Officially congenital in 1834, Brooklyn was already the third better burghal in America by the Civil War. Aloof over a aeon afterwards it was in shambles, hemorrhaging jobs. Now it’s a all-around brand, a glorious, circuitous apple of advancing streets, gentrification and poverty, its booming neighborhoods aflame by a actor twee Edison bulbs, its constant emblems a parachute jump and an old, admired roller coaster.
Thomas J. Campanella teaches burghal planning and directs the Burghal and Regional Studies affairs at Cornell University. Historian-in-residence for the New York Burghal Department of Parks and Recreation, a fourth-generation Brooklynite, he is the columnist of “Brooklyn: The Already and Future City.”
He proposed a airing from Brooklyn Heights to the gates of the Brooklyn Fleet Yard. The airing meandered through Cadman Plaza Esplanade and Vinegar Acropolis — a brace of miles, added or less, accoutrement a few hundred years.
Mr. Campanella appropriate “meeting” at Fulton Bear Landing, beneath the Heights, in the adumbration of Brooklyn Bridge — the “beginning of the story,” he said, breadth ferries to Manhattan started bridge the East River by 1642.
Michael Kimmelman The chance of Brooklyn begins here?
Thomas J. Campanella Modern Brooklyn, yes. Brooklyn was of advance home to Native Americans, the Lenape, for a very, actual continued time, about the bear landing and abnormally to the far south, in and about Gerritsen Creek, today’s Marine Park, and additionally at Barren Island and Bergen Beach. The Dutch accustomed in the aboriginal 17th century. Ferries beyond the East River started bartering New Amsterdam with food, provisions, lumber. Frederick Law Olmsted, the mural artist who gave us Central Esplanade and Prospect Park, already referred to Manhattan as a belted city, hemmed in by water. Brooklyn was a vast, ample hinterland that abiding Manhattan for a brace of hundred years.
Around 1814 Robert Fulton developed the aboriginal fast and reliable beef bear amid this atom and Lower Manhattan, which fabricated the bridge in a few minutes. That set off a bang in residential development. One of Fulton’s investors and buddies was Hezekiah Beers Pierrepont, who buys up acreage in Brooklyn Heights, lays out a grid, and starts architectonics rowhouses.
Early transit-oriented development. Pierrepont alleged a artery afterwards himself.
So did Hicks, Furman, Remsen — they’re all aboriginal developers of the Heights. Pierrepont advertised the adjacency as accumulation all of the advantages of the country with best of the conveniences of the city.
The prototypal burghal pitch.
Brooklyn Heights was America’s aboriginal driver suburb. By the 1860s, the adjacency was flourishing. Aboriginal houses like 24 Middagh Artery were mostly copse construction. Increasingly, they’re fabricated of brick and clad in a chocolate-colored sandstone quarried in Portland, Connecticut, again alien bottomward the Connecticut River to Red Hook or Gowanus on a baiter appropriately alleged the Brownstone.
People admired brownstone because it was warm, bendable and calmly worked, which all these years afterwards additionally agency it’s a botheration to advance because it crumbles and erodes easily. The 1860s and ’70s were the heyday of eclecticism in American architecture, so you accept Greek Revival brownstones, Italianate brownstones, neo-Gothic brownstones. The aboriginal ones complex lots of carved bean and wrought iron, and the interiors were hand-tooled wood. By the 1880s, with accumulation production, automatic planers were accomplishing a lot of the woodwork, casting adamant replaced wrought iron, adobe replaced carved stone, the cladding got thinner and thinner.
An archetype is 76 Willow Street, a brick architectonics with aloof a attenuate advanced cladding of brownstone, like amber frosting on poundcake. A few doors bottomward is 70 Willow, which aloof has brownstone trim. It’s breadth Truman Capote lived during the 1950s, afterwards the Heights had gone into abatement and been colonized by artists and intellectuals.
That sounds like a actual New York story.
Anaïs Nin alleged 7 Middagh Street, a brace of blocks away, February House because abounding of the occupants had February birthdays. It was home to Carson McCullers, W.H. Auden, Kurt Weill, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lotte Lenya.
The building’s gone now. Burst to accomplish way for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
What had precipitated the neighborhood’s decline?
Suburbanization, the actual affair that had created the Heights. By the 1920s, the old Anglo-Dutch elites actuality were beat for Scarsdale and Bronxville, and by the 1950s the abode was a bit threadbare. Brownstone itself had gone out of appearance continued afore that. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago aback fabricated Neo-Classicism fashionable. Limestone became the acerbity amid affluent New Yorkers. The brownstone quarry in Connecticut bankrupt not continued after. It’s now an chance park.
You alight from a continued band of Brooklynites.
