Past and Present: A.D. Matthews & Sons

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

In 1837, Axel D. Matthews of Massachusetts came to Brooklyn and opened a dry goods store. Over the years, as both Brooklyn and his business grew, Matthews expanded his store, so that by the turn of the 20th century, his was one of the largest establishments in the Downtown Brooklyn shopping corridor. The large store took up half the block of Fulton between Gallatin Place and Smith Street, stretching back all the way to Livingston.

A.D. died in 1900 at the ripe old age of 91. His sons James and G.D. took over the business, which existed until 1917. A.D. Matthews & Sons sold classic dry goods: ladies clothing, children’s wear and toys, home furnishings, fabrics and more. They also stocked men’s clothing, decorative items for the home and ladies’ accessories.

Like Abraham & Weschler (later Abraham & Straus) and Loeser’s, and some of the other establishments on both sides of Fulton Street, Matthews’ store was enormous. The postcard shows the el train running down Fulton Street, with Gallatin Place stretching to the left. The frontage on Fulton Street had large display windows and was obviously expanded several times, as, like A&S, they grew and grew, and added more buildings.

You can also see the loading bays on Gallatin, with delivery wagons at the ready. The store reached all the way around to Livingston with entrances there as well. In 1903, when the tunnels for the subway were being dug underneath Fulton Street, Matthews and the other large stores with multiple entrances on other streets were able to weather the construction, as customers were able to use other entrances. Not all of the businesses on Fulton were as lucky.

Although the store was huge, it didn’t make the press, or seem to stay in the public imagination as some of the others did. I was not able to find out very much information about them at all. The store must have been closed by 1918. That year, the Loew’s Metropolitan Theater was built on the site of one of the store’s wings. According to the Brooklyn Eagle, parts of the theatre walls incorporate the old walls of the store. Today, the Loew’s Metropolitan is a church, the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and the building between Brooklyn Tab and Gallatin Place couldn’t possibly be blander. GMAP

Early 20th century postcard.

Photo: Google Maps.