Meet the Residents of MacDonough Street

We’ve seen our taxes go up, but I’m hoping it won’t be like what happened in Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene.

—Latha Catlin

Tap to see price history of home

Latha Catlin, 65Current Owner, Nurse

Lives with: Her daughter and grandson (pictured above)

When I was telling one of the neighbors I was looking for a place, they said, “Well, you know, Ms. Cochrane died. Why don’t you inquire over there.”

Ms. Cochrane and her husband were mainstays of the block. They were the second owner of the house. They bought it in 1930. She was a schoolteacher, and her husband was instrumental in getting some of the elected officials to put a stoplight down there at the end of the block. MacDonough Street, Macon, Stuyvesant Ave., has always been a well-kept area. Homeowners that live in the homes. Not someone buying a home and renting them out for rooms.

I’m glad we got a Fairway [in Brooklyn], I’m glad we got a Whole Foods. Otherwise, I’d be going to Manhattan for good produce. I tease people and say when we can go to the corner and buy an upscale soda and some flowers for our table, we will have arrived. 

Nell Cochrane Taylor, 85Previous Owner, Retired teacher

Now lives in: Maryland

History: Her parents—the second family to live in the house—moved there just after she was born. She and her sister grew up there; her mother stayed till her death in 1990, after which Catlin bought the house.

We were the second black family on the block. By the time I was in high school, there weren’t many white families anymore. It had turned black. Middle class, pretty much, nice folks, educated people. The street was pretty elegant when it was first established. My family was the second family to live in the house. The first family was the Strykers. They must have been ardent travelers. We found in the house postcards from all over the world — and I still have that collection. I’ve gathered they were very well-to-do. The top floor was the servant’s quarters — there was a dumbwaiter. My parents cleared that area out and made a study for my sister and me.

My father was very involved with the church on the corner, Nazarene Congregational Church.

Eunice Cochrane on the block, late 1970s. Photo: Courtesy of Nell Cochrane Taylor

He did a lot for the neighborhood, too. By the time I went to college in 1947,the block had begun to change a lot, and the side streets were not too good to walk along, and you had to in order to get to the subway. I think maybe a different class of people had moved in. Many of the homes were rented out. There were a lot of liquor stores, and it was not a savory scene, so my father did a lot to help clear up the neighborhood because he got involved in politics — not on a high level but on a grassroots level. He was very concerned about community as well as his family.

My mom was the person who everyone looked up to on the block. She was a mentor to a number of the children because she had taught school at P.S. 70, around the corner, for years. She was very beloved. She would let us pull all of our toys out into the front yard — doll beds, chairs, and tables, and we would have the whole neighborhood practically over there. We used to have a glorious time. Around 5:30, the mothers would begin calling people home. Rick Haynes, his mother was from Barbados, and she had a voice that carried as if it were a horn. She would call out, “Riiiiicckkky!” And he would immediately pick up and head home.

We’d either be playing house or hospital. All the girls were the nurses. And I was the administrator of the hospital. The guys would be the doctors—but also my sister, who ultimately became a doctor, actually. She went to Yale for medicine and became a practicing psychoanalyst.

I went to Smith College. I was one of five black students in my class. Only two of us graduated. I was elected the first black person — male or female — as the president of a student government at a major university in the United States in 1950. I still have newspaper clippings. I loved it. It was a wonderful experience. I went to Yale for graduate school, got a master of arts in teaching and English. I went on to teach on every level. I had a very eclectic career, actually. I worked for several corporations, lived in a few different places.

The Cochranes’ house, seen before 1990. Photo: Courtesy of Nell Cochrane Taylor

But I always loved that house. I think my whole family did. My mother lived there until she died in 1990. Then my sister and I had to sell it. I was so happy when Latha Caitlin bought it because she reveres it, too.