Battle Pass Project at Bergen & Smith Streets


This is the third year the Boerum Hill Association has supported an art installation at this intersection. We’re proud to present a Boerum Hill artist’s work and offer a place to sit and contemplate art. Here is the artist’s explanation of the work. We hope you enjoy it.

Battle Pass – Revolution II by Sasha Chavchavadze

“Battle Pass – Revolution II” was inspired by the Liberty Pole, a ship’s mast erected in Lower Manhattan as a symbol of protest in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War and by Walt Whitman’s poem about the battle, “The Centenarian’s Story.” The Battle Pass project, a series of public art installations, performances and workshops, draws parallels between past and present as it explores the complexity and devastation of war.

In the spring of 1776, Brooklyn prepared for war; farmers abandoned their homes and fields. Soldiers from other colonies arrived, and built a string of forts from Brooklyn Heights to Red Hook to defend Manhattan from British attack. Cobble Hill Fort stood almost due north of Bergen and Smith Streets, on a hill that once rose near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street.

From this vantage point in Cobble Hill, George Washington watched the Battle of Brooklyn unfold on the morning of August 27, 1776. He saw a small band of soldiers from Maryland fight, and die, at the Old Stone House to the southeast – in what in now Park Slope. And he saw his fledgling army, outmaneuvered and overwhelmed by British and Hessian forces make a hasty, desperate retreat across Gowanus Creek.

When the battle ended, Washington’s army was cornered, trapped between enemy troops and the East River in the very forts they had constructed to defend the city. The American Revolution could easily have ended here, in Brooklyn, if Washington had not made a daring escape to Manhattan by boat. Approximately nine thousand soldiers were ferried from Fulton Landing – to the north west of this spot – and across the East River to safety.

Eighty years later, Walt Whitman published “The Centenarian’s Story,” recalling the Battle of Brooklyn in the voice of an elderly veteran – remembering what happened here before these streets and brownstones were built:

The years recede, pavements and stately houses disappear.
Rude forts appear again, the old hoop’d guns are mounted,
I see the lines of rais’d earth stretching from river to bay,
I mark the vista of waters, I mark the uplands and slopes;
Here we lay encamp’d, it was this time in summer also.

Battle Pass is an initiative of Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery in Partnership with the NYC Department of Transportation Urban Art Program and the Boerum Hill Association.

Battle Pass Collaborators: Angela Kramer Murphy, educator; Eva Melas and Robyn Love, workshop artists; and Paul Benney, performer.

Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215, www.proteusgowanus.org

Battle Pass dedication

a href=”http://boerumhillassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/photo-6.jpg”>

(April 6th, 2012)

Living in Boerum Hill


While shopping for dinner recently I ran into an old friend and neighbor, Joe Mobilia, and we started talking about the growth of Boerum Hill. He reminded me about an article his wife, Wendy Smith, had written about why we choose to live here. It was written in 1998 but holds true today. Click on the link below.

Wendy_Smith_Preservation_article

(March 1st, 2012)

The kind of development we need.


I love the story of Hoyt/Schermerhorn. No — not this bad story. This awesome bringing-the-neighborhood-together story. How it took years of dialogue among residents and politicians. How a plan came together that made sense, fit into the neighborhood, made its strengths stronger and erased its weaknesses. Unlike other developments.

(August 31st, 2009)

Brownstone history in a nutshell


A brilliant article written by veteran Boerum Hill resident (is he still? idk) L.J. Davis. Reminds me that I need to read his book, “A Meaningful Life.”

(August 24th, 2009)

Pub Walks rule. More please.


Our original Boerum Hill Pub Walk is repeating itself: on July 14th and August 11th – both Tuesday nights, at 7:30. Same route as last time. Same awesome commentary and historic photos from Erik. Same inane witty banter from Chuck the tour guide. And most important, the same great bars. 

If you missed out on the first one, now’s your chance. Just $10. 7:30pm at the corner of Court & Atlantic. Call 646-320-5657 or email bha.pubwalk@gmail.com for more info. Or read the original post/press release

Cheers!

PS: This tour will not run in September or October so we can prepare for our next great, all-new pub walk — Haunted Boerum Hill — so act now or miss it forever!

(July 1st, 2009)

NYT “Thinking of Living in Boerum Hill”


Reminder – this was in the Times in 2003 – It’s still a great place to live!

(June 30th, 2009)

Our First Ever PUB WALK!


