Alhambra Apartments on Nostrand Avenue. Photo by Suzanne Spellen
There’s nothing like a Gilded Age apartment to set the heart racing — or to inspire a swap for one’s first born, as the movie Rosemary’s Baby so famously depicted. That particularly coveted real estate showstopper was located in Manhattan’s Dakota building, home to stars from John Lennon to Lauren Bacall.
But Brooklyn has its grand apartment buildings too. These immense elaborate structures attracted admiration like no others — and they still do today. (more…)
Imagine being told your entire life that you were not really a citizen of your town or country. Imagine being treated as an inferior, offered only the most menial of jobs, and told to be happy with your lot in life. Imagine being banned from churches, stores and theaters, even cemeteries, because they did not serve “your kind.”
Now imagine finding a town where you were accepted — a town where you were able to build your own home, worship in your own church, buy from stores owned by people like you, and raise and educate your children in a place where they would be welcome. A town where you could reach old age and pass on in dignity and equality.
For Brooklyn’s African-American population in the 19th century, some of whom were recently freed from slavery, this remarkable town was called Weeksville. And it survives today in bits and pieces, some of which now comprise a historic center in present-day Crown Heights. Here is its story. (more…)
The Excelsior Brewing Company of Bed Stuy was not the best, biggest, or most well known of Brooklyn’s historic breweries, but it did have one of the strangest schemes to survive Prohibition. Unfortunately, Excelsior got caught. (more…)
The Jehovah’s Witnesses — aka the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — first came to Brooklyn in 1908, in hopes of having their sermons syndicated in newspapers alongside the writings of the borough’s most famous pastors. It was under the Watchtower’s autocratic second leader, Joseph F. Rutherford, that the religious group truly began practicing the art of Brooklyn real estate.
This is the 100-year story of how the Jehovah’s Witnesses grew to be a global phenomenon and came to own some of Brooklyn’s most valuable properties. (more…)
Live in Brooklyn long enough, and you’ll be used to change. Shops, restaurants, and bars come and go, warehouses become condos, whole blocks are transformed as high-rises replace three-story buildings.
None of us, however, have lived in Brooklyn long enough to see how much the shore line itself has changed. For that, we need to go much further back.
By looking at almost 250 years of Brooklyn maps, we can watch the entire shape of Red Hook morph as it evolves from marshlands to docklands and beyond. The first stop on our time machine will be 1770. (more…)
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been making headlines in Brooklyn since they moved their headquarters here in 1909. Back then they were called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, led by a charismatic man named Charles Taze Russell.
After being closed up for decades, with the very real possibility of condemnation and destruction in its future, the old Loew’s Kings Theatre came back to life spectacularly in 2015, like the legendary phoenix from the ashes. It was easily one of the year’s greatest triumphs.
“Legendary” is apropos, because this massive theater was one of the Loew’s company’s five “Wonder Theaters,” all built with great pomp and splendor at the beginning of the Great Depression. (more…)
1910 New Year’s Eve party in NYC. Photo via Ephemeral New York
For those following the Gregorian calendar, and that’s most of us, that magic moment when the old year ends in the last seconds of 11:59 on December 31, and the new begins at midnight on January 1, is celebrated with music, fireworks, noise makers, parties and a kiss.
And thus it has been for centuries, with Brooklyn being no exception. (more…)
Beginning in the 1890s and for nearly 40 years after, the Brooklyn Christmas Tree Society brought holiday cheer to Brooklyn’s underprivileged children, treating them to a huge meal, gifts and musical performances.
The annual tradition was founded by a woman named Lena Wilson Sitting, whose legacy of generosity and holiday spirit deserves remembering around this time of year. (more…)
The huge gray cement factory buildings that span Sunset Park’s shoreline between 30th and 37th streets are the remaining structures of Brooklyn’s largest industrial park, Bush Terminal.
The complex was the brainchild of Irving T. Bush, the son of an oilman-turned-yachtsman. Today, these buildings are known as Industry City, an evolving complex made up of workspaces for Brooklyn’s creative economy, as well as future dining, entertainment and shopping destinations. (more…)
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…)