The last remnant of a colonial Brooklyn road

Every time I find an article like this, I’m always amazed how rich with Colonial history Brooklyn really is. I’m still surprised hearing George Washington’s name and that we can claim “The Battle of Brooklyn.” I try to imagine Brooklyn before it became the mini Metropolis it is today – With businesses competing in cramped quarters alongside residential homes and buildings. (Wistfully staring out the glass doors by the parking Lot at a row of 6 attached homes.- most likely 2-family, maybe with a tenant thrown in the converted basement.
The map in the post shows just how much open space there was in 1760, vs. The painting of Red Hook in 1865, overflowing with buildings, houses, factories, bridges and then some.

Ephemeral New York

Redhooklanestreetsign2Red Hook Lane is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stretch of road off bustling Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn.

This one-block lane is the last remnant of colonial-era Red Hook Lane, a Canarsie Indian trail that became the route from the heights of Brooklyn town through Dutch farmland to the swampy Red Hook waterfront.

Enlarge this 1760s map and you can just make out “Red Hook Lane” beneath Flatbush Avenue, where it says “Brookland Parish.”

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It has Revolutionary War significance too. Red Hook Lane, an important Continental Army artery, is where George Washington watched the British outflank the Patriots at Gowanus Pass during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

Redhooklanesouth“Old Red Hook Lane was originally 25 feet wide, and ran from Boerum Place diagonally across Atlantic Avenue, between Court Street and Boerum Place, running near the old engine house on Pacific Street,” according to an 1894 New York Times piece.

“Then, turning…

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What Brooklyn looked like in summer 1820

I love these old paintings. If only I had a time machine, Brooklyn was quite a beautiful land way back then.

Ephemeral New York

Landscape artist Francis Guy painted “Summer View of Brooklyn” in 1820 from the vantage point of 11 Front Street in today’s DUMBO.

That means this collection of tidy barns and houses would be located under the Brooklyn Bridge. That even looks like a nascent Manhattan skyline, with steeples, in the distance.

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Things have changed a lot in 195 years. A summer view of today’s Brooklyn from Front Street would look more like this, with crowds sweltering on line at Grimaldi’s pizza.

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Guy painted the same scene from Front Street in winter 1820 as well. The winter scene is more detailed, with various residents working and going about their day.

Who were the hardy Brooklynites he depicted? This key from the Brooklyn Museum decodes their names and which house belonged to who.

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NYC railroads the unearthing of an 1830’s Train!

2 years ago I posted a Daily News Article about an urban legend in Brooklyn. A rare 1830’s locomotive was believed hidden behind a wall in the abandoned Atlantic Avenue Tunnel. Turns out the legend was true, but unfortunately, it will have to remain buried in the past.

Read the full article here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/train-excavation-brooklyn-stopped-due-politics-leaks-article-1.2159106

Brooklyn Historical Society Exhibit: The Union Ferry Company

Union Ferry

Brooklyn Historical Society Exhibit: The Union Ferry Company

A month late with the post, but I wanted to share this article from the New York Daily News. I love the BHS. If only I had more time these days to visit such events and places. I also want to be more diligent on this blog. I forgot how fun the research was. My apologies to followers and readers.

If you’re interested, visit or give them a call and ask about the “Full Steam Ahead: 200 Years of Ferries in Brooklyn” exhibit which started on May 10th. They also have many other fine exhibits listed on the page to explore.

 

 

NYC Department of Records and Photos

The NYC Department of records has an extensive photo gallery of images starting from the cusp of the wild roaring twenties down till the present day. Okay, it’s not ‘old’ Brooklyn, but it’s still classic imagery nearly a hundred years old. I was just thinking the other night how the twenties seemed so far behind us now.

The website displays the finer prints and you can purchase them. (Too bad it’s not original Brooklyn prices!) You can check them out here:

Images of Brooklyn

Also of note: You can research vital records from all the boroughs and purchase copies that date back to before 1910. Now we’re talking old!

NYC Archives and Records

If you really want to start digging, try the Municipal Archives Collection  With records dating back to the earliest days of European colonial settlement in the seventeenth century, up to the present mayoral administration, the Municipal Archives houses 150,000 cubic feet of historical government records, including manuscripts, official correspondence, vital records, ledgers, several thousand feet of moving images, over one million photographs, sound recordings, maps, and architectural plans.