Yes — an event so important, I had to use the CAPS LOCK button. Forgive me. I don’t use it often. 

Tuesday, June 23rd – 7:30pm: It begins outside Trader Joe’s, at Atlantic & Court. The BHA’s first historical Pub Walk through Boerum Hill. A mere $10, accepted at start of walk. With drink specials coming from the three pubs we’ll visit: Brazen Head, Brooklyn Inn and Hanks. 

Join us for a fun night of  interesting tid-bits about Boerum Hill, as you pass by famous addresses, historical sites and stop in for a drink at three cool local pubs. It’s not a pub crawl, but a chance to see and hear history come alive as we pass through the heart of Boerum Hill (with, of course, a civilized drink or three along the way). 

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
PUB WALK THROUGH BOERUM HILL

 

The Boerum Hill Association announced plans today for its first Boerum Hill Pub Walk, a series of 2-hour guided tours through the neighborhood it expects to host throughout the year for residents interested in learning about its rich history.

 

Modeled after “Original London” Pub Walks, the association’s first pub walk on June 23rd will follow a trail highlighting Boerum Hill’s role in history, from key revolutionary war battles to the home of Mohawk Indian steelworkers, all centered around short pit stops at 3 history-laden local pubs along the route – the Brazen Head, the Brooklyn Inn, and Hanks Saloon.

 

Board member and tour organizer Chuck Wells said, “These Pub Walks are going to be a fun way to discover (or rediscover) Boerum Hill as a small group taking a relaxed walk. If there’s strong interest we can always add more dates to accommodate more people. And for later in the year, we’re planning a second Pub Walk to focus on the history of haunted spots in the neighborhood. If nothing else, it’ll be a great way to meet neighbors and soak up the amazing history of our little part of Brooklyn.”

 

Tickets for the Tuesday, June 23 Boerum Hill Pub Walk are a mere $10, but do not include drinks (some pubs have promised us special discounts). Walk begins at 7:30pm sharp, and is limited to 20 participants. Meet outside Trader Joe’s at SW corner of Court & Atlantic. 

For more information, please call 646-320-5657 or email bha.pubwalk@gmail.com, (or come to the BHA General Meeting on June 18, 7pm, Belarusan Church at Atlantic and Bond)

(June 18th, 2009)

Brooklyn Eagle Reviews BHA Calendar


“It’s a must-have for all Boerum Hillers. The 28-page full-color 2006 Boerum Hill Calendar was just published by the Boerum Hill Association, and it’s a real looker. The seasonal photographs range from Victorian lookalikes now-covered streetscapes to those depicting Boerum Hill’s famous street fairs—the Atlantic Antic and Smith Street’s Bastille Day. Holidays are all noted as well as the all-important days that alternate-side- of-the-street parking restrictions are lifted.”

Read more (950KB PDF)

(October 31st, 2005)

Were There Ever Roof Gardens in Boerum Hill?


by Erik Fortmeyer, Boerum Hill Historian

Q: Were There Ever Roof Gardens in Boerum Hill?
A: Yes there were. The idea and use of roof gardens in Brooklyn and Manhattan saw its heyday from the late 1880s up through the beginning of World War I. Boerum Hill was no exception.

Q: How long have roof gardens been around?
A: Roof gardens have been in use almost since the dawn of time for domesticated mankind. Written records and drawings from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt show examples of early roof gardens built on earthen houses in those warmer climates. Ancient roof gardens were often given basic furnishings and used for guests as described in 2 Kings 4:10. A paralyzed man was lowered by four friends to Jesus to be healed from a hole dug through a house’s roof garden in Mark 2:4. An amusing commentary in the Brooklyn Eagle from June 10, 1894 on observed roof gardens in towns other than Brooklyn noted, “Beer and music have as natural a conjunction now as they did in the day of Omar Khayyam. Let’s see. What is it he says?

A book of verses underneath the bough,

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread – and thou

Beside me, singing in the wilderness –

Oh, wilderness were paradise now!

That verse so accurately phrases the functions of the roof garden as to make it seem likely that the Persians were the first roof gardeners. Indeed, we know that the practice, now common in New York, of sleeping on the roof on warm nights and falling into the yard in the morning was oriental in its origin. Other times other manners, and the nineteenth century youth has for his book of verses “Doisy Bell” and “After the Ball,” his jug of wine is a stein of cold Milwaukee, his loaf of bread is a cheese sandwich, the wilderness is typified by six geraniums and a rubber plant and the one who sings in the wilderness is Mlle. Marguerite Obrion, from the Folies Galere, at Toulon.”

