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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chez Ralph in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Ralph Balzano, Red Hook, Brooklyn
Photo by myself in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Just a street away from Fairway supermarket stands an incredible house filled with memorabilia. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the ground floor Monday afternoon, by the owner.


I'd always marveled at a particular house in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Its quirky facade is adorned with nautical items and a homemade tribute to the World Trade Center.

Monday both Mark and I had the day off. Passing by, we saw the garage door to the house was open. I took some photos and a man walked by with his dog.

'Ralph's inside,' the man said. 'Go on, he'll give you a whole tour.'

The man was right. I got the grand tour from Ralph, and I was astounded.

Chez Ralph, Red Hook, Brooklyn

I'm not alone. Ralph had his property featured in the New York Times. A lifelong resident of Red Hook and former member of the Parks Department, he remembers when the street outside was a dirt road. He's seen the neighborhood change from a center for ship repair to what it is now - an eclectic home to artists and superstores, like Fairway and Ikea.

Ralph was kind enough to let me wander around the ground floor, which was enormous. Collectibles of all sorts were artfully arranged on the walls. Hats lined the rafters. There was a horse carriage and a gorgeous car. And a pool table below a skylight.

Something about the entire scene was beautiful. I can't put my finger on what it was. The colors? The history? The sheer amount of stuff?

Chez Ralph, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Chez Ralph, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Chez Ralph, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Chez Ralph, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Ralph himself lives a few blocks away. He opens up the garage door so he and his buddies can spend time with each other. It seems everyone knows Ralph, and Ralph knows everyone - as people passed by on foot, they would holler hello.

As I was leaving, Ralph asked me where I lived. 'Park Slope. It's changing so quickly.'

'Everything's changing,' Ralph said. 'It's all changing.'

Related posts: You Can't Take it With You, Parked in Park Slope and Still Life, Antique Store.


Olivier said...

voila un personnage intéressant , vivant dans un musée personnel. Superbe la Buick
an interesting, living figure in a personal museum veiled. Haughtiness Buick

Anonymous said...

My stepfather was a person like this who collected stuff but never displayed it. This must have been a fascinating tour. Did he offer any explanations?

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B SQUARED said...

Strange, there is clutter, obviously, but everything looks in it's place.

Kitty said...

Hi Olivier
Yes I told him it could easily be a museum. I would have loved to sit longer with him and asked him more about Brooklyn and what he's experienced.

Hi Abe
wow that's cool about your stepfather. It seemed he simply liked collecting things. I think it's a personality trait (very different from hoarding).

Hi B Squared
That's the sense I got, too. Glad you enjoyed the tour.

... said...

Great story...great images...

James said...

That is so neat, it's like a neighborhood museum.

• Eliane • said...

This is just fantastic! I snapped a little pic of that strange and funny house the other day. I thought it might be a restaurant or a café. This is much better!!

Debra said...

Enjoyed these photo's very much! I too, would love to hear of his experiences!

eamon@ewmphotography said...

What a brilliant portrait. he has character etched deep in his face, and in his surroundings. Well captured.

Kitty said...

Thanks everyone!

I told Ralph how everyone would appreciate his story on this blog. I hope he'll read this at some point. I'm sure he'd be pleased.

Jeremiah Moss said...

fabulous! i'd love to visit this place

Allen Baker said...

I was in Red Hook this past Monday (19 July 2010) with a fellow waterfront wanderer and was quite taken with 26 Reed Street and Red Hook in general.
Walking the streets of Red Hook on that blistering hot July day, I had to stop and take it all in. It reminded me of the waterffront neighborhood I grew up in Baltimore some 30 years ago.
That neighborhood, Fells Point, has become a tourist destination and much of the character of the neighborhood and woeking waterfront has been lost.
The Red Hook/Erie Basin areas could be something very special.

Kitty said...

Hi Allen,

I hope this area never loses it's charm either. Your Fells Point example makes me sad.

Red Hook is not easy to get to, there is no direct subway. Its waterfront location, however, makes me concerned. Everything in New York that has real estate potential usually succumbs to new developments.

poker chips for sale said...

Black house! very wonderful and such a excellent home. I never seen this type of home anywhere, the decoration of home is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've had the pleasure of meeting Ralph and hanging out there. Awesome car. His brother Sunny runs the family saloon around the corner.

Very fine people and a very fine community.