a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, February 18, 2008

Angel needs healing

BROOKLYN, NY – Arthur Wood expects to return within a year to his freaky house that caught fire two years ago, if the city will let him.

The owner of Brooklyn’s infamous Broken Angel House needs to obtain building and occupancy permits from New York officials who believe his house should be torn down. Wood, 77, insists the city is violating his rights by evicting him from the retrofitted apartment house at 4 Downing St on the heels of the fire.

“This is America isn’t it?” he said, with a cup of coffee and blueprints in hand.

He bought the four-story building for $2,000 in 1979 and quickly set about to turn it into a work of art. A cock-eyed church-like addition pokes from the facade of the building that dates to 1864. Before the October 2006 fire, a four-story jumble of planks, decks and ledges had taken shape above the roofline. The artist also planned to cap off the peak with a whale created from a helicopter body before his art was interrupted.

The fire damage, and subsequent order to remove his rooftop additions, nearly killed his drive and left him worse than broken hearted.

“It did more than that,” he said two weeks ago, while watching a workman do little more than move a ladder around some scaffolding because of a stop-work order from the city. “I’m the site boss.”

But that didn't matter to the code enforcers who had Wood and his wife, Cynthia, arrested and taken away in handcuffs for refusing to leave their monstrosity shortly after the fire.

The house has been featured in many newspaper stories because it's so odd. Roadside America considers the building “mutant artwork” and likens the place to a “modern version of the Winchester Mystery House” in San Francisco.

However, some neighbors are not impressed, considering they live in historic brownstones along a quaint tree-lined street.

“I like edgy, non-boxy architecture too, but if everyone started taking it upon themselves to start building on top of their homes helter-skelter we would be living in a dog patch,” a person named Bren posted in July 2007 on a blog, “Brownstoner, Brooklyn inside and out.”

Wood, a self-taught artist, doesn’t seem to care. And if you have the chance to meet him, he will ramble about a multi-million lawsuit he is waging to return to his castle. At least his will doesn’t need to be fixed.


Mike Jones said...

Looks kinda like the Adams Family's house. Seems to me the city was looking for a reason to condemn the place and the fire is a convenient reason. Were you allowed to go inside, and if so, would you even take the risk?

Amanda Gillooly said...

Maybe I'm paying attention to the wrong part of the story, here, but does the guy NOT look like Steven Tyler will in 20 years? Just an observation.

Brant said...

I think the neighbors should take up a collection, buy that monstrosity and tear down the eyesore. I don't mind things that are different and visually interesting, but I think this guy is a nut, and his "house" is a blight on the landscape, even if he finishes it.