Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn Heights’

Who is taking the steam ferry to Brooklyn in 1836

February 10, 2020

This was how you crossed the East River in the 1830s: by a steam-powered ferry sporting an American flag and a belching smokestack. Perhaps you’d be accompanied by some horses, one attached to a covered wagon.

That’s what this hand-colored 1836 engraving from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, by G.K. Richardson after William Henry Bartlett, tells us. It’s simply titled, “The Ferry at Brooklyn, New York.”

You might take this river crossing all in stride and not demonstrate any excitement about it, as the ladies talking in a circle on the left side of the ferry seem to be doing. Or the ferry ride might thrill you or make you ponder things, as you rest against the railing like the figures on the right.

Go to the Smithsonian site via the link above and use the zoom button to really see the ferry riders.

The sweet story behind Brooklyn’s Love Lane

March 1, 2010

Today’s Love Lane is a cute one-block mews stretching from Henry Street to Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights. 

But back in pre-Colonial times, it was an Indian trail leading to the nearby East River. And when the Dutch arrived in Brooklyn, it became a popular path for romantic walks.

An 1894 New York Times article states:

“The oldest residents can remember a time when there was a cool and shady path leading down “Lover’s Lane,” where plump, rosy-cheeked Dutch maidens, with their sweethearts, meandered on summer evenings out through the turnstile and down the grassy bank to the water’s edge.” 

I wonder if the name may have been reinforced by the presence of the Brooklyn Collegiate Institute for Young Ladies, an early 19th century finishing school located on what is now called College Place, a tiny lane that intersects Love Lane.

Perhaps eligible Brooklyn bachelors took romantic walks with some of the students here, making the Love Lane name really stick. 

Thinking things over in Brooklyn Heights

February 16, 2010

A deep-in-thought, leaf-clad grotesque stands guard at the entrance of an apartment building on Clark Street.

Hmm, is that a do rag covering his head?

“New York From the Heights”

August 17, 2009

Brooklyn Heights, that is, circa 1820. That sandy shoreline is kind of the 19th century version of the Esplanade along the East River.


This painting, by American artist William Guy Wall, is part of the Edward W.C. Arnold Collection of New York prints, maps, and pictures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The most miserly woman in Brooklyn

July 11, 2008

If you had hundreds of millions in the bank and could easily afford to buy any Brooklyn house or apartment you desired, would you? Or would the idea of paying real estate taxes rankle you so much, you prefer to go from crummy rental to rental for the rest of your life?

Hetty Green chose the latter. She made a fortune on Wall Street in the 1880s. But instead of building a Gilded-Age mansion, she slummed around in rentals in Brooklyn Heights (staying for a time in the St. George Hotel) and Hoboken to avoid taxes. 

Hetty and her dog, Dewey. Kind of Leona Helmsey-like.

Her miserly ways were legendary. Nicknamed “The Witch of Wall Street” and chronicled in the papers as a sort of celebrity curiosity, she “dodged between one city and another, using aliases, always posing as a transient and always proving non-residence,” says a 1930 New York Times article.

“She always dressed in cast-offs and looked like a ragbag….she [realized] she could save money by buying boot tops at wholesale and then sewing them to the soles, also bought at wholesale,” the article continues. Supposedly she’d only eat cold oatmeal and wouldn’t turn on the heat or hot water.

Hetty died in 1916. Today, her fortune would equal $17 billion. 

Hotel St. George: “absolutely fire-proof”

June 25, 2008

Hotels didn’t get more opulent than the St. George, Brooklyn Heights’ premier place to stay during the first half of the 20th century and home to various Brooklyn Dodgers. The hotel’s several buildings were put up between 1885 and 1929, when it became the largest hotel in New York City. The ballroom and saltwater pool were huge draws for locals.

A New York Times article from 2002 states that famed architect Montrose Morris designed one of the hotel’s structures—one with flag poles and a roof deck. Presumably this is it pictured below, in a turn-of-the-century ad from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Despite the assurance that it was fireproof, part of the Hotel St. George did go up in flames in 1995. By that year, after decades of deterioration, only one building was still an active hotel; several others had been sold off as co-ops, and a few remained empty.

Two of the empty structures and one apartment house burned through the night in a spectacular 16-alarm blaze. 

Brooklyn’s “most aristocratic apartment house”

June 15, 2008

That would be The Riverview, as described in this Brooklyn Daily Eagle ad from the turn of the last century. These elegant residences featured the latest in luxury apartment living, circa 1900: gas stoves, “elevator boys in attendance, both day and night,” and long-distance telephone service in each eight-room, floor-through residence. 

The cheapest apartment went for $900 a year, a hefty sum back then.

Here’s the exterior of 183 Columbia Heights today, still in “the most select section of Brooklyn,” or one of them anyway. Long owned by the Jehovah Witnesses, the building was put up for sale last year along with some other Brooklyn Heights properties the Witnesses own. No word if they’ve traded hands yet.