Bedford Rest composite 2

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

The Bedford Rest was established as a destination and rest stop in the late 1890s for the hundreds of cyclists enjoying Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway. As the years passed, and the cycling fad waned, the Rest maintained its reputation as a fine restaurant and event space near the excitement of Ebbets Field and Automobile Row. All was well, until Prohibition.

When we think of Prohibition today, it’s remembered as a time when the nation disastrously toyed with a powerful experiment in social engineering. Banning alcoholic beverages seems ridiculous today. No doubt people thought so then, too, and were shocked when it actually happened.

Between 1920 and 1933, alcohol was illegal in the United States. The effects were devastating not only to consumers, but to businesses.

Across the country, breweries, distilleries, wine and spirits merchants, restaurants, saloons and bars went out of business by the thousands.Organized crime, based on bootlegging, grew and flourished.

The country went dry on January 17, 1920. By November of that year, the Bedford Rest was finished. Although the Rest had been running out of steam for years, Prohibition was the final nail in its coffin. (more…)

08/03/15 1:00pm

500 State St, NS, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Our neighborhoods evolve over time, and a building built for one use can be repurposed for something the builders never would have imagined.

Name: Row houses, then funeral parlor, now Zen temple
Address: 500 State Street
Cross Streets: Nevins Street and 3rd Avenue
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill
Year Built: Probably 1850s
Architectural Style: Originally Anglo-Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The architecture
Boerum Hill is one of Brooklyn’s older row house neighborhoods. The houses on these blocks represent development taking place from the 1840s until about 1870.

492-500 State Street — originally a group of five 15 foot wide houses — was probably built in the late 1850s to early 1860s, when the Anglo-Italianate style of architecture had a brief popularity.

These were the first “English basement” houses, with low stoops, leading into an ornate reception area and the central stairs. The kitchen and mechanicals were also down here behind closed doors. Guests would go upstairs to the parlor level. Above that were the bedrooms floors and private parlors.

498 and 500 State Street were combined in 1924 to create the State Street Chapel. Up until the early decades of the 20th century, funerals were generally held at home.


08/03/15 11:31am

Red Hook Stores, SSpellen 2

Sponsored By The O'Connell Organization.

The O'Connell Organization is a family owned and operated real estate development business with over 150 properties in New York State.

Created By BlankSlate

A trip to the Red Hook Fairway may be your excuse to visit the iconic warehouses of Red Hook, but once you are there, stop for a moment and look around.

You are looking at American and international history.

It’s a story of how these Red Hook warehouses—or “stores,” as they used to be called—were the conduit between the cotton fields of the South and the textile mills of upstate New York and New England. And it’s the story of how an Irish immigrant not only made his fortune, but gave Red Hook its shape.

This is the story of King Cotton, and its connection to Brooklyn. (more…)

07/31/15 1:00pm

1513-1519 Pacific St. ChrisDBrazee for LPC 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

It’s human nature to get tired of the same thing – even in architecture. By the mid-1880s, the new Queen Anne style was beginning to change Brooklyn’s streetscape. In Crown Heights North, these were some of the first.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1513-1519 Pacific Street
Cross Streets: Kingston and Albany avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1886
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: William H. Burhans
Other works by architect: 354-356 Stuyvesant Heights, as well as other wood-frame and masonry houses in Brownstone Brooklyn.
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District (2015)

The growth of a new architectural style

American Queen Anne style architecture has nothing to do with the reign of England’s Queen Anne (1702-1714). British architect Richard Norman Shaw introduced “Old English” flair to his contemporary buildings in Victorian England, and the style was adapted by American architect Henry H. Richardson.

Everyone else learned from Richardson and took it from there. Queen Anne design became a very distinctive and wholly American style. It is characterized by a massing of shapes, textures and materials, varied rooflines, and a free borrowing of past styles used in previously unheard-of combinations.

Here, in the earliest group of Queen Anne style houses in Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District, architect William H. Burhans uses elements of the earlier Italianate and Neo-Grec styles, and mixes them with other classical details. (more…)

07/30/15 1:00pm

Rufus L. Perry, Composite

During the latter part of the 19th century, Rufus L. Perry Sr. was one of Brooklyn’s most prominent ministers. Like most of Brooklyn’s leading Protestant clergymen, he had a doctorate, was widely published, and his sermons were quoted in the religion pages of the Brooklyn Eagle. The fact that he was African American, and had been a slave in childhood, was seen as remarkable. Chapter One of our story recounts his life.

