One of the major ongoing controversies that embroil Brooklyn is the battle over how to spell Dennett, the name of one of the borough’s most fascinating streets, Dennet Place. Okay, maybe the controversy isn’t so major, but there is a question there. But, the first question to be answered is, where in the world is Dennett Place? This one-block long, treeless street lies near the southern end of Carroll Gardens, running from Luquer Street to Nelson Street between Court and Smith Streets.
Not much more than an alley, Dennet Place is lined with tiny two-family homes with tiny garden-level apartment doors that almost any adult would have to bend over to go through. The houses are all about 18 x 28 feet with a rear yard of another 17 feet or so. That’s small enough to qualify as quaint, we think.
These homes date to the mid-to-late nineteenth century, possibly to the 1850s. The general feeling is they might have been built to house workers who were building the nearby St. Mary Star of the Sea R.C. Church, which opened around 1855. Then, you could rent a Dennett Place house for $9.00 per month. Today, you can buy one for between $1.5 and $2 million.
On most maps, this street is called Dennett Place, but some call it Dennet Place (which is why we alternated our spelling above). Complicating things more, some nineteenth century maps exist that refer to it as Bennett Place. A 2012 article in the New York Times spells it with a single “t,” and in our memory there was a street sign on a corner building there that read Dennet Place. Go to there today and the street signs say Dennett Place, which, right or wrong, is good enough for us to use that spelling. There is no record of where the name came from, so there’s no place to get a confirmation.
The other quirky aspect of Dennett Place is the series of small doors on the street-facing side of the stoops. The lane is narrow, as we’ve said, and the sidewalks are, too. The homes consist of a lower-level garden apartment and an upper-level duplex, reached from the street by a stoop. That’s typical of Brownstone Brooklyn, but usually, the stoops are built to rise straight in from the street, and the garden-level apartment is accessed by a door under the stoop. On Dennett Place, however, because the sidewalks are so narrow, the stoops were built to rise across the face of each property rather than straight in from the street, and the doors to the lower apartments go straight in from the street under the stoops. Because the height of the stoops here is less than on other blocks, the under-stoop entrances had to be built to fit, which is pretty small. We’ve never had the opportunity to see into an open stoop door, but we assume there are steps leading down to the garden-level apartment.
The block is very well kept, the buildings mostly spotlessly clean and recently painted. In one of the most popular and posh neighborhoods in the borough, even many residents are unaware of Dennett Place. It is truly one of a kind in a borough filled with off-the-beaten-path gems. Should you come to Brooklyn to see them, Dennett Place must be near the top of your list.