A few years ago, composer and trombonist Jacob Garchik started noticing that a lot of older apartment buildings near his house in Brooklyn have medieval architectural details. “This building is a really good example,” he says, pointing out a six-story brick box in the Flatbush neighborhood. Between the first and second floors, there’s a row of plaques with images in relief. They’re knights and shields and heralds.
The medieval theme was a real estate marketing gimmick in the 1920s used to lure Jewish immigrants who dreamed of upward mobility — like Garchik’s ancestors — from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “The developer and the architect were selling this fantasy of these grand palaces,” Garchik says.
That fantasy worked, drawing in crowds. To make room for more apartment buildings, developers tore down single-family Victorian homes. But a few run-down holdouts are still here, surrounded by faux-Tudor half-timbers, clad in vinyl siding. […]