When you move to a new neighborhood—as I did about six months ago—you suddenly find yourself more open to wonder and surprise. Carroll Gardens, my new home, has offered up its share of delights: the taste of tiny balls of fresh mozzarella dipped in salt water from Caputo’s deli, the old Italian men in sports sandals and tube socks puffing cigars in lawn chairs on the sidewalk, the startling sunsets over the BQE, the sound of the evening bells from St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic church.
While circling the neighborhood one evening looking for parking, I discovered a one-block-long side street called Dennet Place running between Nelson and Luquer streets and Smith and Court streets. Each stoop of the tidy two-story row houses had a tiny door built into its base at street level, beneath the stairs. The doors were no more than four feet tall—the average adult would almost certainly have to duck to enter. But in all other respects, they appeared to be functional doors to the garden-level apartments. Painted a variety of colors, the miniature doors were complete with mail slots, peepholes, doorbells and knockers, numerals, and deadbolt locks. Some even had octagonal windows beside them festooned with pumpkins and Thanksgiving decorations, and when I peered inside I saw umbrella stands, coat hooks, hall lamps, and dustpans and brooms.
When I got home I did a little cursory research on Dennet Place and its miniature doors. My search turned up nothing but fellow admirers, no insights at all into why the apartment doors on this particular block were built on such a small scale. Whenever I’ve passed the street since and glanced down the block, its residents appear to be of average size.