Places that Matter

Grace Court Alley

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Alley overview, Breanne Scanlon
Alley overview, Breanne Scanlon
Alley overview, Breanne Scanlon
Block of intact historic carriage houses
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By Breanne Scanlon

Everyday, countless tourists and New Yorkers casually walk by Grace Court Alley on their way to take in the view of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade. Located off Hicks Street in the heart of Brooklyn Heights, Grace Court Alley gives the pedestrian a glimpse into a lost time in New York City and Brooklyn history.

Grace Court Alley was originally an unnamed horse stable alley used by the Remsen family, who lived in a nearby mansion. Its name came from Grace Church, built across the street from the alley in 1847. The architect Richard Upjohn, who just the year before had designed Trinity Church on Wall Street in lower Manhattan, designed Grace Church in a Gothic Revival style. The church used Grace Court Alley as a stable alley, or mews, for a period of time, and as development continued in Brooklyn Heights, it was also used as mews for mansions located on the bordering Remsen and Joralemon Streets. As automobiles began to replace horse-drawn carriages, in time Grace Court Alley was paved, improved, and opened to the public. Homeowners on Remsen and Joralemon Streets turned the stables that lined the alley into garages and chauffeurs’ quarters. Later, the buildings were transformed into apartments.

Today, Grace Court Alley is completely residential and retains a quiet old-world charm. Strolling down the small side street, it is almost impossible not to marvel at the preserved relics of years gone by: the tall wooden stable doors, the hay cranes, the doorknockers, and the window frames. This charm has been maintained in part due to the efforts of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which has worked hard over the years to resist commercial building and large developments in the neighborhood. Since it is a dead-end street, pedestrians rarely stroll down it and usually pass by without a second glance on their way to Remsen Street (located one block north) and the entrance to the Brooklyn Promenade. Children often use the alley to learn how to ride bicycles or roller skates since there is almost no traffic. Despite the sleepy small town feel of the alley, it contains prime real estate, as evidenced by the buyer who recently paid $12 million for a house on Remsen Street which came with a two-story carriage house on Grace Court alley.

[Posted, March 2008]