BROOKLYN HEIGHTS (PIX11) – Row homes in Brooklyn tend to blend together. But there’s one townhouse on Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights that might make you look twice. It’s windows are blacked out, the front door looks as though it protects a fortress, and there are no potted plants or landscaping to speak of.
Judy Scofield Miller bought the house next door to the house with blacked-out windows more than 20 years ago.
“It was rather dilapidated and pretty much an eyesore.”
Since then, she’s heard theory after theory about 58 Joralemon.
“There have been stories that it’s a passage way down to the depths of New York, the underground New York,” said Scofield Miller. “That it’s an escape route. That it’s haunted.”
Others who live in the neighborhood say once they noticed the building they noticed some strange sights and sounds.
“Now that I know it’s here, sometimes when I walk by at night there’s like a glow, like an orange glow through the cracks, it’s like something out of ‘Ghostbusters,’” said Zack Bruce.
But the true story of 58 Joralemon is found in the history books at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Elizabeth Call, head of reference and user services, searched the archives to help bring the building to life.
While it was once a home, no one has lived there for more than 100 years. In 1913 58 Joralemon was sold to Interborough Rapid Transit and turned into a ventilation system and exit for the Lexington Line that still travels several stories underground.
“It was very deliberate on the part of the IRT to keep the facade because at the time of purchase 58 Joralemon was considered [to be in a] a classy neighborhood,” said Call. “It’s an interesting … because in the 1950s you start seeing that perhaps [the neighborhood] is not as classy or is seen as classy as it once was.”
Today the MTA won’t even talk about the building, citing security concerns. But past newspaper clippings give us a glimpse of what the inside once looked like: steep metal staircases and industrial machines scattered throughout.
Miller, who leases the backyard from the city, says she’s only managed a quick peak inside.
“It looks like something out of ‘A Clockwork Orange.’”
While 58 Joralemon might standout once you realize it’s not quite like the other homes in the neighborhood, false facades like this one hiding government facilities are hardly unique throughout the country: a house in Raleigh, North Carolina hides a water pump station, an electrical substation is hidden behind the facade of an office building in Nashville, Tennessee, and cellphone towers are disguised as a number of things across the country.
“I think they’re cool, magical things that people who live in cities” enjoy, said Bruce.