Posts Tagged ‘clinton hill’

Walkin’ about Wallabout

November 10, 2009

Wallabout is either a dressed-up name for the gritty area abutting the Brooklyn Navy Yard and sliced by the BQE. Or it’s a true neighborhood with a vibe distinct from Fort Greene and Clinton Hill to the south.


Whatever your take, Wallabout is a stronghold of Brooklyn history that’s worth a look. The name comes from the Dutch word Waal-bogt, which means a bend in the river. This bend is Wallabout Bay. Here, the British docked 12 prison ships holding captured Revolutionary War soldiers.

More than 11,000 men died on ships like the one in the engraving above. Some of their remains are entombed in the haunting Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in nearby Fort Greene Park.

Wallabout grew into a residential district in the mid-19th century, housing workers who toiled along Brooklyn’s thriving waterfront. These workers lived in wood frame houses, some of which still stand.


These 2- and 3-story houses, with lovely porches, are modest and charming—especially compared to the mansions up the hill closer to the Pratt campus.

In fact, historic Wallabout, which the Historic District Council defines as eight blocks roughly between Myrtle and Park Avenues, has the largest concentration of pre-Civil War wood frame homes in the city.


Wallabout has literary cred as well. Walt Whitman is believed to have lived in the nabe; his former home is supposedly 99 Ryerson Street (not pictured, since it’s covered in cheap siding).

More old-school phone exchanges

November 10, 2009

This old-timey sign belongs to a store on Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill. the UL exchange stood for Ulster.

But what was Ulster? It’s a mystery. A New York Times article from February 1947 announced that 4,200 households in Flatbush “who have wanted telephone installations since the beginning of the war” would be getting UL numbers.


Strangely, Joe’s Superette, on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, also has a UL number. That’s a bit of a hike from Myrtle Avenue.


Meanwhile, on a residential building in Harlem, the “In Case of Emergency” number above still stands next to an elevator shaft. LE for Lenox Avenue.

A beautiful block in Clinton Hill

July 23, 2008

An old Brooklyn postcard dated August 17, 1908. “Love from cousin Emma” it reads, addressed to Miss Virginia Mollenhauer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The cross streets aren’t named. I hope these gorgeous homes still stand and are well cared for.

Graham Home for Old Ladies

April 7, 2008

Now it’s a luxe Clinton Hill co-op. But this foreboding structure was built in 1851 as the “Graham Institute, or Home for Respectable Aged, Indigent Females.” Sounds like a genteel place, but a New York Times article from 1887 describes how residents were physically abused by the staff.

The name was shortened in 1899, and as the neighborhood declined, the home shut down. By the 1970s it had become the seedy Bull Shippers Motor Lodge, then sat empty until 2001.