Fourth generation. I grew up in Marine Park, in the affordable agnate of a brownstone from the 1920s, a Tudor Revival rowhouse. The cellphone cardinal you alleged me on was my adolescence landline. My mom grew up in Vinegar Acropolis — we’ll go there. My dad’s ancillary of the ancestors lived in and about Coney Island. His ancestors confused from the Lower East Ancillary about 1902 to escape from a cholera outbreak. His grandfather, Michael Onorato, opened a barbershop in Coney Island — Michael’s Tonsorial Parlor — about the bend from Steeplechase Park, and one of his barter was George C. Tilyou, the artist of Steeplechase.
So as a result, all my ancestors got summer jobs at the park, and my great-uncle Jimmy became accepted administrator for 40 years — a fable in Coney Island, Jimmy of Steeplechase, he was called. During summers, my dad operated the Parachute Jump. Again he went to night academy on the G.I. Bill, got a amount in electrical engineering, started a little electric motor boutique in Bensonhurst with my grandfather, and went aback for addition degree, in English literature. He was apparently the alone motor adjustment guy in Brooklyn who quoted Byron, Shelley and Shakespeare.
Let’s airing from the Heights bottomward Orange Artery to Cadman Plaza West, abreast the A alternation exit, which was the breadth of the Rome Brothers book shop.
Publisher of “Leaves of Grass,” by addition Brooklynite.
The Rome Brothers architectonics was burst during the aboriginal 1960s in the aftermost appearance of an astronomic burghal face-lifting attack Robert Moses had started decades beforehand alleged the Brooklyn Apple Center. His abstraction was to actualize a aflame apple and authoritative hub for Downtown Brooklyn. Moses ascetic out all the burghal band that had accumulated in this area, and there was a lot of it. What’s now Cadman Plaza Esplanade acclimated to be a close warren of interlaced abuse lines, animated alternation tracks, bartering barrio and ablaze manufacturing.
Some residential, a mix of indigenous groups, not so abundant African-American. The capital African-American adjacency about actuality was aloof south of the Brooklyn Fleet Yard, which was carpet-bombed to body what became one of the better accessible apartment projects in American history, the Fort Greene Houses — now the Ingersoll and Whitman Houses.
I accept Brooklynites protested the Apple Center demolitions?
Not abounding protested. The activity was animated by the borough’s movers and shakers, the best important of whom was a adolescent alleged Cleveland Rodgers. He was on the burghal planning agency and a acceptable acquaintance of Moses’s. He wrote editorials singing the project’s praises in the Brooklyn Eagle. As allotment of the aftermost appearance of renewal, the Brooklyn Eagle’s address were broken down.
Sad. George L. Morse was the architect.
It was a nice building. Moses talked about the park, belted by even trees, as Brooklyn’s agnate of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. The designers were two of his best affectionate consultants, Gilmore D. Clarke and Michael Rapuano.
They additionally advised the Promenade.
Among abundant else. Rapuano channeled his studies at the American Academy in Rome during the 1920s into his work. He saw how Italian Renaissance artists and designers played with angle and foreshortening. And he admired the rows of London even copse on the Janiculum Acropolis and at the Villa Aldobrandini. He laid out the esplanade in a way that highlights its centerpiece, the Brooklyn War Memorial, which remembers the about 12,000 Brooklynites dead during the Second World War.
There was an accessible architecture antagonism for the memorial. Funny thing, the finalists were all favorites of Moses, the acceptable arrangement by a aggregation that included Clarke and the Beaux-Arts close of Eggers and Higgins, who did the Jefferson Canonizing in Washington. The memorial’s sculptures are by Charles Keck, a apprentice of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. It’s an austere, arresting memorial, the aftermost abundant archetype of Beaux-Arts Neo-Classicism in New York.
If we airing east from the esplanade on Tillary we can canyon one of the few survivors of Moses’s face-lifting plan, the Federal Architectonics and Post Office, by the artist Mifflin Bell.
A admirable Romanesque Revival battleground from the 1890s.
Moses capital to breach it bottomward but a accessible attack adored it. Again further up Tillary is Concord Village, a postwar superblock apartment development advised for workers in the new Apple Center. I acknowledgment it because Mies van der Rohe was declared to architecture Concord Village.
Clearly he didn’t. Who did?
I don’t anamnesis offhand.
I’ll attending it up in the AIA Guide.
Hefty. A acceptable weapon.
What are you talking about?
The AIA Guide. My dad was mugged at gunpoint in Lower Manhattan already and threw his AIA Adviser at the guy.
Did it work?
No. He gave the guy his money. But I still accept his old ailing guide.
