Posts Tagged ‘Columbia Heights Brooklyn’

Who named the fruit streets of Brooklyn Heights?

April 5, 2013

CranberrystreetsignThe Columbia Heights section of Brooklyn Heights might be the most beautiful enclave in the borough.

The most charming part? Probably the three quiet, pretty streets named after colorful fruits: Cranberry, Orange, and Pineapple.

The botanical names are a little odd for Brooklyn—and they can be attributed to Lady Middagh, a local resident during the turn of the last century who was a descendant of one of the first families to settle and farm here.

“Prior to her nomenclatures the streets were named for the aristocratic families of the neighborhood,” explains this NYC Parks website. “She found this pretentious and so removed the street signs and put up those of her own fruity design.”

OrangestreetsignThe city took hers down and insisted on keeping the official street names. But Lady Middagh was pretty tough. She refused to give up and replaced the city names again.

“Eventually, the city made her choices official, but ironically, named a street after her own family, which remains today.”

In 1997, the city completed Fruit Street Sitting Area, a small park linking Columbia Heights to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Peneapplestreetsign2There’s also a less interesting explanation for the names, reports this 1993 New York Times piece:

“One tale is that the Hicks brothers, who originally owned the land, sold exotic fruits in the area, and named the streets to honor this occupation.”

A 1920s poet haunts a Brooklyn red-light district

October 19, 2011

Sands Street today is an unremarkable stretch through the Farragut Houses in Dumbo.

But this beachy-sounding street has a very colorful history.

In the late 19th century, it was Brooklyn’s red-light district, so seedy it earned two evocative nicknames: locals called it the “Barbary Coast” in the 19th century and then “Hell’s Half Acre” through the 1950s.

Lined with saloons, rooming houses, gambling dens, and tattoo parlors, Sands Street catered to sailors from the Navy Yard and the East River waterfront.

It also appealed to less rough-and-tumble New Yorkers craving a dangerous thrill.

Struggling young poet Hart Crane (below), an Ohio transplant living just a short walk away at 110 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights, regularly visited Sands Street in the 1920s.

“With Emil away at sea a lot and their relationship intermittent, Crane walked down to Sands Street searching for sex to share in a rendezvous meant not to last,” writes Evan Hughes in his wonderful book Literary Brooklyn.

“Cruising was a dangerous pursuit for Crane in a time of rampant homophobia. More than once he came home beaten and bloodied.”

Crane committed suicide in 1932, leaving behind his poem “The Bridge,” an ode to the Brooklyn Bridge—which he was able to see from his apartment and perhaps Sands Street as well.

[Top photos: Sands Street tattoo parlor, undated, and Sands Street in 1946, from the NYPL digital collection]