If you live in an old Brooklyn house, check under your floorboards.
That’s how one resident of a circa-1887 Clinton Hill brownstone mansion discovered a treasure of letters, receipts, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera dating from 1900 to 1910.
Why the papers were stashed beneath the floorboards is a mystery.
But I’m glad they were. They offer a rare glimpse of the ordinary businesses and services available to well-off Washington Avenue residents at the end of the Gilded Age.
Oh, and the phone exchanges! Imagine reaching a business with just a 2- or 3-digit number.
John D. Gunning offered “sanitary examinations and peppermint tests” as part of his plumbing and gas fitting business, above.
He must be the same John D. Gunning whose 1917 death notice in the New York Times notes that he “succeeded his father in the contract plumbing business.”
The Union League Stables were next to the glorious Union League Club building, now a senior citizen community center.
Amazingly, F.M. Fairchild Sons funeral directors are still in business—but on Long Island, not in Brooklyn.