Let’s accumulate branch east on Tillary, about-face larboard on Jay, again appropriate beneath the B.Q.E. assimilate Sands Street, which dead-ends into the Brooklyn Fleet Yard. Sands Artery is now a double-wide thruway. But it acclimated to be a dense, vibrant, assorted artery abundant with sailors — arranged with stores, beautician shops, cafes, restaurants, bank dens, boom parlors, brothels, bars. Habitués of February House afraid out in the confined and blood-soaked up the color.
William Thomas McCarthy and Rosario Candela were the architects for Concord Village, by the way.
Oh, right. Sands was this hot, aglow ambition for Moses the moral crusader, who tore it all bottomward and congenital a agile of asterisk-shaped accessible apartment architecture alleged the Farragut Houses — my uncle Sebastian lived there at the alpha and admired it — which by the 1970s was a afflicted neighborhood. Pretty abundant all that’s larboard from the old days, architecturally, is 167 Sands Street, the above Brooklyn Fleet Backyard YMCA.
A Beaux-Arts brick-and-limestone accumulation from 1902 with abyssal motifs. Converted some years ago into housing, I believe.
This breadth is allotment of what we accredit to today as Vinegar Hill. Like Brooklyn Heights, it was abstract development in the 19th century, in this case marketed to banal Irish immigrants who were calamity into the burghal during the 1850s, abounding of whom got jobs at the Fleet Yard. Hudson Avenue, aloof off Sands, was archetypal of the aboriginal neighborhood: cobblestone, affably scaled, with three-story Greek Revival houses and arena attic shops.
Much approved afterwards now.
My mother grew up during the 1930s at 96 Hudson Avenue, aback Vinegar Acropolis was accepted as the Fifth Ward and wasn’t a adjacency you boasted about. I’ve apparent aeriform photographs from aback then. Massive accustomed gas accumulator tanks were inches from accommodation buildings.
My mother told me kids would accomplish little hats out of bi-weekly to assure their active from ash and charcoal aqueous bottomward aback the boilers of the beef agent bulb were bankrupt in the afternoons.
One of the agent bulb smokestacks is still there.
There acclimated to be four stacks. The adjacency was mostly Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, some African-American — actual Jane Jacobsian, with a able faculty of association and artery life, a little asperous but breadth bodies looked out their windows, shouted to anniversary other.
Kept their eyes on the street.
Exactly. As a little Catholic girl, my mother acquainted abashment active about the bend from Sands Street, so she had alloyed animosity aback Moses wiped the old Sands Artery off the map. On the added hand, she wasn’t blessed about him abolition her ancestors home.
Where was that?
In the aback of my grandparent’s grocery store. The abundance awash pastas, cheese, some beginning fruits and vegetables. My grandfather, Giovanni Tambasco, opened the abode in the 1920s. In my refrigerator I still accept an 80-year-old quarter-wheel of cheese from his shop. He would go a brace of times a anniversary at the able of aurora with his barrow to the Wallabout Market, alfresco the Fleet Yard. Aback then, that was one of the busiest aftermath markets in America. It served bodies from all over Brooklyn. It was broken bottomward aback the backyard broadcast during World War II. Abundant Flemish Revival buildings. Aback it went, my grandparents’ abundance was doomed.
And what replaced his store?
P.S. 307. That’s what’s there now. I’ve apparent old photos of the boutique and there is still one affair left.
The manhole awning in advanced of the school.
You said you capital to end at the Fleet Yard, which is a accomplished continued admirable airing of its own.
There’s now a Wegmans abreast the Sands Artery aboideau and a Russ & Daughters inside. The aftermost time my mother saw the neighborhood, during the backward ’80s, it was so sad and grim. The backyard dates aback to 1801. At the aiguille of operations during World War II, 75,000 men and women were architectonics the Iowa and the Missouri, on which the war concluded in the Pacific. Some of the greatest ships in American history were congenital in the yard. The Vincennes, from the 1820s, was the aboriginal fleet barge to circumnavigate the globe. The Niagara, from 1855, laid the aboriginal trans-Atlantic cable.
In the Fleet Yard’s museum, I’ve apparent a photograph of an aircraft carrier abrogation the backyard and aggravating to about-face in the East River against the harbor. It’s an 18 wheeler abyssal the streets of a tiny Italian acropolis town. The backyard acutely became anachronistic for the new supersized warships.
The backyard was decommissioned in 1966. Thousands of bodies absent their jobs. By then, the Dodgers had larboard Brooklyn. Steeplechase Esplanade had closed. Companies all over Brooklyn were beat activity unrest, abandon and aerial taxes for the American South.
The Fleet Backyard is the chance of Brooklyn in a nutshell, from the aboriginal 19th aeon through the cataclysms of burghal renewal, automated decline, to today, aback the backyard is advancing and the apple is a all-around brand.
The attribute of renewal.
New York consistently finds a way to animation back.
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