Midwood, according to the Encyclopedia of New York City, is the part of Flatbush that's south of Avenue H. Oddly, the subdivisions of Midwood Park, West Midwood, and South Midwood are all north of Avenue H. No matter. Neighborhood boundary disputes are part of what make Brooklyn Brooklyn.
Take the Brighton Line (B or Q train) to Avenue H. The Brighton Line sets subway buffs' hearts aflutter. The Brighton is the only of the city's lines that comprises subway, open cut, embankment, and elevated train service. Avenue H is where the line shifts from open cut to embankment. For the true transit aficionado, life doesn't get any better than that. And the Avenue H station house is sui generis. The unusual wooden structure, like a makeshift saloon from Dodge City, is the only subway station house in the entire city built to serve another purpose. The structure was constructed in 1906 by Thomas Ackerson, developer of lovely Fiske Terrace that begins just across Avenue H and extends north to Glenwood Road, between the Brighton Line and Ocean Avenue. The building served as Ackerson's real estate sales office. He sold his houses so quickly that in 1907, when the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company was building new stations along the Brighton Line, they bought Ackerson's conveniently located building and made it the station house.
A walk north through Fiske Terrace, along East 17th Street with its planted malls, is rewarding. Take a right on Glenwood Road. At Bedford Avenue is the imposing classical building of Midwood High School, built in 1938-41 and alma mater of Woody Allen as well as countless Westinghouse/Intel Science Contest finalists. The architect Eric Kebbon, though you'd never know it from grand Midwood High, later introduced the Board of Education to the International Style in buildings like the Chelsea School (1951) at Ninth Avenue and 26th Street. Just beyond the high school is Brooklyn College, bifurcated by Bedford Avenue. On the left is the original campus designed in the late 1930s by architect Randolph Evans. The neo-Georgian buildings grouped around a lovely lawn form one of Brooklyn's most felicitous 20thcentury ensembles.
Why do we not know more about Evans? He was primarily a house designer, and to my knowledge never again had a commission on the scale of Brooklyn College. On the other side of Bedford, a new structure by the chic Rafael Vinoly will soon rise — and I predict that, official opinion notwithstanding, it won't be a third as good as the Evans ensemble.
Continue down Bedford to Avenue K. The Kol Israel synagogue was built in 1989 and designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. It's one of the finest post-World War II buildings in Brooklyn, or in all of New York for that matter. In scale, in materials, in details, in the play of Italian Renaissance and Prairie School forms, this building could not be better suited to its setting, both calling attention to itself as an important neighborhood house of worship, and blending in among the adjacent early 20th-century freestanding houses.
No visit to Midwood is complete without a trip to DiFara's, the city's finest pizzeria, on Avenue J and East 15th Street. Dominic DeMarco has been hand-crafting every pie for more than 40 years — so be prepared to wait. Lest you think pizza is not related to architecture, just let me say it was not until I ate my first DiFara's pizza that I fully understood the Baroque.