Sunday, January 07, 2007

Broken Angel House

Broken Angel or the Broken Angel House is a building located at 4 Downing Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, at the intersection of Downing and Quincy Streets. The house was featured prominently as a backdrop in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party. The photo to the left is looking from the east (Quincy Street) toward the facade of the building.

My son is a huge fan of Dave Chappelle and encouraged my wife and I to see the film, a.k.a. Block Party which we did some time ago. We thought this film, with a strong hip hop spirit, was well done and we both enjoyed it very much.

The Broken Angel House which serves as the backdrop for much of the movie is such and interesting focal point of the film, my son and I decided during our next trip to New York we would drive by and see it in person.

While in New York with my son about a year ago we drove by the house and took several photo's. This past week, on Thursday, January 4, 2007, my wife, son and I were in New York and we made the trip again so my wife had the opportunity to see the Broken Angel House.

Broken Angel House is the home of Brooklyn artist Arthur Wood who originally purchased the 4-story brick tenement building in 1972 for $2,000. He lives in the house with his wife Cynthia and raised their son Christopher who is now a stone carver. The artist explored ideas about design and vernacular architecture with improvised construction to add new floors and rooms to the orginal building, to the point where the structure reaches 104 feet, or about 9 storys above the sidewalk. The site had been compared to Watts Tower in Los Angeles for the ad hoc construction and is acknowledged for its value as folk art and as part of the cultural heritage of the area.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party is a documentary film hosted and written by comedian Dave Chappelle, and directed by Michel Gondry. The budget for the movie was $2,000,000 and was distributed by Rouge Pictures. As of July, 2006 the film grossed a total of $16.9 million dollars in US box office and DVD sales.

The film features Chappell during the fall of 2004 when he threw a block party on the corner of Quincy and Downing Street in Brooklyn. The Broken Angel House is on Downing where it dead ends and joins Quincy. The film gained prominence after its production, which took place after Chappelle's highly-publized decision to walk away from a $50 million deal to continue his hit Chappelle's Show.

He invited several alternative hip hop and neo-soul musical artists to perform at the party, including Kanye West, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Erykah, and The Roots along with The Central State University Marching Band, Lauryn Hill was also scheduled to perform at teh party, but since Columbia Records refused to release her songs for use in the production, she decided insteead to reunite The Fugees for the occasion. In addition, Chappelle performed comedy monologues and sketches in between the musical acts.

I recommend the movie and I also recommend driving by and seeing the Broken Angel House in person; it is quite a piece or "living artwork".

Broken Angel House
4 Downing Street
Downing & Quincy Streets
Brooklyn, New York 11238