The Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn

The former, Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn

The Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn was a real place. It stood at 320 Washington Avenue in Brooklyn, a block from Pratt Institute. My apartment was diagonally across the street.  

The Inn was a beautifully kept Early Romanesque Revival mansion and stood out on a street full of brownstones and apartment houses. I loved looking at the building and I loved the name of the place.  The words, Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn, just rolled off your tongue. I imagined it as the name of a movie or novel. Oh, the stories it could tell. But what kind of place was it? My friends and I debated the issue and the consensus was a brothel.

In my senior year, after wondering and whispering about the place for way too long, a female friend of mine and I got the courage to go inside. Nervous and shaking we rang the bell on the front door. A beautiful African American woman in high heels, a big wig, skin-tight clothing with leopard print pants greeted us at the door. I explained we lived across the street and were curious how much the rooms rented for by the night. “The night?” she responded, “The rooms rent by the hour.” The place lived up to my dreams about what a brothel looked like with red velvet print wallpaper, elaborate chandeliers and gold, and velvet furniture. She invited us in and we took a quick look around the lobby. We enquired if we could see the rooms and were told that we could not, and we left.

We were two white kids from the suburbs, transported to Clinton Hill, Brooklyn to attend college and study design. We felt like we had peeked behind the curtain into another world that was completely foreign to us. 

In trying to find out more about the place, I learned that it had been built as the Graham Home for Old Ladies in 1851, and had functioned as a woman’s retirement home until the 1960s when it closed and became the Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn. I graduated from college in 1981. The Bull Shippers Plaza Motor Inn finally closed in 1985 after numerous complaints to the police. The building was boarded up for many years until it was finally converted to apartments in 2001.

The Graham Home for Old Ladies, from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

For more about this cool building see a New York Times article and this post about the building.

 

Pandemic

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With HIV a manageable disease today, I felt that coming out later in life had its pluses. I hid from the terror of AIDS and HIV for years. In fact, it was AIDS arriving on the scene that was one important factor that had me go back deeply into the closet after a few years straddling the fence. While COVID-19 is a different kind of disease than HIV and AIDS, today we all live in fear of the stranger.  Continue reading

An Out, Drunken, Bonding Weekend

This weekend I visited my son at college for his fraternity’s fathers weekend. As a gay man I was not quite sure what to expect. Before coming I asked my son, jokingly, was I going to have to play football? A sport which I know very little about. He assured me, no football. Continue reading

The Sex I Could Have Had

Oh, the sex I could have had. I came of age in the wild and hedonistic period of gay culture, the 1970’s, where disco music ruled. While I was not very active in gay culture, I would occasionally foray out. I remember one night in college, dancing shirtless at a bar at the foot of Christopher Street and the West Side Highway, packed with hot, sweaty men. It was an incredible intoxicating experience. But that night was more of the exception. Most of my life, at this time, was generally more contained and controlled.

Continue reading