On a narrow tree-lined street in Brooklyn, at a residential corner a block away from a main thoroughfare, is a building where famed American writer of horror fiction H.P. Lovecraft resided for a short time in the mid-1920s. This was his second residence in Brooklyn, after a prior stay in East Flatbush.
On a recent bitter cold night in late December, I found my way over to the corner of Clinton and State Streets to take a look.
I lived in Brooklyn for close to a decade about a mile and a half from this nondescript, rather ordinary building.
Near the brightly-lit entry way were a row of overstuffed garbage bins and a bagged newspaper waiting to be retrieved by a resident. There was no indication that the building once housed a famous resident more than ninety years ago: No markers, nothing drawing attention to that fact. The more I learn about Lovecraft the man, particularly the man who spent time in the New York City of the 1920s, the more I think that would suit him fine.
Reading accounts of Lovecraft, he does not come across as a likeable or appealing character. Ultimately, his xenophobic views and dislike of immigrants (of which there were many in New York generally and specifically Brooklyn) drove him away not long after, to a state much more agreeable to him. Ultimately, he became more strongly associated with Rhode Island.
Here, in a passage from the Lovecraft story “The Horror at Red Hook” is a description that might as well draw upon his stay at this residence.
“Red Hook is a maze of hybrid squalor near the ancient waterfront opposite Governor’s Island, with dirty highways climbing the hill from the wharves to that higher ground where the decayed lengths of Clinton and Court Streets lead off toward the Borough Hall. Its houses are mostly of brick, dating from the first quarter to the middle of the nineteenth century, and some of the obscurer alleys and byways have that alluring antique flavour which conventional reading leads us to call “Dickensian”. The population is a hopeless tangle and enigma; Syrian, Spanish, Italian, and Negro elements impinging upon one another, and fragments of Scandinavian and American belts lying not far distant. It is a babel of sound and filth, and sends out strange cries to answer the lapping of oily waves at its grimy piers and the monstrous organ litanies of the harbour whistles.”
Doesn’t sound like someone who was fond of the environment he described.
Many years after living here, Lovecraft wrote a story called The Thing on the Doorstep.
While there is no way to trace any connection to this particular doorstep, it’s fun to look at this photo and its stark contrasts of shadows and light, while reading a passage like this, from The Thing on the Doorstep, on a doorstep in Brooklyn, so close to the “daily paths” of so many:
“There are black zones of shadow close to our daily paths, and now and then some evil soul breaks a passage through. When that happens, the man who knows must strike before reckoning the consequences.”