Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn Museum’

The Manhattan Bridge’s two lost lovely ladies

February 9, 2015

Look closely: in this 1920s postcard depicting the grand Manhattan Bridge approach from Brooklyn, you can make out two statues inside the granite pylons flanking the roadway.

Manhattanbridgeapproach1925mcny

These heroic sculptures—created during the City Beautiful era, when art was meant to inspire and uplift—were known as “Manhattan” and “Brooklyn.”

Installed seven years after the bridge opened in 1909 and designed by Daniel Chester French, these 12-foot lovely ladies represented the attributes of each borough.

Manhattanbridgestatues

Impressive, right? But by the 1960s, they were gone—victims of bridge reconstruction in the age of Robert Moses and the automobile.

Luckily, Manhattan and Brooklyn didn’t end up in pieces in a Meadowlands dump, the sad fate of parts of the original Penn Station.

ManhattanstatueInstead, they were brought to the Brooklyn Museum, where they’ve guarded the entrance since 1963.

Interestingly, the attributes of each statue represent the way we view the boroughs today.

For Manhattan, that means hubris. “The pose of the figure of Manhattan typifies splendor and pride, of which the peacock at her side is the emblem,” says a 1915 article.

Brooklynstatue“The right foot of the statue rests upon a treasure-box and a winged ball in the statue’s hand suggests the City’s domination in world affairs.”

Meanwhile, Brooklyn has a softer, more artistic and educational vibe.

“Beside the figure of Brooklyn stands a church and the arm of the statue rests upon a lyre, symbolizing music.”

“A Roman tablet which the figure holds on its knee indicates study, and a child at its feet reading from a book typifies the Borough’s well-filled schools.”

[Statue photos: Brooklyn Museum]

The famous names in “Winter Scene in Brooklyn”

January 30, 2012

Brooklyn has changed quite a lot since Francis Guy painted this corner of the newly incorporated village in 1820.

It’s one of two very similar paintings showing almost the same bustling winter scene at Front Street between Main and Fulton Streets, near the Fulton Ferry dock.

The Brooklyn Museum owns one of the two paintings. The museum website features a fascinating key that identifies who these shopkeepers and village residents are.

You’ll recognize many of the names—such as Rapelje, Middagh, Hicks, and Patchen—as they continue to live on in borough street signs and park plaques.

Brooklyn Museum, then and now

May 1, 2009

This early-1900s photograph of the Brooklyn Museum—known as the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences when construction began in 1895—shows a neo-Classic beauty of a building, looking majestic on a young Eastern Parkway (those little trees!)

And that grand staircase sure was something, rising 28 feet from street level. It was part of the original McKim, Mead & White design; the famed architectural firm also designed part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

brklynmuseumold

The staircase didn’t last long. In the mid-1930s, Brooklyn Museum officials decided to make the building more “democratic” by removing it. Visitors now entered the building through ground floor doors.

brooklynmuseum2009In 2000, museum honchos wanted a grand entrance again, something that would recall the original McKim, Mead & White staircase.

This is the result, completed in 2004. People seem to either love it or hate it; there’s no in between. 

Architectural monstrosity or “Brooklyn’s new front stoop,” as the museum’s director was quoted in a 2000 New York Times article?  You decide.

Kansas? Nebraska? Nope, 19th century Brooklyn

October 29, 2008

It’s hard to imagine that in the 1860s, when this photo was taken, much of Brooklyn consisted of farmland dotted with the occasional house and tree.

This is before Brooklyn was even a united city; Kings County around this time contained a couple of different cities and several small towns that had yet to be combined into the borough of Brooklyn as we know it today. 

But things would change soon. Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as well as major thoroughfares like Eastern Parkway and Ocean Parkway would all be built in the next few decades, ushering in a big Brooklyn population boom.

Brooklyn’s Prospect Hill water tower

October 17, 2008

This image is from a postcard dating back to the 1890s, soon after the tower was built. According to a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from January 18, 1893, a water shortage threatened the city (the city of Brooklyn, that is, which had yet to become part of New York City):

“There would be no substantial relief until the water tower at Prospect Hill should be put in use, which would be in two or three months,” the article states. 


This prime part of Brooklyn looks awfully lonely and barren in the photo. But things would quickly change: The Brooklyn Museum would soon be built on a land to the east of the water tower and adjoining reservoir. Eastern Parkway would eventually be lined with trees and apartment houses.

The tower itself was constructed to supply water to houses near Prospect Park, which there would be many more of in the coming years.