Eye On Real Estate
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After Ken Friedlander bought his historic home, the first thing he did was square things away with the resident ghost.
He'd been told the late John Baxter's spirit was a shadowy nocturnal presence at Stoothoff-Baxter-Kouwenhoven House, where Baxter had lived two centuries ago.
After Friedlander bought the city landmark at 1640 E. 48th St. for $280,000 in 1994, he paid a visit to the nearby cemetery where Baxter's grave is located.
“I told him, 'Don't worry. I'm living in your house. I'll take good care of it,'” Friedlander said the other day when we visited his eye-catching Dutch Colonial home located in present-day Old Mill Basin.
Baxter's ghost has been a no-show at the house since then, as far as Friedlander can tell.
But during Friedlander's first year at the former farmhouse, which was partly built around 1747, he'd wake up very early and smell bacon. There were phantom cooking odors, like breakfast was being made for long-departed farm hands.
The retired special-ed teacher, who grew up in Alphabet City, developed a taste for historic homes as a teen when he and his high-school sweetheart Susan Raskin spent time in Brooklyn Heights.
They swam at the St. George Hotel's pool and got an eyeful of neighborhood homes that were down on their luck during the 1960s. When they saw boarded-up properties on Joralemon Street they'd say, “Why can't we have one of these houses?” he recalled.
They got married and bought an 1830s-vintage home in Wallabout. After they divorced, Friedlander bought Stoothoff-Baxter-Kouwenhoven House and Raskin remained in the Wallabout property.
He first laid eyes on the E. 48th Street landmark by chance during a bicycle ride. A year and a half later he went looking for it again. Such serendipity — it had a “For Sale” sign on it.
“He called me and said, 'I found the house,'” Raskin told Eye on Real Estate. “I knew he would be happy. I knew I would be happy.”
The sellers were Anthony and Mary Ann Cucchiara, city Finance Department records indicate.
Friedlander has a transcript of John Baxter's diaries. A prayerful New Year's resolution he wrote in 1811, the year he built an addition to the house, caught our eye.
“Be it my delight thou maker of Heaven and Earth to amend my future life,” it said.