10/02/15 1:00pm

Bushwick Brooklyn -- 81 Beaver St, William Ulmer Brewery History

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Brooklyn has been a beer lovers’ town since the 1850s. But there are only a few of the original brewery buildings still standing. This one is the most well known.

Name: William Ulmer Brewery — main brew house and addition
Address: 81-83 Beaver Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Belvidere Street
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Year Built: 1872, 1881
Architectural Style: Rundbogenstil Romanesque revival
Architect: Theobald Engelhardt
Other Works by Architect: The William Ulmer Brewery office next door and William Ulmer’s mansion on Bushwick Avenue, as well as mansions, row houses, tenements, churches, factories and breweries mostly in Bushwick, Williamsburg and Eastern Bedford Stuyvesant
Landmarked: Yes, the entire brewery complex was landmarked in 2010.

In 1871, German immigrant William Ulmer became a partner in the Vigelius & Ulmer Continental Lagerbier Brewery, on the corner of Belvidere and Beaver streets in Bushwick. By 1879, Ulmer had become sole proprietor and renamed in the William Ulmer Brewery.

The Bushwick section of Brooklyn had become home to most of Brooklyn’s German immigrants, starting in the late 1840s. They brought many different industries and products to this country, but are best known for lager beer, which soon became the drink of choice in New York and, eventually, the entire country.

Before Prohibition Brooklyn had at least 24 breweries, many of them in the predominantly German Eastern District, which included Bushwick, parts of Williamsburg and Eastern Bedford Stuyvesant. The Ulmer brewery was one of the most successful. (more…)

10/01/15 1:00pm

Brooklyn History Dumbo Empire Stores John Arbuckle

If coffee was a controlled substance, most of us would be addicts of the worst sort. Our national morning jones for caffeine has been the catalyst for fortune and failure over the centuries. Everyone loves a coffee shop, and most are welcomed into any neighborhood like a water fountain in the desert.

There have been countless arguments, discussions and even culinary classes about the world’s best coffee — how to grow the beans, roast them, package them and brew them. Our stores are full of different devices that do whatever we need to get us our fixes.

Although many people, especially in upscale urban and suburban communities, swear by their special blends, their small batch, artisanal and exotic coffees, most of the coffee brewed in America comes from a few large companies that supply supermarkets and restaurants across the nation.

The Arbuckle Brothers, working out of Brooklyn, were one the coffee giants of the 19th and early 20th centuries. They roasted and packaged the first popular coffee brand, called Ariosa, and created Yuban coffee, a brand still on the market after 150-plus years. (more…)

09/30/15 1:00pm

Brooklyn Heights -- 18 Cranberry St History

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This elegant Brooklyn Heights row house was built back when the “fruit blocks” were at the center of the Heights.

Name: Row house
Address: 18 Cranberry Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Willow Street
Neighborhood: Brooklyn Heights
Year Built: Around 1845
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: Yes, part of Brooklyn Heights Historic District (1965)

Cranberry Street, like Orange and Pineapple streets, was named by the Hicks brothers, who owned this land before the street grid was laid out in the early 1800s. Cranberry once stretched from Columbia Heights out beyond Fulton Street, now Cadman Plaza West.

By 1821 there were 15 houses along the length of the street. This house was built around 1845 and included the fenced-in yard and the carriage house behind it, today a separate address.

The house is similar to 15 Willow Street, on the corner of Middagh Street: both are brick Greek Revivals, with side entrances. The side of 18 Cranberry faces Willow Street, and was designed to complement and complete the adjacent row of houses.

This house was built to be the same height as its neighbors, but sometime in the 20th century an extra story was added and the cornice was removed. The elegantly curved staircase is original.

The bricked-in windows may or may not be original. Interestingly, 15 Willow has the same windows bricked in. They may have been false windows to begin with, or filled in when Brooklyn’s row houses became boarding houses and apartments. (more…)

09/29/15 1:00pm

Bay Ridge Brooklyn Bay Ridge Branch Brooklyn Public Library History

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

By 1880, Bay Ridge was developing as one of Brooklyn’s premier suburban neighborhoods. Its greatest asset was that wonderful view of New York Bay and the Narrows — close to New Jersey, while simultaneously tied to Downtown Brooklyn and on to Manhattan by trolleys, roads and ferries.

