Most of us can’t always be traveling, but living in New York City is the next best thing. You can live your whole life here and never peel back all the layers. Case in point: Dennet Place, a short, random alley in my neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for the better part of seven years, yet up until May of this year I had no idea this street even existed. It happened on a random jaunt from Court Street to Smith Street (the two main drags) just past the subway trestle that emerges from the Carroll Street Stop. Suddenly I was peering down a quaint, narrow, almost European street of two-story homes. I thought I’d canvassed every street in my neighborhood and then some – to discover a “hidden” one made me feel like an anthropologist stumbling upon an unknown indigenous tribe deep in some tropical rain forest. If I were lucky and the inhabitants were truly unadulterated, perhaps I could convert them into fans of Green Bay Packers football.
If it were just another street it would be one thing, but Dennet Place contains at least one curiosity: the doors to its lower level apartments are about four feet tall. What manner of impish sprites dwell in these secret abodes?
Actually, upon inquiring (on my second visit) with a regular-sized resident who’d just emerged from her basement apartment, my friends and I learned that the undersized doors are a simple space-economizing utility, and the apartments are indeed ordinary. No sprites, no elves, no trolls. Nevertheless, Dennet Place is a cool “discovery,” and a reminder that man’s quest to catalog accurately every damned crevice in the universe is far from perfect. As the outstanding blog Forgotten New York reports, maps past and present (including mighty Google Maps) either had the name or at least the spelling of the street wrong. Another entertaining blog, Lost City, dug up some information about the unsavory characters who lived on the street in the late 19th Century. It’s a little safer these days.