Q: What was the point of roof gardens?
A: Life in the city can be pretty miserable without air conditioning! In the days before AC, the dog days of summer in New York would often see residents out on porches and fire escapes trying to escape the indoor heat in houses and flats. Brownstones were usually built with what were referred to in the 19th Century as “piazzas” on the backs of the parlor floors to act as porches where the family could relax in the cooler air. Most were later closed in and are often referred to today simply as “extensions”. Noted American impressionist painter Childe Hassam (1859-1935) painted “Last Light on the City” in 1893 which was reviewed in Brooklyn as “with its girls on a flowery house top, looking over the expanse of dreariness that a city is when it is not glorified, as in that canvas, by the fire of sunset, has an extraneous interest as well as an artistic one, for it suggests that such roof gardens are feasible and desirable in the towns of this land where streets lack shade and yards lack room and air lacks purity and people lack parks and privacy. We live under flat roofs, most of us, and what is to hinder running a rail along them and putting palms and such things there? The withering evenings of June, July, August and September could be more easily endured at a height above the smoking pave, and the citizens could do their gasping and perspiring more freely in more negligee attire on the house tops than on the door steps.” A trend began in Manhattan and later Brooklyn starting around then to develop roof gardens as a way to make summer evenings more bearable and maybe even entertaining. One 1894 comment said it all, “Music, beer, food, coolness and society. That is what the garden is for.”

Q: What was a roof garden like in the old days?
A: Let’s answer this one with a portion of an article that appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle on July 14, 1889. “Every Summer the roof garden develops more and more in popularity and attractiveness among the stay at homes, and some of the efforts made by these unlucky ones who are penned in the heart of the city during the heated term are wonderfully ingenious, and go far toward mitigating their misfortunes. Most of the people who are sufficiently well off to own a house in the town can afford to leave it in the Summer, but it is the denizen of the multitudinous flat who is often forced to remain in this flat all during the dog days, and to these the roof garden is an agreeable little oasis in the desert of their Summer existence. Most landlords will not permit earth to be conveyed to or plants raised on top of their houses, but he does not object to having the tenant carry up a load of clean beach sand on the elevator and cover the concrete with a layer of it which forms a very good imitation of a gravel walk and dries so quickly that even should there be a rain in the afternoon it is quite possible to sit there in the evening with comfort. Those who can afford it have a glass screen erected on one side to keep off the winds, as the breezes are apt to be pretty lively at that elevation. Then a pretty red and white awning is spread across palms and potted plants, shrubs and boxes full of growing flowers are disposed about attractively, wicker chairs and tables are fetched up and if there be a convenient chimney a hammock is swung, and some of these gardens in the hands of tasteful owners become things of beauty and an all Summer joy.”

Q: What did people do up on these roof gardens? Was it worth the effort?
A: Let’s continue some more in that same article. “A certain family on Thirty-sixth street, who have bestowed particular pains to make their roof garden attractive, say that they find on the whole they can spend more time out of doors in this manner than in the Summer in the country. The whole thing cost them about $60 to fit up, and the six members of the family have discovered that for this sum, which would not have supported them one week in the seashore hotel, they can remain in very good health and get a fair degree of pleasure out of life during the hot weather. The flat building in which they live being a very tall one, they have beautiful views from their green eyrie all over the bay and of green hills in the distance in the other directions. They get clean, fresh sea breezes off the water and plenty of sun, so that to look at the young people of the family one might imagine from their tanned cheeks that they have spent the Summer cruising on some luxurious yacht instead of living on the ninth floor of a New York flat. The young children play dolls and marbles upstairs in the shadow of the awning all morning. The older women bring up their fancy work and sew there, write letters at one of the tables or read novels swinging in the hammock. Five o’clock tea is brought up there and partaken of out of doors, and when the sun gets low enough to have lost something of his vigor the young people play tennis, having set up a net and marked out a court on the roof, with tall nets swung up around it to keep the ball from plunging over into the street below and startling some cab horse into hysterics. All the family lounge there after dinner, chatting, smoking, singing choruses to a banjo accompaniment and breathing in salt winds from the bay over which they can see the silver path of the moonlight and the gleam of Liberty’s torch.” Not too bad!!!