Many of Brooklyn’s moneyed folk were looking to Shore Road as a grand location for second homes. The largest of these homes was owned by Henry Murphy, a lawyer, past mayor of Brooklyn, Congressman, U.S. Ambassador to The Hague and one of the most influential voices in advocating the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. (more…)

09/28/15 1:00pm

666 Fulton St Fort Greene Brooklyn Cast Iron Architecture

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This corner building is one of seven rare cast iron–fronted buildings built in the commercial center of Fort Greene.

Name: Cast iron–fronted mixed-use building
Address: 666 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Corner of South Elliott Place
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Year Built: 1882
Architectural Style: Italianate
Architect: Charles A. Snedeker
Other Works by Architect: Row houses on South Elliott Place
Landmarked: Yes, part of BAM Historic District (1978)

Cast iron–clad buildings began appearing in Lower Manhattan as early as the late 1850s. By the 1880s, they had reached the height of their popularity, with all manner of styles and ornamentation available.

They were touted for being more fire resistant, their construction allowed for larger and greater fenestration, and, let’s face it, they could be gorgeous. The ornamentation and degree of design detail that could be cheaply worked into sheet metal cladding made for beautiful buildings.

New York’s mercantile and commercial strength was made manifest in the cast iron palazzos along Manhattan’s Broadway and SoHo, the Ladies Mile and the buildings of Tribeca. This trend carried over into Brooklyn as well, but in a smaller way. (more…)

09/25/15 1:00pm

Victorian Flatbush Brooklyn Beverley Sq W 317 Rugby Rd

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Who doesn’t love this colorful, perfectly sized and proportioned Victorian Flatbush house? It is one of many built by developer and architect T.B. Ackerson in suburban Flatbush.

Name: Single-family detached wood-frame house
Address: 317 Rugby Road
Cross Streets: Beverley and Cortelyou roads
Neighborhood: Beverley Square West (part of Victorian Flatbush)
Year Built: 1902
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Thomas Benton Ackerson
Other works by architect: Almost all of the houses in Beverley Square West, as well as houses in Beverley Square East and Fiske Terrace
Landmarked: No, but part of a proposed and long-overdue Victorian Flatbush Historic District

Although parts of the suburban neighborhoods we collectively call Victorian Flatbush are landmarked, there are large parts that are not. Many of them contain exceptionally fine residential architecture; some designed by and built by the same men who created their landmarked neighbors.

Efforts are still underway to petition the LPC to protect these neighborhoods, all of which contain homes that have already been torn down for new construction, or architecturally re-muddled beyond recognition.

None of the neighborhoods in Victorian Flatbush developed on their own, or without plan. All had the guiding hand of a visionary planner and developer. They built for profit, but they also wanted to create beautiful neighborhoods that would be their legacy. All succeeded. (more…)

09/24/15 1:00pm

Park Slope Brooklyn History 1915 Edward Reiss

Edward Reiss was a larger-than-life Brooklyn character in the early 20th century who often took matters into his own hands when a situation wasn’t to his liking. Our story today concerns his use of a racist power play to get his way in a feud with a developer.

Reiss was the owner of the Marine Wrecking Company, a very successful salvage company that plied the waters around New York City and the surrounding states, towing in damaged and abandoned craft, and salvaging underwater wrecks.

His name was frequently in the papers after 1910 for his yachting activities. A member of the Park Slope Civic Association, he was one of the Slope’s most aggressive and ardent boosters. When his plans to erect a statue in the area didn’t come to fruition, he was disappointed, but by 1915 he had more immediate problems. A developer was building a six-story apartment building right next door to him.

Edward Reiss and His Neighborhood

Reiss and his wife Jennie lived on the upper edges of Park Slope, in a rather modest row house at 461 15th Street. They were the first owners of this house, which was the lead in a group of four two-family houses built by architect Benjamin F. Hudson and developer Morris Levy in 1909.

The papers referred to the house as a “mansion in a highly desirable neighborhood,” which suggests Reiss may have made some serious upgrades to the home. But after four years of domestic bliss, the building became ground zero for a major feud. (more…)

09/23/15 1:00pm

Crown Heights Brooklyn 947 Prospect Pl Cottage Living

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Who wouldn’t want to live in these charming cottages? These six houses are unlike any others built in Crown Heights North.

