Who knew there was a wild boar residing on Garfield Place? It just doesn’t seem like the place for such a beast — or maybe it does.
The wild boar, and dozens of other animals, populate lots of Brooklyn neighborhoods — and that’s the point behind architectural historian Isabel Hill’s new picture book for children, “Urban Animals,” which was published by Star Bright Books on Sept. 9.
The book’s goal is to teach children to look around and observe the details, such as the dogs that are part of a column on West 84th Street in Manhattan, or the rabbits on the cornice of the Bunny Theater on Broadway.
“I know this might sound hokey,” Hill said, “but since having a child of my own, I’ve been aware of how important it is to start observing your environment early.”
Developing an awareness of building details causes children, and adults as well, to take pride in their communities, and when that happens, Hill said, people become committed to their neighborhoods and want to preserve whatever is special about them.
Hill has made a career out of appreciating the details of architecture. Originally trained as a historic preservationist, her diverse job history includes working for the American Building Survey in National Parks, being a city planner in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and even standing hundreds of feet in the air on a scaffold in the middle of New York Harbor photographing the Statue of Liberty during her last restoration in 1986.
In Brooklyn, Hill is best known for her filmmaking. Her first documentary, “Made in Brooklyn,” explored manufacturing in Brooklyn and her second, “Brooklyn Matters,” focused a laser beam on the controversial Atlantic Yards project. Yet another, still in planning, will explore public housing.
Hill’s interest in building details is heartfelt.
“I keep my camera with me always,” she said. When her daughter, Anna, now age 13, was small, the pair would wander in search of animal images that had been incorporated into the details of city buildings. Many of their finds appear in “Urban Animals,” which Hill hopes will be the first in a series of six books for children about urban architecture.
She would not reveal the themes of those tomes, but did reveal the location of that wild boar: It’s at 250 Garfield Pl. between Seventh and Eighth avenues.
At the book party on Tuesday, she’ll give away other secrets, including the location of a building in Park Slope with three dogs on it.
Book party for Isabel Hill’s “Urban Animals,” Tuesday, Sept, 22 at 7 pm at the Old Stone House [336 Third St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 768-3195].