans bought the home in 1985 for less than $1 million. They did not make changes to the floorplan, but did upgrade bathrooms, the kitchen, appliances and wiring. They also added central air conditioning, rebuilt the roof and added tile floors. As a young boy, Jerry Fishman attended Fort Hamilton High School, which sits across the street from the gingerbread home. He recalls: “I had to have the house. I flunked English because I was looking out the school window at the house all the time.” Obsessed with the house, Fishman took his future wife Diane to see it on their very first date.
The Fishmans put the house up for sale in 2010 for $13 million. In 2014 the listing was lowered to $10.5 million.
The house became an official city landmark in 1989 – it was the first building in Bay Ridge to be designated a landmark.
Tired of people constantly asking to take a peek inside the house, the owners removed the doorbell back in the 1980’s. They have not re-installed it since.
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