Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn’

A long lost Narrows Ferry schedule to Brooklyn

May 20, 2011

In 1908, you had one transportation option if you were traveling between Staten Island and Bay Ridge—say to get to Coney Island or South Beach (Staten Island’s Coney-like amusement pier): the ferry.

This ferry schedule spells it all out for you. It was found stashed in Clinton Hill mansion all these years and is strangely well-preserved.

The ferry departs Brooklyn from Gelston’s Wharf in Fort Hamilton.

I don’t know if there still is a wharf known by that name, but the Gelston family settled here almost two centuries ago, reports a 1918 New York Times article:

“George S. Gelston came to Fort Hamilton in 1839 and bought the property on which was located the old Hamilton House, erected in 1750, and used during the Revolutionary War by both George Washington and Lord Howe as Headquarters.”

Today, Gelston Avenue in Bay Ridge looks like it may have at one time run down to the water.

The lawless district of Pigtown, Brooklyn

December 8, 2010

All Brooklyn neighborhoods should have as colorful a name as Pigtown.

This poor part of Flatbush seems to have been centered south of Empire Boulevard between Prospect Park and New York Avenue, where Prospect Lefferts Gardens and East Flatbush are today.

A lowland of roaming pigs, goats, and shanties, Pigtown had a lot of crime. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle archive (where the story above comes from) has clip after clip of arrests made there in the late 19th century.

The New York Times archive contains some gruesome stories of gangster murders in Pigtown, which was populated by Italian immigrants.

Like so many other rough neighborhoods in New York, Pigtown was cleaned up as the 20th century progressed.

[Above photo, from the NYPL digital collection: Flatbush Avenue and Maple Avenue, about 1920, after Pigtown was smoothed over]

One family who remained there until the 1950s: the Giulianis. Yep, Rudy lived the first years of his life in what was once Pigtown until his parents decamped to Long Island.

Nineteenth century Manhattan had a Pigtown too—a hardscrabble neighborhood known as the Piggery District.

“The lovely span of the Williamsburg Bridge”

April 18, 2010

This Williamsburg Bridge postcard looks like it depicts the bridge when it was built in 1903. Perhaps it hasn’t opened, since there’s no traffic.

It was the same bridge that captivated Francie Nolan, the dreamy, imaginative protagonist from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which tells the story of a poor Williamsburg family around 1910.

“Johnny took Francie up on the roof. She saw a whole new world. Not far away was the lovely span of the Williamsburg Bridge. Across the East River, like a fairy city made of silver cardboard, the skyscrapers loomed cleanly.”

Later, as a teenager who had to quit school to work in Manhattan, Francie is disappointed by the bridge.

“Looking at it from the roof of her house, she had thought that crossing it would make her feel like a gossamer-winged fairy flying through the air. But the actual ride over the bridge was no different than the ride above the Brooklyn streets.

“The bridge was paved in sidewalks and traffic roads like the streets of Broadway and the tracks were the same tracks.”

Remember when phones had to be dialed?

May 20, 2009

Seriously, you had to actually hook your finger in a little oval and circle it around at least seven times.

Maybe they still prefer dial phones in Cobble Hill, where this faded sign was spotted on a Pacific Street building that houses a beer distribution business.


The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is turning 45

March 10, 2009

Best known for its supporting role in Saturday Night Fever, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge has been linking Brooklyn to Staten Island since November 1964. Below, a sketch of the bridge drawn before construction began:


Okay, so it doesn’t have the cache of the George Washington or Brooklyn Bridges. But the Verrazano can hold its own.


Until 1981 it was the world’s longest suspension bridge. One end is at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, the other at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island; these two forts are the historic guards of New York Harbor. And after the bridge was built, Staten Island’s population doubled.

Is John McCain getting the Greenpoint vote?

July 14, 2008

Surprisingly un-ironic (I think) graffiti on Nassau Street near the G train.

“Sun Set at Gowanus Bay”

June 11, 2008

An 1851 oil painting by Australian artist Henry Gritten. The full title is “Sun Set at Gowanus Bay in the Bay New York” and the original hangs in the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts in Tasmania.

You think today’s stroller mom is bad?

May 15, 2008

This photo was taken at Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street in 1898, showing a fashionable new mother who seems to be wielding her carriage like a weapon. No wonder the man to her left looks concerned.

Congratulations to the Class of 1902

May 11, 2008

High school graduation season is almost here, and the whole pomp and circumstance thing hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years. Take a look at this June 1902 commencement program honoring Manual Training High School’s latest graduates.  

Manual Training taught trades, but I don’t know exactly which ones because I can’t find anything about the school—except that at some point it was renamed John Jay High School and became a regular academic school on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope.

Lets hear it for the class of 1902. 

Ballad of the Sad Cafe

May 5, 2008

While empty storefronts in the hipster part of Red Hook get turned in to cool-kid bars and restaurants, the ghostly Clinton Cafe is a reminder of the Hook’s working-class, longshoreman history.