Though we can see how the otherwise potential-filled historic–and allegedly haunted–Lefferts-Laidlaw mansion at 136 Clinton Avenue in the Clinton Hill/Navy Yard/Wallabout neighborhood may terrify prospective buyers with an ask of $4.499 million, an 1878 New York Times account describes the persistent and mysterious ring-and-run situation that apparently plagued the home’s then-resident, Edward F. Smith. Neither crafty attempts to discover who was responsible for “doorbells rung, doors rattled” on a nightly basis and a brick hurled through a window, nor police intervention could produce a culprit. The house became a fixture on the map of spiritualists who held seances on the sidewalk. Locals suggested the pesky poltergeist might be either a lawyer who had committed suicide on the premises, or, as Mr. Smith suggested (possibly with some sarcasm attached as it was, after all, Brooklyn), Satan.
While the haunting apparently did not escalate, the price definitely has. On an extra-wide lot set back from the busy avenue in the Wallabout Historic District, the landmarked circa 1840 home does possess a hauntingly historic appeal–it may be among the last remaining temple-fronted Greek Revival-style residences in Kings County, a relic from a(nother) time when Brooklyn was a wealthy suburb. The listing calls the Lefferts-Laidlaw House, a “home of glorious beauty and unforgettable architectural lines.”
Originally two separate structures, a single-story two-room wing was created to join the original structure with the adjacent two-story pillar-fronted Greek Revival villa. The resulting home 2,256 square-foot house occupies a 52-foot wide by 120-foot deep lot fronted by four grand Corinthian columns, and a rosette-enhanced entryway.
The home’s grand antebellum-era porch sweeps you into a living room with a decorative fireplace and through an expansive kitchen that was renovated, it appears, somewhat recently. Past the kitchen, a second living/dining area features French doors that lead to a slate patio overlooking the yard. Also off the main entrance are two spacious bedrooms with marble fireplaces.
Stairs to the second floor lead to a full-floor master suite with a fireplace, skylights and yet another lovely deck that looks out over that extra-long yard. A spacious master bathroom with a clawfoot tub also offers access to the deck.
Restored details like red oak floors, fireplaces and decorative moldings maintain a touch of the historic, and magnolia, pear and Japanese maple trees await a gardener with dreams of a pre-war paradise. And while the home’s facade suggests an historic grandeur, interiors reflect many decades of change. The listing suggests that with “a little labor of love and an architect well-versed in working with Landmarks, this home can be a showcase villa that you can call home,” while sipping mint juleps on the veranda.
Though ghostly noises and noisy tourists might be vexing, today’s terrors might be more likely to include runaway gentrification and the nearby BQE, though the excitement of a growing Navy Yard and convenience to the area’s parks, farmers’ markets and an in-the-works collection of new neighborhood haunts (including a food hall and a Wegman’s) may be a reason to believe, and buy.
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Images courtesy of Ideal Properties Group.