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Broken Angel House Mural Traces History as Condo Conversion Begins

By Janet Upadhye | August 18, 2014 5:16pm
 A mural on the fence outside the former Broken Angel House traces the history of 4 Downing St.
The Seasons of 4 Downing
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CLINTON HILL — A new mural outside the former "Broken Angel House" traces the history of the building that served as the backdrop to "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" as its new owners convert the neighborhood landmark to condominiums.

The mural, commissioned by the site's developers Barrett Design and Development, was created by a group of sixth- and seventh-graders who grew up in the neighborhood.

The team, led by former Pratt student and artist Misha Tyutyunik and organized by mural arts group Groundswell, researched the history of the 4 Downing St. location to map out a timeline.

They found that the site was originally a farm in the 1800s before it was turned into a tenement building and later an office for trolley cars. It was then converted back into a residential building until it was abandoned and sold in 1979 to artist Arthur Wood for $2,000.

Wood and his wife transformed the space into a work of art, adding asymmetrical towers, bizarre angles, brick wings and stained glass made of broken bottles, naming the space "Broken Angel."

After a 2006 fire, the Department of Buildings inspected the house and deemed it unsafe, ordering Wood and his wife to vacate.

The building sold to Barrett Design earlier this year for $4.1 million and the space will be converted into eight condos featuring garden units and rooftop terraces, according to Barrett Design. The Broken Angel house itself no longer exists.

The recently completed design for the 32-foot-long temporary wall features trolley cars, farmers, a block part and a large statue of a blue angel.

"These kids grew up with the Broken Angel House and it was sort of urban myth for them," Tyutyunik said. "They called it the ghost house and most of them knew Arthur as an eccentric neighborhood artist."

"But they also understood that the structure was no longer safe and that there was hope for its future if it were upgraded."

The artists named the mural not after Wood's iconic structure but for the building's address — calling it "The Seasons of 4 Downing."

"We wanted a name the represented the past, present and the future of the building," Tyutyunik said.