A creative commune in 1940s Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Heights has always attracted literary residents. Walt Whitman lived there in the 19th century, Hart Crane, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer in the 20th.

And from 1940 to 1941, one house at 7 Middagh Street became home to a rotating group of authors, poets, and artists whose stars were rising (or in a few cases, falling) at the time.

It all started in 1940, when George Davis, then the literary editor at Harper’s Bazaar, rented the townhouse with his friend, 23-year-old Carson McCullers (top left).

McCullers had just published her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. She and Davis leased the house for $75 a month and let friends W.H. Auden (top right), Paul Bowles (below), British composer Benjamin Britten, and stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (bottom left) move in.

At “February House” (so named because many of the occupants had birthdays that month), Auden wrote The Double Man and McCullers worked on The Member of the Wedding.

But like most situations involving adults sharing living quarters, things didn’t work out. Residents moved out amid disorder and excessive drinking. The bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was the final nail in the coffin, with only Davis remaining from the original group.

By 1945, 7 Middagh Street was history, razed to make way for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

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One Response to “A creative commune in 1940s Brooklyn Heights”

  1. AC Says:

    So sad it was razed. At least there’s this wonderful photography of the building.

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