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East Meets West in Century-Old House South of Prospect Park

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[All photos by Will Femia.]

UPDATE: Spring 2015 tours of the house are being held on Saturday, May 16 and Saturday, May 30 at 11 a.m. Send an email to 131tour@gmail.com with your name and number of visitors. $15 per person, cash only.

The Japanese-Victorian house on Buckingham Road sticks out just a little. The bold green-and-orange facade, the criss-crossed wooden beams and T-shaped joists, the scalloped details at the roof's apex, the columned first-floor porch plus the second-floor wraparound terrace—altogether it's delightful fodder for architecture buffs and round-eyed passersby alike. Owner Gloria Fischer, who has raised two kids in the 40 years she's lived at 131 Buckingham Road, in the area she calls Prospect Park South, has grown accustomed to all the attention her home gets. "It was meant to be an eye-catcher, to draw people to the neighborhood," she says."You often find people standing in front of the house or in the driveway."

On the outside, the century-old three-story structure is a curious mixture of Asian and western influences—a meshing of cultures that is also reflected inside, where Fischer has amassed hundreds of antiques, objets d'art, and just plain stuff over the years. Somehow, it all works. (Just don't knock anything over.)

Designed by architect John Petit, according to Brownstoner, 131 Buckingham was intentionally built amid a host of other stately single-family homes on roads with grand British names. The moniker Buckingham, along with nearby Albermarle and Marlborough streets, was meant to show that this was an area where the wealthy (nay, aristocratic) would feel right at home.

Which is funny, because when Fischer and her family moved in, it wasn't the safest place. Far from being labeled family-friendly or upmarket, the way some parts of the borough are now, Fischer and her family tried to make the best of a hard time in the city's history. "The reason we didn't move to the Upper West Side was because my friends' kids were being held up at gunpoint. We could have had an apartment in the Dakota," recalls Fischer, explaining that the area south of Prospect Park became even more crime-filled before that reputation began to fade. And now, since "Brooklyn became hot, the pendulum swung all the way." Fischer stuck by her 'hood, and and pushed for its landmarking, preservation, and recognition—all of which it eventually earned.

When you look at that postcard from 1913, it's clear that not much has changed in decades—and that's not just the exterior. Once in the door, you're surrounded by what can only be called glorious clutter. The house's ground floor has as much of the original woodworking, carvings, latticework, windows, and light fixtures as Fischer could maintain; the avid collector has jam-packed the rectangular living room, dining room, stairwell, and kitchen with treasures both Asian (think lots and lots of dragons) and not (a currently non-working 1920s Art Deco espresso machine that is the about size of Fischer's large dog).

You too can see the house, because Fischer hosts sporadic tours. The last one was timed to the spring equinox in March, and you can send an email to find out when the next one is.

The house was worth $27,000 in 1903 and is valued at over $1 million now. But sell? Never, Fischer says adamantly. She prefers to keep on living in her New York City anomaly, surrounded her precious mementos, building new memories with her four grandchildren, and advocating for her neighborhood's continued exceptionalism in the big city.

· Flatbush tour is turning Japanese [NYP]
· Building of the Day: 131 Buckingham Road [Brownstoner]