06/28/11 5:00am

(Photo not from 1872, but shows Main Street in 1927. courtesy New York Public Library)

One of our readers, EPC (@epc), came across this old 139 year article from the Brooklyn Eagle (July 2, 1872) about Main Street in Brooklyn: I was digging through the Brooklyn Public Library scans of the Brooklyn Eagle and came across this column (can’t tell if it’s opinion/editorial if they even made that distinction) from Page 2 of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for July 1, 1872. The first couple of paragraphs are the best, then it sort of slides into gross caricatures of Jews. Here’s the first two paragraphs:

“It is a peculiarity of Main street wherever you find a Main street, that it never is the main street. Doubtless it once was the main street, but cities grow, and men may come and men may go, while Main street sinks into the general rut of bye streets, and its place is usurped by upstart thoroughfares with no distinguishing name. So of Main street, Brooklyn. Time was when it occupied the place Fulton street holds now, and it is not impossible that the march of local improvement may again invest it with a factitious importance (as leading from somewhere to somewhere else). But at present there is not a street in this broad city of so little commercial or social importance as Main street.”

“To speak truth, it is an unsavory thoroughfare. Cologne itself, the city of seven distinct smells, can produce a thoroughfare to vie with Main street in all that is evil smelling and febrifacient — but Brooklyn can with difficulty do so. By day the garbage of a thousand tenement houses is thrown in the street; that is a physical disease. By night its corners are infested by loafers and its sidewalks people by ward politicians; that is a social disease. Altogether, as you might infer, Main stret is in a bad way. And yet there are many good people who live in Main street, and many better people (in a social sense) who have lived in Main street, and can look back upon their tenement house experiences from the bow windows of their brownstone fronts. I was about to say that there are those of Main street who example all the Christian virtues, but I bethink me that most of its residents are Jews.”

The last paragraph describes Main Street’s merchants:

“There are no pawnshops in Main street, but their place is supplied for all practical purposes by the second hand clothing stores, of which there are certainly enough and to spare. The other industries represented in the street are thee of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, with a slight tinge of the legitimate rum dealer and the illicit whiskey distiller. But these are nothing of themselves. The life of Main street is the Catherine Ferry, and while that remains Main street will hold its own as a peculiar and distinctive thoroughfare.”

Again, not entirely sure how factual it was meant to be then, but it’s an interesting contrast to Main Street of today (which is even shorter than it was in 1872).

Thanks Ed for the tip! Note above photo of Main Street is from the New York Public Library: “Main Street, north from a point sount of Prospect Street. In the background, a section of Manhattan Bridge (November 1, 1927)”

(Brooklyn Eagle (July 2, 1872) (PDF)
{Dumbo Then and Now, series, DumboNYC}

01/31/11 2:48pm

Cadman Plaza

Walking through Cadman Plaza Park, you see kids with their parents/nannys, dog walkers, joggers, and residents enjoying the green space and sports field throughout the year. It’s a welcome spot to walk through despite the busy Tillary Street to the south and the Brooklyn Bridge exit ramp to the north. Adjacent to Cadman Plaza on the east (just south of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) building), the city has been re-developing a 2.9 acre area called Walt Whitman Park which is scheduled for completion in the Spring of 2012 (prior update by McBrooklyn here and the Brooklyn Eagle article on the $4.5M renovation project). But residents of Brooklyn didn’t always have a Cadman Plaza Park. In 1883, Sands Street Terminal was completed in the area now occupied by Cadman Plaza and with Fulton El Terminal, was one of the major arteries and stations for the Brooklyn elevated trains. The Brooklyn Bridge carried passengers from Manhattan to Brooklyn on tracks and the Brooklyn Station was once a majestic elevated train station, only two blocks from Dumbo’s 70 Washington Street.

By the late 1800s and early 1900s, the station was believed to service “tens of thousands” of passengers pass through daily, according to one neighbor who’s family has lived in the area for 2 generations. (If anyone has a published reference, please comment below.) In 1908, the subway construction began, which paved the way for the removal of the elevated tracks. By 1910, the Fulton El Terminal was removed. In 1931, the decision to redevelop the station into a public space was made and thus began the dismantling of the station. Most of Sands Street Elevated Terminal was taken down in 1939. The metal and materials were reused for World War II and streets were reconfigured for the transition from trolleys and carriages to automobiles. By 1939, the park was completed and named Cadman Plaza Park and now occupies 10.384 acres of land. In total there were 21 acres of land cleared, 125 buildings razed, and cost of improvement was $4.5M or $70M in 2010 dollars.