Name: Row house cottages
Address: 935-947 Prospect Place
Cross Streets: New York and Brooklyn avenues
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1920-22
Architectural Style: British Arts and Crafts
Architect: A. White Pierce
Other Works by Architect: 759 E. 17th Street and other suburban houses in Victorian Flatbush and Laurelton, Queens
Landmarked: Yes, part of Crown Heights North Historic District (2007)

We visit this row of charming little cottages in my Crown Heights North walking tours, and I am always asked if they were built as servants’ quarters for the now-vanished mansions of St. Marks Avenue, which is right behind this block.

No, they weren’t. The earliest owners of these houses would probably have been highly offended at the suggestion. After all, they themselves were of more-than-moderate income, had domestic help and were fixtures in Brooklyn’s society pages. (more…)

09/22/15 1:00pm

Downtown Brooklyn Grand Opera House History

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Many of the grand store buildings built during the height of Downtown Brooklyn’s days as a pre-eminent shopping mecca are still with us. The Offerman Building, the buildings of Abraham & Straus, Namm’s, Loeser’s, Woolworth’s and Oppenheim & Collins still stand, even though all are now inhabited by new stores and businesses.

But if you look at old maps and photographs of the Fulton Street corridor, between Court Street and Flatbush Avenue, there’s one category of businesses that is totally gone: the theaters.

The only remaining vestiges of Brooklyn’s large theater district are those around and including the Brooklyn Academy of Music — but in the hundred years between the end of the Civil War through the 1960s, they were scattered along Fulton Street and its nearby side streets.

Some were later movie theaters, like the Albee, the Duffield, the Fox and Loews, but a fair number were legitimate stage theaters. One of the finest of these long-gone theaters was the Grand Opera House. (more…)

09/21/15 1:00pm

Gowanus Brooklyn 543 Union St National Packing Box Company

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

This Gowanus factory building once housed the successful packing-box manufacturer James Dykeman. Today, artists work and exhibit here, alongside a museum dedicated to the famous and infamous canal.

Name: National Packing Box Factory
Address: 543 Union Street
Cross Streets: Corner of Nevins Street
Neighborhood: Gowanus
Year Built: 1889
Architectural Style: Typical late-19th-century brick industrial building
Architect: Robert Dixon
Other works by architect: Factories, row houses, storefront, tenement and flats buildings in Gowanus, Park Slope, Bedford Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill/Wallabout and other brownstone communities
Landmarked: No, but part of proposed Gowanus Canal Historic District for the National Register

James H. Dykeman was a successful Brooklyn carpenter. In 1877, he decided to branch out and open up a box-factory business.

We tend to think of boxes in terms of cardboard, but back then, wooden boxes of all sizes, shapes and strengths were used to transport everything from fragile china to machine equipment. Someone had to make them — who better than a carpenter? (more…)

09/18/15 1:00pm

Automobile Row Brooklyn 73 Empire Blvd Crown Heights

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

When Ebbets Field opened in 1913, thousands of people flocked to the ballpark from all over. Since the automobile had worked its way into the hearts of Americans as securely as the love of baseball, many of those people had cars. They had to park somewhere, right?

Name: Former garage
Address: 73-97 Empire Boulevard
Cross Streets: Corner McKeever Place
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: Somewhere around 1913-14
Architectural Style: Brick commercial, with Gothic ornament
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

Baseball Meets Automobile Row

The site for Ebbets Field was chosen for several important reasons, one of which was the availability of public transportation. This was the edge of Flatbush, on Bedford Avenue near Malbone Street (now Empire Boulevard) and Flatbush Avenue, all heavily traveled streets with trolley and rail service. (more…)

09/17/15 1:00pm

Brooklyn History Aftermath of Consolidation of New York City

We conclude our look at the “Great Mistake,” the creation of Greater New York City, and the end of an independent Brooklyn. Part One of our story gave the background of the move to consolidate and Part Two explained why it was so important to New York City. Now, the aftermath.

What must have it been like to wake up in Brooklyn on January 1, 1898, and realize that you were not in an independent city but instead part of Greater New York City? To be no longer the captain of your own team, but now a player on someone else’s?

I would imagine for most people, especially the average working man in New York, the consolidation meant nothing, and it was just another New Year’s Day. Some Brooklynites embraced the change, eager to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new rules. (more…)