Posts Tagged ‘old Brooklyn’

Gowanus Bay like you’ve never seen it before

April 21, 2017

Could these two paintings really be of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Bay — namesake of the canal that was once a notoriously polluted mob dumping ground snaking through Red Hook and Carroll Gardens?

Hard to believe, but the waterfront — and the creek that became the canal — was once this bucolic and beautiful. The first painting, “Sunset at Gowanus Bay,” dates to 1851. It’s by an Australian painter named Henry Gritten, who lived in Brooklyn in the 1850s.

At the time Gritten painted this, Gowanus Creek was being widened and deepened, according to nyc.gov. The new Gowanus Canal, as it would be named, was supposed to attract industry and compete with New York.

In 1887, long after the canal had been built out, William Merritt Chase did his own take on Gowanus Bay.

I wish I knew where his vantage point was when he painted this beachy scene with a pier, small boats, gentle waves, and not much industry along the waterfront. The Bay looks absolutely swim-able.

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.

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.