But as remarkable as Rev. Perry’s life story and accomplishments were, the world hadn’t seen anything yet. His eldest son, Rufus L. Perry Jr., was about to break the mold.

Rufus Jr. began his life on May 26, 1868, born here in Brooklyn to Rev. Perry and his wife Charlotte. The family lived in a home in what is now Crown Heights North, on St. Marks Avenue, between Albany and Schenectady avenues.

Life for black folks in late 19th century Brooklyn was not easy. The law prohibited many overt forms of discrimination, but the reality was that most black people in Brooklyn lived on the fringe of society.

The schools and everyday life were segregated, and most African Americans were laborers or relegated to service jobs, while a small black middle and upper-middle class struggled to find acceptance and equality in the workplace and society.

The Perry family was part of this emerging black upper-middle class, which consisted of clergy, doctors, lawyers, undertakers, business owners and teachers.

Rev. Perry and his wife raised their children to believe that they were the equals of anyone. They were encouraged to aim high, and become whatever they wanted to become in the world. They should not allow other people’s prejudices to hinder their progress. Young Rufus took that to heart. He was also really, really smart. (more…)

07/29/15 1:00pm

470 Pulaski St. NS, PS 2

Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Warehouse, now residential
Address: 470 Pulaski Street
Cross Streets: Stuyvesant Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard
Neighborhood: Stuyvesant Heights
Year Built: 1909
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Bedford Stuyvesant, which includes Stuyvesant Heights, is so large that one could concentrate on it alone and still have architectural examples that run the gamut of style and history.

This part of Bed Stuy was called the Eastern District back in the late 19th century. In the early 20th century, this particular location was considered part of Bushwick.

Whatever one wanted to call it, it was a busy place with a life of its own. A bit removed from Bedford’s center at Fulton and Bedford, yet not really part of East Williamsburg, either.

The homes here were for the most part modest and middle class, and the needs of the community were served by local businesses.

In 1909, Charles E. Bowman filed to incorporate his new business. He issued $50,000 worth of stock, and got enough investor money to build this handsome building for his moving and storage business. (more…)

Coney Island Bike race, 1890s, 1

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Last time we visited the Bedford Rest, a unique restaurant/café/rest stop developed primarily for the thousands of people from all walks of life enjoying the cycling craze of the 1890s. A place like that would be equally popular today. The owners wanted to expand with the new century. But how far could they go?

The Bedford Rest was Brooklyn’s most popular restaurant/café/event space of its day. Opening in the last years of the 19th century on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway, it catered to the young men and women of the new leisure class.

Eastern Parkway was still primarily a beautiful road through undeveloped fields at this point. The Rest stood alone, a large tented structure on the northwestern side of Bedford and the parkway. It was a convenient rest stop for the many cyclists taking a break here at the top of the hill.

Bicycles were enormously popular at that time. Cycle technology had advanced the bike so that it resembled and rode like the single-gear bikes of today.

Unlike most sports, bicycling was equally popular with men and women, and it was one of the few sports a couple or a family could do together.

The streets of Brooklyn were filled with cyclists, and on weekends they rode up and down Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway by the hundreds, even thousands.

Bedford Avenue was part of a popular route to both Long Island and Coney Island. Professional and amateur racing clubs and excursionists used the Bedford Rest as a starting and ending place for their trips. (more…)

07/27/15 1:20pm

194 Columbia Hts, B Eldredge 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row House
Address: 194 Columbia Heights
Cross Streets: Pierrepont and Clark streets
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: 1860
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights Historic District (1965)

The story: Brooklyn Heights is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in New York City. A historic row house on Columbia Heights, with rear Promenade and Manhattan views, is quite alluring, so it’s no wonder that a neglected, boarded-up house in that location would be the subject of curiosity and desire.

