Posts Tagged ‘Midwood Brooklyn’

Faded ad reveals an old Brooklyn phone exchange

September 3, 2015

It’s hard to tell how old this Realty Corp. faded ad is. But it could date as far back as 1930. That’s when the Midwood phone exchange was created, usually abbreviated MI.


Construction off Kings Highway and East 16th Street brought the ad—and vintage graffiti—back into view. The best vantage point: from the Q train platform at the Avenue P Kings Highway subway station.


Phone exchange spotting is always fun, and there’s plenty of signs and ads still left in the city that have them. Just keep your eyes peeled!

Before Hollywood, Brooklyn made movies

January 16, 2012

Midwood, Brooklyn was a quiet, neighborhood with lots of open space back at the turn of the 20th century.

So in 1905, the American Vitagraph Company, then on Nassau Street in Manhattan, picked East 15th Street and Avenue M as the site for a vast movie studio described as “the model and forerunner of the studio system.”

“Vitagraph boasted the first glass-enclosed studio, a studio tank for battle and sea scenes, costume and set design shops, vast editing and processing rooms and lavish sets,” writes Kevin Lewis in Editors Guild Magazine.

More elaborate facilities meant more films were made, keeping up with the demand from a movie-loving public.

Stars were groomed: John Bunny, Norma Talmadge, and Florence Turner. Local residents rented their homes and furniture when the studio needed extra props.

Brooklyn’s movie-making era didn’t last long, thanks to World War I and the relocation of the industry to Los Angeles.

In 1925, Vitagraph was sold to Warner Brothers, who used the building to film shorts into the 1930s.

In fact, this clip from a 1933 Fatty Arbuckle short, Buzzin’ Around, was filmed right outside the studio, with the elevated B and Q line behind them—looking the same as it does today.

Today the Vitagraph building is an Orthodox Jewish school. The old smokestack, however, remains.

What remains of two long-gone Brooklyn villages

January 8, 2012

Ever hear of the Brooklyn towns of Greenfield and South Greenfield?

These “suburbs” appears to have been centered between Avenue M in today’s Midwood and Flatlands to the south.

Greenfield “was laid out in 1851 on 67 acres of land which the United Freeman’s Association had bought from Johnson Tredwell,” reports The Eagle and Brooklyn, from 1893.

“To this property they added the Ditmas farm in 1852, making a total acquisition of 114 acres.”

The Greenfield name didn’t last long; the town was renamed Parkville in 1870. Still, its main streets named after trees (like Elm, which starts across from the M Street subway station) that don’t conform to Midwood’s neat street grid remain.

South Greenfield appears to have hung on a little longer. It’s marked on this map from an 1895 New York Times article on Brooklyn suburbs. (Look in the center, off of “Smith Street Trolley.”)

“The pretty village of South Greenfield lies on the line between Flatlands and Gravesend,” another 1895 article says, cryptically alluding to its attractions.

At some point in the decades soon after, South Greenfield disappeared.

The famous alumni of Midwood High School

July 23, 2009

What do Woody Allen, Marvin Hamlisch, and Emmanuel Lewis all have in common? All three graduated from Brooklyn’s Midwood High School. Woody got his diploma in 1953, Hamlisch in the early 1960s, and Webster in the ’80s.

MidwoodhighOther famous Midwood students include Grease‘s Didi Conn, poet June Jordan, and Prison Break star Wentworth Miller (though Miller transferred elsewhere before graduating).

For a school known for its math and science brainiacs, Midwood seems to produce a lot of actors and musicians too.

Midwood was built in 1940 on Bedford Avenue and Glenwood Road; construction costs ran to $2 million. Looks like the board of education got a good deal. It’s a lovely looking school building, with its six columns and cupola crowning the top.