My mother’s side of the family is pure Brooklyn and they date way back to the 1880’s. They were immigrants from England (Though interestingly the ‘English’ side of the family was born in Kildare, Ireland.) I found proof of this many years ago on a whim when I visited the awesome Brooklyn Historical Society. They had a ledger/family tree book filled with names, dates of birth, and dates of death filled in by my great-grandfather. The book stopped after my grandmother’s third child was born. The Brooklyn Historical Society has since been remodeled and I eventually have to secure an appointment to see those old records again. At the time I copied them by hand as best I could. I was still just a kid, a nerdy early nineties kid with a burgeoning fascination for Old Brooklyn. I need to dig in the bowels of the basement to find those files. I would like to go again, re-copy and then remake that family tree on the computer and add the additional names. See, my grandmother didn’t stop at a 3rd child, she had 16!

Green-Wood Cemetery~The City of the Dead

Green-Wood Cemetery was first established in 1838 and it was the 3rd rural or Garden variety cemetery in the United States. A brief history of pre-Victorian cemeteries will show that your average Church yard burial ground was every bit as frightening as they appear in those old, scary Frankenstein movies.

Lumpy-bumpy tombstones from over-piled graves, creaking iron gates, and weather permitting, haunting mist all around. Then there were the rats and bug infestations. Noxious and sometimes deadly odors emanated from within due to exposed body parts and skeletons being forced to the surface. It was also unfortunate that these graveyards were often in residential areas, and outbreaks of cholera and other diseases from polluted water were common.

Garden cemeteries were a blessing for the public as the cities expanded and more land opened up. Bodies were interred there by the thousands and beautiful new headstones were erected.

*If you’re dark-humored and preferably not squeamish, then you will love the hilarious and fascinating E-Book, ‘The Smart Aleck’s Guide to Grave-Robbing’ by Adam Selzer and the Smart Aleck staff.

In it you’ll find everything you need to know about the illustrious occupation of 19th century grave-robbing–What does it take to be a ‘Resurrection man’ and sneak off into the dead of night to steal corpses for Medical research? This book has the pros and cons, the tools and tricks of the trade, and the history of cemeteries, coffins, and mummy un-wrapping parties. (And you thought your parties were wild!) And because they are smart-alecks, it comes complete with quizzes, assignments, and experiments that you hopefully DON’T try at home. For information on the talented Adam Selzer and his books, visit one of his websites.

Green-Wood cemetery is filled with lavish monuments and carvings. Down to this day it boasts luscious, flowering trees and bushes, freshly manicured lawns, benches, and even a gorgeous fountain area to rest your tired feet after taking one of the 2 Self-guided walking tours.

These forty-five page booklets are a wonderful collection for any Brooklyn enthusiast’s library. Even if you don’t make the tours you can still see many pictures of the graves and read brief biographies and histories of all the famous (and infamous) people buried in Green-Wood. Visit the website for complete information on everything Green-Wood has to offer to the public.

The Green-Wood Cemetery Walk #1 & 2

I had the opportunity to visit back in October–I highly recommended that you:

1. Wear loose clothing that you don’t mind getting dust or grass-stains on. Dress in layers. Even if it’s chilly, you will get very hot on your trek. Green–Wood is very hilly and you’ll find yourself climbing up and down, and getting up close to the tombs. I kept peering into the mausoleums even though I knew exactly what I was going to find each time–an empty, musty-smelling room with the actual tombs embedded into engraved stone walls. Seriously, what did I expect?

In some cases, you might need to lean on headstones to help you scale the hills. I couldn’t help it! Beware of going to the cemetery after a rainy day. There is a very real danger of slipping and falling and almost killing yourself if you hit your head on marble or granite.

2. Wear sturdy boots or sneakers and comfortable socks.

3. Keep a copy of the free map they offer at the Cemetery entrance and use it from time to time. If you are a newbie to the tour like I was, chances are you WILL get lost. Don’t go without those books. It helps to know the history and livens the tour.

4. Plan to spend a good 2 to 4 hours of your day inside the cemetery. Bring snacks or a light lunch and carry bottled water! That is a must, especially in warmer weather. Otherwise, you’ll end the day looking as though you belong buried there as you stumble around dehydrated and over-heated. (Just don’t litter the place!)

My sister and I were so lost that it was near closing time and the guard had to come around and take us back to where we started. This was an hour after he’d also taken us halfway across the cemetery to find our family’s plot, which has 4 generations buried there.

5. Make sure to use the restrooms before you start, especially if you are a water guzzler. Because once you begin the tour there are no bathrooms along the way. And guys, don’t even think about it–that’s somebody’s family member down there.

6. If in a group, keep the noise at a minimum, not because you’ll wake the dead, but because there are still funeral services going on all day-except Sundays. The website and booklets say up to 5, and it would be highly disrespectful to interrupt.

My sister had the better camera and she took some wonderful images that I’d like to share below.

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The Victorian Egyptian

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The Fountain

Gargoyles

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Fist bumping carved angel

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