11/27/15 10:45am

Famous Brooklyn Stores Retail History

We can blame the late Victorian era for the commercialization of Christmas. The late 1800s gave us an affluent society with the disposable income to buy the vast amount of machine-made goods coming out of American factories.

The Brooklyn Eagle gloried in this consumer excess, writing glowing reviews of the merchandise in stores all over the city and running thousands of ads. No time of the year was more important than Christmas.

We’ve picked five Brooklyn stores to highlight for the holiday shopping season — three old-timers from the Victorian age, and two more contemporary. None of them exist anymore.

They were founded by the same kind of smart, successful and lucky entrepreneurs that abound today, all striving to bring Brooklynites the next greatest thing, especially for the holidays. (more…)

11/26/15 10:45am

Brooklyn Thanksgiving Traditions and History

Thanksgiving in America has always been a rather strange combination of festival, food and frolic. We watch colorful parades in the morning, stuff ourselves in the afternoon and then retire to our couches to watch two teams of modern gladiators beat each other silly for the prize of a silver trophy.

Traditions have evolved since Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the 1860s, but the sentiment has remained the same. Here’s how late-19th-century Brooklyn celebrated, with massive feasts and costumed Fantastics. (more…)

11/16/15 1:00pm

Industry City Sunset Park Brooklyn History Bush Terminal

In the last few years, Sunset Park’s Industry City, a 16-building complex along 3rd Avenue, has become a hub for artist studios and manufacturing bases for local food purveyors and makers, as well as outposts of large companies like Time Inc. The complex has seen increasingly more foot traffic, too, with popular dance parties in the summer and now the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg through the winter.

Its namesake — industry — is still very much at its core. There are big things in store for Industry City, with a staggering $1 billion redevelopment plan that was announced earlier this year. Instead of going toward high-rise luxury condos, this influx of big money is being used to renovate, repurpose and revitalize the massive complex, eventually bringing 20,000 jobs to the vast industrial hub that was once called Bush Terminal.

But how did we get here? It involves a man named Rufus Bush, floating railroad cars and bananas. (more…)

11/09/15 1:22pm

Brooklyn's Literary History -- Libraries and Authors

The written word has always been important to Brooklyn’s history. Walt Whitman, Truman Capote, Pete Hamill, Nelson George, Richard Wright, Isaac Asimov, Jonathan Safran Foer, Marianne Moore and countless other important American writers were either born and raised here, or moved here to write.

Brooklyn has writer’s ink tattooed in its bones, and the borough’s history can be told through its authors’ work as well as the spaces they’ve often occupied — Brooklyn’s libraries. (more…)

11/03/15 1:00pm

Brooklyn Brownstoner montrose Morris Suzanne Spellen Book

Over the past seven years, I’ve written more than a thousand Buildings of the Day and hundreds of Walkabouts and Past and Present columns — all under the screen name Montrose Morris. In the process, I’ve learned a great deal about Brooklyn and its magnificent architecture and history.

I’ve been passionate about chronicling stories about the fascinating people, places and events that have slipped through the cracks of time. It’s important to know the past as we rush headlong into the future.

I’ve long dreamt of writing a book about these passions. And now I will be doing just that. It will be Brownstoner’s first in-print publication, to be released around holiday time of 2016. (more…)

11/02/15 1:00pm

Bed Stuy Brooklyn -- 1897 Merrick Rd LIRR Train Wreck

On Memorial Day 1897, a group of young adults from Stuyvesant Heights’ Green Avenue Baptist Church was involved in a horrible collision between an open horse-drawn coach and a Long Island Railroad train. Last week we shared Part 1 of the story. We now pick up as the investigations and funerals continue. (more…)

10/29/15 1:00pm

Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn -- Merrick Rd LIRR Train Crash

On May 31, 1897, Decoration Day, a group of young adults from the Greene Avenue Baptist Church in Stuyvesant Heights were gathering for a celebration of the holiday we now call Memorial Day.

The group of young people were in their late teens and early 20s. Many of the boys were members of the Alpha Delta Theta fraternity, which was organized through the church. The girls were church members, and most were upscale kids who lived in Stuyvesant Heights and knew one another from their schools, the neighborhood and church.

A majority of the kids and some of the chaperones were going to ride their bicycles to Long Island, but one group wanted to really make a party out of it. So they hired a coach, team and drivers to take them out to the Island, and things didn’t quite go as planned. (more…)

10/28/15 1:00pm

Brooklyn Paramount Theater -- History & Restoration

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

The Brooklyn Paramount Theatre was one of Brooklyn’s famed movie palaces. Like most of the great movie palaces built in the 1920s and ’30s, the Paramount was ornate and over the top. It’s now on its way to being restored, but it was almost lost forever. Here’s a look at its early days. (more…)

Bed Stuy Brooklyn -- 173 Putnam Ave History

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Behind the most ordinary brownstone facades lies the real history of Brooklyn, where prejudice and ignorance against anyone not of Northern European descent was common. In 1907, racial prejudice led to snooping on a wedding that took place in this Bed Stuy house. (more…)

10/26/15 2:30pm

Red Hook Brooklyn -- 764 Court St Electric Welding Co

This month marks Brownstoner’s Steel Anniversary. We’re taking some time to look back at our past, even as we design a new future.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Modern steel-frame construction dates back to the 1880s. The idea of using iron or steel to support a building had been around for a while, but prior to 1885 it was only used for small elements, such as in the framework of an oriel or bay, and only used in structures of only a few stories. (more…)