A Passion Grows in Brooklyn
New York City. Most associate it with just being Manhattan, and the other four boroughs are placed in the peripheral vision. Manhattan is not the center of everything. There is way more to the city than just Times Square and Lady Liberty. Both are really cool sites that I highly recommend visiting if it’s your first time to New York. Otherwise, get out of Manhattan and explore. Don’t get me wrong. I love Manhattan. But if you want to see and breathe authentic New York, get out to the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn.
Sign language tree
Old Horse House
For the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been living in Brooklyn in a three-bedroom apartment. It’s awesome. From our small kitchen window, we can just see the tops of the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. Our ‘hood is a cool area, just a few blocks from trendy, hipster-infested Williamsburg. Another really cool area to wander is Park Slope and Prospect Park. What better way to do that than on a historic walking tour?
Brooklyn's Flat Iron Building
The buildings are beautiful
Rick Kadlub runs the walking tour A Tour Grows in Brooklyn. After my day spent with him, my mom and I decided that a better name to describe his tour is A Passion Grows in Brooklyn. Getting off the R train at Union, we popped up onto the street, and looked for the bagel shop, the meeting point for the tour. We found it with no drama; it was just across the street from the station. And there he stood. I knew instantly it was him.
He's clearly a New Yorker, and clearly loves his town very, very much. It was a tiny tour, only two other people, plus my mom and me. With small groups like this, it's a very intimate tour, which is always a nice thing.
The Rock Shop
Modeled after Notre Dame?
The tour started with a great view of the Williamsburg Bank Tower, or as Rick referred to it, the lighthouse of Brooklyn. It's so tall, you can see it from almost anywhere in Brooklyn! Back when the streets were filled with gangs, seeing the tower meant you were almost home, away from the danger. Just across the street is Al Capone’s very first apartment. After that, we made our way up into the brownstones of Park Slope, which are just beautiful.
More Park Slope homes
Walking along with Rick, he told the stories of old gang members that lived in the hood, and how when he was growing up, this neighborhood was called South Brooklyn, not Park Slope. Everyone wants a ‘hood with a fancier name. He made us laugh with stories of him and his friends pushing old cars into the Gowanus Canal. His little posse helped pollute it in a very minor way. He remembered how if his friends had known about the golden dome on the top of the Bank Tower, he and his friends would have been up there, chiseling away.
As we walked, everyone seemed to know Rick, and would wave or chat briefly with him. He's a local celebrity. As we continued to weave deeper into Park Slope, he'd point out things on the brownstones we passersby would have never noticed otherwise! Gorgeous angels, babies, and other hidden things were carved into the brownstone, giving each one a unique personality. There was one with two griffins guarding the front door. One with parents and two little kids. Another with a woman hidden beneath foliage.
Jonah and the whale
Child with dragon carving
Once he pointed the carvings out to us, it was like how could someone not notice them? Continuing on with the tour, Rick talked about the architecture, a lot. He's clearly very passionate about it.
He pointed out the haunted buildings, the buildings celebrities lived in, the buildings that had changed since he was a kid. For example, there is a French restaurant in Park Slope that was a filming location for the movie Julie and Julia. It has really good food, says Rick. But when he was a kid, it was a funeral home. The bodies were embalmed where the kitchen is now. As you may imagine, he hasn’t been to that restaurant yet.
The Ol’ Funeral Home
The haunted Adam’s Home
We wandered Prospect Park, saw the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, and had amazing pizza. The man who designed Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, also designed Prospect Park. Central came first, and interestingly enough, he claims that Prospect is his greatest jewel. Brooklynites take a lot of pride in that fact.
Through the trees
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial
We left the park and walked a few more colorful streets. The group was suddenly stopped in front of a hole in the wall pizza joint. ‘Lunch.’ he says. A slice of pizza is included in the tour. I swear to god, I took a bite of that pizza, and it tasted just like my favorite little pizza joint back home. It was so good. And I would have never stopped there if I hadn’t been with Rick.
It tasted just like my favorite pizzeria back home, which made me very happy
Coming off of the tour, it wasn’t my favorite. But I learned a ton of cool facts and got the 411 on Park Slope. I’d totally recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting way to see Park Slope. It is a very architecture-intense tour. He loves that sort of stuff, though. The tour is $40 a head, which seems just a little high, but it’s worth it. Small groups, great guide, and yummy food. And Rick is a very interesting man with very interesting stories. If I were to rate it on a scale of one to ten, it’d probably give it a six or a seven. Then again, if I were into architecture the way he is, I’d give it a 12 billion on a one to ten scale.
Take a second look!
Private school behind trees
Overall, I would recommend this tour to anyone and everyone. To contact Rick, you can call him at 718.624.1646, or check out his website at http://brooklynwalkingtour.com/
Austin Weihmiller is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.
All photos courtesy and copyright Austin Weihmiller