BSEC has the privilege to own and use as its Meeting house the mansion where William Hamlin Childs and his family lived for 47 years. William Childs, whose fortune was a result of his Bon Ami soap business, moved to Brooklyn and bought land on Prospect Park West. This superb mansion, entered via a broad flight of steps flanked by heraldic lions, is the work of well-known Manhattan architect William B. Tubby.
Built in 1900, it is one of the best examples of the neo-Jacobean style rare in New York City. The dark red brick laid in Flemish bond and the red tile roof both contrast effectively with the white limestone window frames and gargoyles. On the south wall, at the first floor level, is a wing added in 1910 as a morning room. The peaceable conversion of the scabbards to balustrade fits our dedication to turning modern day “swords” into “plowshares.” The whole house is set in a spacious yard enclosed by handsome iron railed brick piers. Tiffany Studios provided the furnishings for the house and custom-designed Tiffany glass was used in the main-floor windows and parlor fireplace.
William Childs, while one of the wealthiest men in Brooklyn, was also interested in political reform and contributed money to civic humanitarian causes. Richard Childs, William Childs’ son, became interested in civic causes while a student at Yale. He founded the Short Ballot organization and was identified as the leader of short ballot reform. After his mother’s death, Richard Childs donated the family mansion at 53 Prospect Park West to the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.