At Home with the Barnes Family

A newly renovated Dixon Leasing townhouse provides sanctuary for longtime Bedford-Stuyvesant residents rebuilding the family home they lost to fire.

Home introduction

Barnes family

In most of our Dixon Leasing tenant stories, we introduce you to residents whose homes were selected as an exciting next step in their New York living experience. This story is different. In February of this year, fire ravaged the Barnes family's MacDonough Street home of 37 years. Thankfully, no one was injured in the blaze. And, while their old home is under construction, a Bainbridge Street townhouse just a few blocks away is serving as home base for James and Alice, their three adult sons and their grandchildren.

Exteriorliving room

After nearly 50 years of marriage, James and Alice have a charming habit of finishing each other's sentences and nodding in agreement when the other speaks. The two met at work "at the Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street Chase Manhattan," James rattles off without hesitation. They dated for nine months before marrying and will celebrate their gold anniversary next summer. When asked the secret to a long marriage, Alice says knowingly, "What makes a relationship strong is knowing you're going to have valleys, but when you come out on top, it's well worth it."

Alice and JamesAlice and James talking

Winter 2018 was especially cold in New York City, with long stretches of snowfall and bone-chilling temperatures. Avid travelers James and Alice frequently take vacation in the spring, but the frigid weather expedited their plans. On a February morning, they departed for the Caribbean, their sons and granddaughter headed off to start their day, and the MacDonough home caught fire, likely due to an electrical issue. "To see everything you've built for years shattered, it's an ordeal you can never imagine, even when you're going through it," Alice explains. "When a catastrophe like that happens, all you can do is sit back and say God blessed us that no one was in the house."

passionate Alice

The couple learned of the fire when they landed in the Caribbean, but their children encouraged them to stay put. As Alice recalls, "Our son said, 'Mom and Dad, we're adults. Finish your vacation. We will intercede on your behalf and represent the family.'"

The couple's oldest son, Andre, handled online research and cultivated relationships with the insurance company that would eventually connect them to Dixon Leasing. Middle son Xavier, youngest son Troy, and Andre's daughter Pia handled the boots-on- the-ground process of salvaging and storing what could be saved from MacDonough and finding temporary hotel accommodations for the family.

Andre learned about the Bainbridge home before it was on the market and immediately shared it with the rest of the family. The location alone met one of the family's primary requirements for long-term temporary quarters — that it be close to their family home. "That was one of the stipulations. We'd already been displaced too much," Alice explains.

As soon as the family set eyes on the home in person, the die was cast. "We fell in love with the open design the moment we walked in," Alice says.

"The vibration of the house is very peaceful," James agrees. "It's welcoming, and we're happy about that after going through the process of losing our place."

open concept

Situated within the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, the Bainbridge house was built in 1899 as part of a row of six townhomes. Designed in a combination of Romanesque and Renaissance Revival styles, the row features handsome brownstone facades with oriel windows and ornate decorative motifs. While intended as a single-family home, our subject property didn't remain that way for long. By 1920, it was accommodating more than one family of renters, in the 1960s it was subdivided into four full-floor apartments, and in 1987, the building was transitioned to a two-family home. All this reconfiguration meant there was little original interior detail remaining when Dixon acquired the building in 2013.


Presented with a clean slate, the Dixon team created a light-filled, open home with sleek finishes punctuated by interesting decorative flourishes. Bathrooms, in particular, are presented with modern lines softened by a sly historical reference, such as hurricane lamp fixtures and classic penny tile flooring.