The distinctive red−brick Riverside apartment buildings on Joralemon Street and Columbia Place in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood known as Willowtown were under construction 120 years ago at this time.
The buildings were a prime example of the vision of Alfred T. White, 1846−1921, to improve housing for the poor. Each apartment offered natural light and good ventilation. The buildings were grouped around a large courtyard providing residents with a lot of elbowroom.
The Willowtown Association’s annual spring fair, May 16 from 12−5 p.m. on Willow Place, will lift up the 120th anniversary of Riverside’s construction and White’s impact on the neighborhood.
An opening rally at 12 p.m. on the corner of Joralemon Street and Willow Place will include a short talk about the man known as “the great heart and mastermind of Brooklyn’s better self” and a parade to Riverside’s courtyard, which retains a sense of the original, for the dedication to White of one of the old trees there.
“We hope throughout the afternoon to have present one or more of the five authors of the newly published ‘The Social Vision of Alfred T. White’ for a book signing,” say the fair’s coordinators, Linda De Rosa and Ben Bankson, vice president and secretary, respectively, of the Willowtown Association.
The fair will feature an Alfred T. White impersonator, pony rides, face painting, standing games, races, food served by Jones Bar−B−Q of Atlantic Avenue, a blues music group, a raffle, a silent auction, table boutiques selling a variety of items and a performance by the Heights Players.
A fair journal available to all fair attendees will include a “Willowtown Walking Tour Guide,” which covers the neighborhood’s many historic features. Among them are four underscoring that Willowtown is truly “A.T. White country.”
They are the community center at 26 Willow Place bearing his name, which he had built in 1875−76 to house the so−called “settlement school” he headed; the addition behind the center originally called Columbia House that served as a clubhouse for his students and other children who lived at Riverside; White’s former carriage house at 276 Hicks Street; and the two brownstones at 283 and 281 Hicks, which once were St. Christopher’s Hospital for Babies of which White was a benefactor.