Spring comes to brownstone Brooklyn in 1949

This is Brooklyn just four years after the end of World War II.


In 1949, when Brooklyn on the north side of Prospect Park was still a collection of working-class and middle-income neighborhoods and urban decay had yet to take hold, a Life photographer went out and took some photos.


In a Life spread titled “Spring Comes to Brooklyn,” Ralph Morse captured street life in the neighborhoods located in the shadow of the Williamsburgh Bank Tower.


The images look like simple snapshots. Backyard gardens are planted. Kids play in the (strangely car-free) streets. Teenagers hang around corner candy stores and newsstands.


Women clean off stoops while minding babies and toddlers. Neighbors stop to chat at the front door. Laundry hangs between buildings.


It’s almost the 1950s, and the modern era has begun. But what’s interesting is how unguarded residents seem. It’s as if there’s no element of danger to worry about or shield their kids from.


This part of Brooklyn would change dramatically in the next few decades. And of course, the brownstones of Brooklyn would then become some of the most sought-after housing in the entire city.


But here is Brooklyn before all that, depicted by a very talented photographer in one moment in time. Many more photos are available to scroll through at the Life archives.

[Photos: Life/Ralph Morse]

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7 Responses to “Spring comes to brownstone Brooklyn in 1949”

  1. Penelope Bianchi Says:

    What lovely images from such a time gone by! So wonderful!

    Thank you for this perfect “glimpse”!!!

  2. wack60585 Says:

    Reblogged this on wack60585.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you Penelope! So glad you enjoyed.

  4. Tom B Says:

    Is it a complicated answer or a simple one why this borough and culture has changed so much? When people long for the old NYC this should be it. Great pictures and write up as always.

  5. alexei Says:

    Great photos. I especially ;like the first one with the kids sitting on the Good Humor truck. I don’t believe they have them anymore. At least I haven’t seen one in about 20 years.

  6. Reggie Says:

    I was able to find the spot with the couple pushing the pram on google street view. their picture looks so “concrete jungle, inner city” in that black and white photo. the google pic shows it as the green, tree lined residential neighborhood that it actually is. interesting contrast from then to now, especially for someone like me who grew up in the south and has only head stories about brownstones and rowhouse life.

  7. Walt G. Says:

    The ice cream truck is mounted on a 1940 Chevrolet 1/2 ton chassis; the car in the last photograph is a post WWII Studebaker so would have been a fairly new car when the photo was taken.

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