Posts Tagged ‘Wallabout Brooklyn’

Is this the oldest photograph taken in Brooklyn?

July 23, 2018

This Dutch-style farmhouse doesn’t look like it’s in great shape. But the man in the top hat is standing proudly in front of it on uneven ground beside an enormous tree.

That man and a second man to the left are posing beside what’s described as “the First Meserole House” in Wallabout, Brooklyn, states the Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825-1861.

This daguerreotype dates to 1848, according to the Museum of the City of New York. That could make it one of the oldest photographic images of Brooklyn, if not the oldest.

1848 is almost two centuries after the first French Huguenot Meserole family member arrived in Kings County. One of the original five families of Greenpoint, the Meseroles were very influential in the development of Brooklyn. (Meserole Avenue is exhibit A.)

Based on the image, it’s impossible to know exactly where it is in today’s Wallabout. But the house might not actually be Wallabout (above, in an 1840 map) at all.

Greenpointers.com notes that the Meserole farmhouse once stood at 723 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint—which became the Meserole Theater in the 20th century, and now houses a Rite-Aid.

[Image: MCNY: 42.121; map of Brooklyn 1840: David Rumsey Map Collection]

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.

Prisonshipengraving

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.

Wallabouthouses

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.

Wallabouthouses2

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).