Q: Were there any of these in Brooklyn or were they all in Manhattan?
A: Manhattan certainly had more roof gardens in the nineteenth century due primarily to simply having more buildings. Many of the Brooklyn roof gardens were located on top of the saloons and “hotels” that used to dot the sloping east side of Furman Street opposite the tall warehouses on the East River side from Fulton Street down to Atlantic Avenue. The heaviest concentration was from 89 to 183 Furman running from about Cranberry to just south of Clark. A fine description of them was given in 1888 as they “are topped with brightly blooming gardens of flowers and shrubs, sprays of whose vines overhang the parapets or climb high trellisses far above. Where the buildings are lower, one may see above the backs of tall houses towering heavenward. From quiet, brown stone lined Columbia heights are seen the river below and planted flowers gardens, fountains vine covered arbors and smooth, grassy lawns sloping to the abrupt edge of the street at the back. The only apparent evidence of habitation beneath this green carpet is the fact that here and there brick chimneys rear their blackened heads and silently breathe forth the smoke of the smithy or furnace at work in the shops or caves on Furman street. Although the upper floors in these turf roofed houses are rather damp no special inconvenience is experienced by the hardy inhabitants. The roofs are very strong and well supported, having to sustain in many cases sufficient earth for the growth of small trees. The buildings are of stone and brick, and as no lighting is possible from the roof or back, nor from the sides, as they are continuous, the darkness of Tophet is not a circumstance to a ‘first floor back’.” A brand new theater was planned in 1890 for the former site of the Donnelly Olympic Theatre later the Holmes Standard Museum at 434-436 Fulton Street opposite the current Bridge Street, but it was not to be. Elaborate plans were made by a well known Manhattan theater owner named Alexander Herrmann for a new “four story brick building, 35.9×100, to be used as theater offices, lodge rooms and roof garden” (note the proposed drawing with visible fancy roof garden). Business losses incurred by Herrmann slowed completion of the building until he was forced to sell out. It was later completed as a regular store building, run as an unsuccessful dry good store in 1899, and finally sold in early 1902 for absorption into the expanding Abraham & Straus buildings (now Macy’s). Another new building with a designed roof garden was the 1892 headquarters of the YWCA at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Schermerhorn Street. The roof garden was described as “striking and attractive” available for summer use covering the rear half of the roof with “a very fine view”. Another was built on the roof in 1894 of the new theater at the intersection of Fulton Street and DeKalb Avenue. These new buildings promoted their roof gardens actively noting they had new elevators going right to the roof and colored lights powered by electricity. New tenement buildings known as “wage earners’ homes” were designed in some cases with roof gardens for the “general good health” of laborers.

Q: Why were roof gardens popular with theaters? What about Madison Square Garden?
A: HVAC. Those letters today refer to “heating, ventilation and air conditioning” and those who install and maintain these vital systems. But it wasn’t until 1888 when first generation mechanical cooling systems (fans) were installed in some factories and it took until the 1920s for the general public to experience true “air conditioning” (cooling with the removal of some humidity) in some movie theaters. Large indoor public gathering places before then caused concern with public and medical officials about the healthfulness of “the unwashed masses” mixing together in poorly ventilated buildings. The accumulation of heat and odors after multiple, daily performances by June made most theatres and opera houses unbearable causing them to close for the summer season. It wasn’t until 1911 that the Folies Bergere Theater in New York City was the first to install an air-conditioning system. Back in the 1880s, visits to seaside hotels, outdoor amusement parks, amphitheaters, and new “base ball” parks became the standard source for summer entertainment. Theatre owners who did not want to lose revenue from an entire season began to take note of the roof garden trend in several cities. Why not build a stage and seating on the roof of their buildings and have shows up there when it is not raining? Soon three Manhattan theatres had done just this including the Casino, Fifth Avenue, and Madison Square Garden. The second MSG was built at its old site on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street in 1890 by renowned architect Stanford White with a spacious and popular roof garden where orchestras, dances, and all forms of city entertainment took place starting each May 30th. It also had a restaurant up top where Stanford’s notorious womanizing came to an end in 1906 when a jealous husband of an ex-girlfriend shot him down! Brooklyn copied this trend where possible on a smaller scale, but an editorial in 1893 still griped, “Why aren’t there any amusement places in Brooklyn open in the summer? I mean first class amusement. None of the theaters stay open. There are no good concert halls where a man can go and drink a glass of beer and be amused for an hour or so. There are no roof gardens. I don’t see why some manager in Brooklyn doesn’t secure a place for a roof garden and run a high class variety show. He’d make money, sure. People in Brooklyn, especially in hot weather, do not care about traveling across the bridge or ferries to New York to find amusement. They want it near home. Why, if there was any such place in Brooklyn I’d guarantee to go every night if necessary. Coney Island is good for about two visits each season. Then you’ve seen all you want to see and are looking about for something else. The theater managers in this town don’t know what they’re missing.”