According to the NY City Department of Parks and Recreation, the park “honors Reverend Dr. Samuel Parkes Cadman (1864-1936), a Brooklyn Congregational minister and radio preacher famed for his oratory. He was pastor of the Central Congregational Church in Brooklyn for 36 years and helped to found the Federated Council of Churches in America, which he headed from 1924-1928.” The northern end of Cadman Plaza Park houses a statue of William Jay Gaynor (1829-1913). Gaynor was mayor of New York City from 1910-1913. The southern end is a Korean War Veterans Plaza memorial.

Brooklyn Heights Blog published a nice video ‘montage’ (created by BHB’s Karl Junkersfeld) about the park history. Below are some additional historical photos. Next time you walk through Cadman Plaza park, you can see the scale of the former station and imagine what used to be the track noise above and people getting on and off the Sands Street Station.

 [+] (Photo: 1931, courtesy wired new york)

 [+] (Photo: 1898, courtesy of MCNY)

 [+] (Photo: Brooklyn Bridge Station, undated, courtesy of MCNY)

 [+] (Photo: 1943, courtesy of Gothamist. Notice the tracks ending on the right side as a result of the elevated station being discontinued)

{Dumbo Then and Now, series, DumboNYC}

07/22/10 4:56pm


Empire Fulton Ferry State Park

(July 8, 2010)

Brooklyn Bridge

(June 16, 2007)

It’s unfair to compare Dumbo Then and Now photos for the not-yet-finished Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, but here are some interim photos of the park. The park is being worked on to improve drainage, add park furnishings, lighting, and of course house Jane’s Carousel. One of the concerns by some with the renovation of the park include the removal of the trees. It looks like the two largest trees have been spared, but the trees near the point of the boardwalk and others in the park have been cut down.

Empire Fulton Ferry State Park

(July 8, 2010)

Empire Fulton Ferry State Park

(May 8, 2009)

{Some Don’t Want Jane’s Carousel in Park, 12Apr2010}
{Empire Fulton Ferry State Park Closed for Renovation, 05Jan2010}
{Jane’s Carousel To Be in Brooklyn Bridge Park, 18Dec2009}
{‘Jane’s Carousel’ closer to a grand entrance in Brooklyn Bridge Park, 18May2010, Brooklyn Paper}

05/12/10 1:52pm

We always write about Dumbo related items, but think our readers would be interested in hearing about the Brooklyn Children’s Museum fundraiser (thanks to all who emailed this in). It will be the museum’s 110th birthday! The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was the first children’s museum in the world, and it first opened its’ doors to children and families on December 16, 1899. Now, 110 years later, the nationally recognized museum is celebrating with a Vaudevillian style birthday party. The 2010 Gala is co-chaired by Liz Frazer, Ellen Newman, and Lauren Wiener. It will be held on May 18, 2010 from 6-9pm at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, located at 145 Brookyn Avenue, New York, NY 11213.

A little history (courtesy of The Brooklyn Children’s Museum):
After re-opening in September 2008 upon the completion of a major expansion, the Museum has doubled its past attendance levels to 360,000 on-site visitors per year and increased its membership fivefold to over 5,000 households. At the same time, the economic climate has challenged us all. Despite this, the museum is dedicated to continuing the mission of serving children and families through this difficult time. All generous donations will help us continue to educate and inspire our future explorers, builders, inventors, and leaders.

About the 2010 Gala:
The Silver LEED certified, “green” museum will be transformed into a fantasy-filled vaudeville roving festival. Come see sizzling entertainers from Lady Circus, House of Yes, and Hula Halo, be mesmerized with unique up close magic by Ago the Magic Chef (magician), and satisfy your curiosity by hearing tales of your future by tarot card readers. These artists and others will be inviting gala guests to the once in a lifetime opportunity to go back in time and celebrate the history, curiosity and rebellious glamour of 1899. Guests will also sing happy birthday to the museum, enjoy drinks and festive fare as they explore the exhibit galleries, and test their luck at the “tricky tray” auction for items like tickets to Bill T. Jones’ Broadway Production of FELA, a Marc Jacobs handbag, Karma Kids Circus Yoga Classes, and more.