Unfortunately, this report does not solve that mystery. The property has been owned by Dr. Austin Moore since 1969. For whatever reason, he’s been unable or unwilling to do anything with it, other than emergency repairs. He has also refused to sell. But today’s BOTD is not about that.

Rather, it’s a look at the original owner and his family – a family that had the house built and lived in it for at least 80 years. (more…)

07/24/15 1:00pm

235 Duffield, SB, PS

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row house
Address: 235 Duffield Street
Cross Streets: Fulton and Willoughby Streets
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: Early 20th century
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: Like all of Downtown Brooklyn’s side streets, Duffield Street was once mostly residential. It was lined first with wood-framed row houses, and later, brick and mortar row houses and small tenements.

This lot used to have one of those wood-framed row houses on it, part of a group which included the neighboring house. These houses have evidence of use as safe houses and escape routes on the Underground Railroad.

This building replaced one of the frame houses, and was built sometime in the early 20th century. It is first mentioned in the papers in 1906.

It was constructed as the block was rapidly transitioning from mixed use residential to commercial, and was probably built with the two storefronts on the bottom two floors.

This white brick Renaissance Revival building is somewhat a rarity in the neighborhood. Most of the row houses are much earlier, dating from either before or just after the Civil War. They were made of wood or brownstone.

This would have been considered quite a modern building for its day, as innovative as one of the modern glass buildings that are rapidly replacing its neighbors.

This was the building that hair built. In the beginning, it was known as the Gem. (more…)

07/23/15 1:00pm

Rufus Perry, Sr. Weeksville houses, BPL

I often write about the movers and shakers of the 19th and early 20th century Brooklyn — they could be fascinating, and in their own ways, thoroughly modern people. Some of their names grace our streets, our schools, businesses and other buildings.

Most, however, are gone and forgotten, in spite of glowing like torches during their own times.

Rufus Lewis Perry, Senior and his son, also Rufus L. Perry, were quite newsworthy in their day. Between the two of them, their names appeared often in the Brooklyn papers between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression.

During those years, they were the topics of pride, envy, derision, scorn and grudging admiration. Why? Their accomplishments were impressive and many.

But for too many Brooklynites, this proud father and son were too smart for their own good, too uppity, and too grandiose; not exhibiting the proper humility expected from two sons of Africa. But that never stopped them. (more…)

07/22/15 2:00pm

907 Fulton St. SSpellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

When the police raided a gambling den in this building in 1911, patrons escaped by riding down the dumb waiter. Just a few years later, the same space became the clubhouse for one of Brooklyn’s first Colored Boy Scout Troops.

Name: Commercial building
Address: 899-907 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner Clinton Avenue
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Year Built: Around 1908
Architectural Style: Renaissance -Romanesque Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

“The Hill” goes from mansions to apartments.
By the end of the 19th century, Clinton Hill was enjoying its status as one of Brooklyn’s wealthiest and most popular neighborhoods. Grand mansions and townhouses lined Clinton and Washington Avenues, and large churches dotted the streetscape.

In addition to the single family houses, elegant hotels and apartment buildings also rose on these same streets, and “The Hill” as it was called, was still growing.

It stands to reason, therefore, that suitable retail establishments would open on Fulton Street, easily accessible to public transportation and pedestrian traffic.

However, commerce didn’t happen all at once. This building was built on a site once part of a large mansion facing Clinton Avenue. That home stood until at least sometime after 1904, as it appears on the Sanborn Insurance map for that year.

The mansion and its neighbor succumbed to development, and a few years later were replaced by three apartment buildings and this group of stores. (more…)

07/21/15 11:00am

Bedford Rest Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

As the 20th century loomed before them, the middle class Victorians of Brooklyn found themselves with a new phenomenon on their hands — leisure time. Their ancestors never had too much of it, unless they were wealthy. Those below them on the economic scale wouldn’t have any for a long time to come.

As it is again today, bicycling became the favored mode of transportation for those seeking fresh air. Individuals bicycled everywhere they could, and bicycle clubs formed, encompassing members of just about every group of people in the society.

Everyone liked to bike, and the “wheelmen,” (and wheelwomen) as they were called, took to the streets looking for nice long rides within the city. Soon, they began to look for places to stop and rest. (more…)