Q: Why did roof gardens fade away?
A: Fire inspectors in the late 1890s began to become more and more concerned with commercial roof gardens. If a fire broke out below and the stairwells and elevators were blocked with smoke and fire, how would the fire department be able to get possibly hundreds of patrons to safety? The question was never satisfactorily answered. Meanwhile, functional air-conditioning became available on a limited scale in New York City starting around World War I. With the start of Prohibition in 1919 and the general economic upswing in the Roaring Twenties, the general public began to find the entertainment they craved in the form of “motion pictures” in indoor movie theaters with air-conditioning. As AC units became smaller and more affordable, the willingness to spend time “up on the roof” outdoors declined proportionally. After World War II with home AC units readily available and plenty of cheap, new houses available in the suburbs, roof gardens faded into oblivion.

 

© Erik Fortmeyer 2005

(April 22nd, 2005)

Holiday Time in Old Brooklyn


© Erik Fortmeyer 2004

Q: What were the holidays like in old Brooklyn?
A: The holidays in Brooklyn in the 19th century were similar in some ways to what we often celebrate today. Christmas was the most popular holiday by far then as Brooklyn’s general population then was overwhelmingly of European Christian origin.

Q: What was different in particular in the early days?
A: Brooklyn was much more compact before the Civil War and had more of a small town feel. In the 1840s, the populated boundaries generally enclosed Jay Street to Atlantic Avenue in to the City Hall area. The earlier times saw the holidays focused in on making the period a general holiday for family gatherings. It was not unusual to consolidate holiday gatherings back until New Years Day in antebellum times if the weather was not cooperating. It was considered each young Brooklyn man’s duty to make calls on neighbors with 100 calls being the ‘proper’ minimum. Penny dip tallow candles would light the streets into the evening. Most churches did not have special Christmas services as most Protestant denominations then held to the belief that no one knew the exact day of Christ’s birth. The only exceptions were the Protestant Episcopal and Roman Catholic faiths. There were no hard feelings about this, but they just “had their opinions”

A:. Much of the more notable preaching was done in the 1830s by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Hanson Cox at the First Presbyterian Church which later became today’s Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights. One of the more memorable activities then was listening to the various church bells ringing and trying to pick out the distinct sounds of each bell. The bell of the old St. Ann’s Church then on Washington Street between Sands and Prospect Streets was well known for miles around for its “soft, sweet silvery tone”

A:. By the 1890s, most of the current Brooklyn was filled in with many of the trappings of the modern borough in place.

Q: What was it like for the children?
A: There was a great effort through the 1800s to make the holidays special for young children and the less fortunate. Santa Claus was a part of Christmas day in Brooklyn all through the period. The early days were more of a domestic affair because theatres for going out to Christmas matinees weren’t built until later. Matches had not been invented before the Civil War so, most children would start the winter days well before dawn with steel and flint with a bundle of shavings dipped in ‘sulphur’ to help make a fire. They were often extra motivated on Christmas to see what Santa had brought them in their stockings hung on the fireplace! Children would then be sent to the family’s favorite local water pump with wooden pails for cooking and drinking water. By the 1880s, parents would tell some children that Santa had a new way of delivering toys to all the good boys and girls. He had help from the owners of the new elevated trains running through Brooklyn! Still later in the 1890s, rumor began spreading amongst the wee ones that speedy Santa could travel not only through telegraph lines, but newly installed electrical wires as well!