Who: Brooklyn Children’s Museum
What: Gala 2010 – Celebrating 110 Years of Service
When: Tuesday, May 18 from 6:00 – 9:00pm
Where: 145 Brooklyn Avenue (Corner of St. Mark’s Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11213

For tickets and more information about the gala, please contact Jennifer in the Development office at 718.735.4400, ext. 323 or jnottonson@brooklynkids.org. If you cannot attend the benefit, please consider making a donation for your support by going to brooklynkids.org/index.php/supporting/gala2010.

09/23/09 4:26pm


Corner of York and Front St

 September, 2009

In this series of “Dumbo Streetscapes Then and Now”, a 1938 photograph by photographer P.L. Sperr is looking down Front Street from what used to be known as Garrison Street (renamed York Street since the addition of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). The building on the right is 70 Washington Street, and the center/left building is 45 Main Street. The far building in the center is the existing 55 Washington Street.

The original caption in the back of the photo reads: “Front Street, east from Garrison Street. April 4, 1938”

Today’s view, 71 years later, is pretty similar to the 1938 photo at first glance. The building structures are pretty much in tact, and the lot in front of 70 Washington was used as parking, just as it is now. The parking lot is owned by the Jehovah’s Witness (aka The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society). Because the Landmarks Preservation Commission granted landmark status to these buildings in Dumbo, the building exterior won’t change much in the future as well. However, the parking lot sits outside of the LPC boundaries for the Dumbo Historic District, which means the land owners may be allowed to build something on that plot someday.

One observation is the advertising for lofts on top of the 45 Main Street building in 1938 is similar to what it is today. in 1938, the ad space states: “Realty Corp. Lofts to-let”. Today, the building owner, Two Trees Management, has a sign that states: “Live. Work. Play. DUMBO” (Flickr photo)

{New York Public Library photo of Front Street – Garrison Street (1938)}
{Dumbo Then and Now, series, DumboNYC}
{Google Street View, from York St}

07/21/09 4:10pm

 1928 [+ enlarge]

 July, 2009 [+ enlarge]

In this series of “Dumbo Streetscapes Then and Now”, a 1928 photograph from the Eugene L. Armbruster Collection is looking at 29-35 Front Street, (north side of Front St) between Dock Street and what used to be called Garrison Street (now York Street). The center of the photo is a frame structured 3 story house, once the mansion of Joshua Sands (1795-1883), who served as a U.S. Representative and an officer in the United States Navy. As Commander, he was at the New York Navy Yard from 1841 to 1843. The house is only half the original structure, according to the caption in the back of the photo. The caption also states “To the left of it is a brick building occupying the site of the demolished section of the Sands house. That building at present (1928) is occupied by the Italian Mission of Santo Spirito.”

The right side of the 1928 photo shows the Zerega building (aka Nova Clutch building), which was demolished in June 2007 to make way for the highly publicized and controversial Dock Street Dumbo development that passed the rezoning process almost two years later in June 2009.

The original caption in the back of the photo reads: “The same, another view, showing in the center of the view the Sands house (frame). This is only half of the original structure. To the left of it is a brick building occupying the site of the demolished section of the Sands house. That building at present is occupied by the Italian Mission of Santo Spirito. August, 1928. Eugene L. Armbruster Collection. (May be reproduced.)”

The far right side of the photo is the seven story building now known as 57 Front Street, which has retail on the ground floor and condos above. The building near the upper portion of the photo is the Sweeney Building (30 Main Street), with its arched windows towards the top of the building. Today’s view shows much of the Sweeney Building since there are no townhouses blocking the view from this angle.

The old photo shows a charming street mixed with townhouses and brick factory buildings. Today’s view of the lot and parking garage isn’t much to look at, but if the Dock Street Dumbo building is completed on or around 2012, this view will be drastically different.

{New York Public Library photo of Front Street – Dock Street, 1928}
{Dumbo Then and Now, series, DumboNYC}
{Google Street View, Front St}
{(Temporary) Parking Lot on the Nova Clutch Site, 08Aug2007}
{Goodbye Nova Clutch Building, 20Jun2007}
{Zerega Building, 28May2007}
{Nova Clutch building at 39 Front Street, 20Apr2007}
{Two Trees Seeking Approval for 15-20 Story Building Abutting Brooklyn Bridge, 18Apr2007}