A stoop, Merriam-Webster says, is “a porch, platform, entrance stairway, or small veranda at a house door.” The townhouse pictured below has a beauty of a Brooklyn stoop.
When they were built in the mid- to late-nineteenth century, most of the houses—collectively referred to as brownstones—were single-family dwellings built for the wealthy. They had separate entrances below the stoop leading to the servants’ quarters. In the picture, this entrance is hidden, but trust me, it’s right there, underneath the stoop.
For fourteen years, I lived in Brooklyn Heights on a street full of stoops. At least three or four times a day, my husband and I unlocked a grille underneath the stoop to get into and out of our home, a garden apartment in a lovely Greek Revival on one of the main drags in Brooklyn Heights.
The experience of living in Brooklyn has seeped into the Fina Fitzgibbons mysteries. No surprise, Fina owns a townhouse similar to the one we lived in and the one pictured above. And in The Girl with the Golden Earrings, this stoop plays a prominent role in several scenes. More, in some of the final pages, Fina hears sounds on the stoop which lead her to discover the perp.
Here’s a passage from The Girl with the Golden Earrings, Fina’s seventh book. In it she describes the location of Lucy’s, the cleaning service she started in high school, and mentions its stoop and Lucy’s grilled entrance.
The next morning the air had a distinct nip to it, so I drove to work, passing by the Promenade and my favorite statue holding her torch high over the harbor. I turned down Henry Street, looking for a parking place. This part of the Heights, my old neighborhood, was bustling. As I parked the car, I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach—the elevator, I called it because it rode up and down between my gut and the back of my throat. I stared across the street at the brownstone where we used to live—Mom, Gran and I—and at the sign in the basement window, Lucy’s Cleaning Service, the business I started in high school. I named it after a song Mom used to sing, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Not only did Lucy’s still exist, but it prospered; and when I thought of the tough times Mom, Gran, and I had, I got the chills and slammed a fist into my thigh, wondering why it couldn’t have been more successful when she was alive. Then I segued into the image that would haunt me forever—Mom’s body lying stiff on the sidewalk, pedestrians stepping around the obstruction on their way to work, oblivious to the human devastation at their feet.
I locked the car and ran across the street and down the steps to Lucy’s grilled entrance underneath the stoop. The townhouse was built in 1849, one of the many in Brownstone Brooklyn that still had its original facade. I opened the door and breathed in the familiar smells of chocolate and coffee. These days there was enough space to give my detective agency three or four desks. Minnie, the office manager, ran the place, and today when I opened the door and waved hello to her, I saw she was wearing her trusty orange print dress, her half-glasses slipping to the end of her nose as she talked to a client on the phone and munched potato chips from a bag she kept in her desk.
It turned out I was late: Kate, Denny, and Jane were already seated, talking about the death of Babette Bogle.
“What brings you here?” I asked Jane. She smiled. A real smile that made her blue eyes almost warm.