Q: Were there any special hangouts for the holidays?
A: Brooklyn in the old days had no more favorite holiday hangout than Snediker’s Hotel. This was a wayside inn located “in the country”

A: since 1822 opposite of Eldert’s Lane on Jamaica Avenue just east of the Ridgewood Reservoir in Cypress Hills right on the Brooklyn/Queens border. When it snowed, young Brooklynites would go on a sleigh ride east down Atlantic or Fulton to the then new railroad station and turn onto Jamaica Avenue for completion of the seven mile ride from Brooklyn Heights and later Boerum Hill. The inn was owned by John R. Snediker until his death in 1843 when his son took it over. It was affectionately called “John I’s”

A: then and was a mandatory stopping point for visiting Southerners ranging from Daniel Webster to Sam Houston. Other prominent families including the Astors, Wards, and Belmonts would make the hostelry their summer resort headquarters for many years, but it was Christmas that brought out the Brooklynites in force. The property had a spacious two story mansion with a piazza and ballroom that was the favorite of all Brooklyn belles and beaux of the antebellum years. If there was moonlight on their Christmas parties, they would dance all night long while “a light colored fiddler named Blake”

A: would provide the music and then pass his hat around between dances. Coins before the 1850s were usually silver schillings and six-pences from Spain and Mexico with large-cent American pennies known as ‘cartwheels’. Blake’s hat was surely a sturdy one! Many of the help at Snediker’s still spoke Holland Dutch in those days.

Q: What were holiday decorations like in the 1800s?
A: Holiday greenery and trees would be gathered in New Jersey from Jersey City to Atlantic City and brought by boat for sale in Brooklyn shops mostly along Fulton Street downtown. The designs of these decorations by the 1880s were becoming more and more finished and ornamental usually arranged into wreaths, crosses, and hearts of pine adorned with flowers and silver moss. Wreaths ranged in price then between 50 cents and three dollars per dozen while hearts and crosses varied between $1.50 and $4. Christmas trees were becoming even more popular into the 1870s as many more Germans began emigrating to America. Trees ranged from 50 cents at their simplest for homes while up to $10 was often spent for large trees in churches and Sunday schools. An 1885 Brooklyn Eagle description of front parlor Christmas tree decorations noted them as “hung with pretty wax candles and bearing the queerest fruit the children ever saw – bonbons and dolls and trumpets and drums and boxes of candy and cornucopias and oranges and whistles and balls and earrings and bracelets and breastpins and rings and handkerchiefs and all sorts of things which never, under any circumstances, can be made to grow except upon a Christmas tree, and which only grow on that at Christmas time.”

A: One of the first electrically lighted trees was done in 1885 with great fanfare at the Central Congregational Church.

Q: What kinds of toys were popular then?
A: Toys then, as now, were usually the highlight of Christmas Day for children. Most of Brooklyn’s Christmas shopping was done along Fulton Street in the present day Fulton Mall area. Most of the toy novelties came from Paris. One man in Paris in the early 1880s was a favorite of Brooklyn dealers as he would devote the whole year to inventing new Christmas toys for children. These were very expensive, but sold very well as the times were generally prosperous. Among the toys were a wind-up monkey dressed in a blue flannel sailors suit who would “with the utmost non-chalance”

A: smoke a cigarette and blow smoke in the air! Others included a troubadour doll in an oriental costume that played a mandolin and a wind-up walking giraffe that turned its head from side to side. Dolls then ranged in price from five cents up to $100 in 1881. More common gifts were candies, fruits, picture books, hobby horses, swings, blocks, trumpets, drums, and toy swords. Batteries were never needed then!

Q: How were the less fortunate tended to?
A: Most of the ‘spirit of Christmas’ in Brooklyn after the Civil War was attended to by various benevolent organizations and the myriads of churches. Holiday pageants were often held where gifts were handed out to children and Brooklyn’s less fortunate ranging from the Faith Home For Incurables, the Graham Home For Indigent Females, the Home For Destitute Children, and the Home For the Friendless among many others. Patients at hospitals were often feted and festivities were even held at county penitentiaries. Of local note was the Brooklyn Eagle’s account of a Christmas in 1885: “The seventy children in the Sheltering Arms Nursery, 157 Dean Street, had a merry time yesterday. Immediately after breakfast they assembled in the playroom and shouted with glee at the sight of a large Christmas tree which was decked with toys, bon bons and fruit – donations from the charitable. Turkey and cranberry sauce with other fixings constituted the principal meal, after which an entertainment was given.”

A: The local “drinking clubs”

A: were mostly deserted on Christmas as most of Brooklyn sat down with family to a typical dinner then of turkey, chicken, other poultry, stuffing, cranberry, gravy, potatoes, onions, turnips, ice cream, and the perennial favorite, mince pie.

 

Erik Fortmeyer is the official historian of the Boerum Hill Association.

(December 8th, 2004)
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