Wash Hull, Muni Building, Arch and Design, 1903

In 1903, a young architect born and raised in Brooklyn won the most important architectural competition of the new century. Against all odds, this relative newcomer beat out well-known and experienced architects like the Parfitt Brothers, William Tubby and Rudolfe L. Daus, and was awarded the commission to design the Borough of Brooklyn’s new Municipal Building. Washington Hull was the talk of the town.

You can catch up on Mr. Hull’s upbringing and early history in Part One of this story. He was still establishing his solo career after working as a draughtsman and head of that department for McKim, Mead & White. He left that firm along with two co-workers, and they started their own office as Lord, Hewlett & Hull.

They seemed to be golden, winning a couple of good commissions, including a Reading Room building for Grace Episcopal Church in Brooklyn Heights and a precinct house in Kensington. They also came in second in a competition to design the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And then they landed the big one: the multi-million dollar mansion for Senator William Clark on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan; a building that was to be the largest, most expensive house in New York City. (more…)

Wash Hull, composite

This story is the stuff of novels and movies. A hometown boy, educated in Brooklyn schools, goes on to college and returns home, ready to perform Great Deeds in his chosen profession. He has some initial success working for the top company in his field, he gets married to a beautiful woman and has five lovely children, and he is recognized in his profession as a rising star. One day he is asked to join a competition. If he wins, he will achieve one of the greatest pinnacles of his profession’s success, and he will be a household name. Against all odds, and against incredible competition, he wins, and his name is plastered all over the papers. But before he can proceed with his project, he is shot down by political machinations, his name is stepped on, and his star falls rather rudely to earth. What happens next is both tragic and mysterious. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Brooklyn architect Washington Hull. (more…)

jewish delis bhs

Traditional Jewish delis have dwindled in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn Historical Society is inviting three deli owners to discuss how they’ve survived and thrived as the borough has changed around them. Deli historian Ted Merwin will talk about the “the glories, challenges, and traditions of serving up corned beef” with the owners of Junior’s in Downtown Brooklyn, Jay and Lloyd’s Kosher Deli in Sheepshead Bay and Mile End Deli in Boerum Hill. The panel will happen tonight at 6:30 pm at BHS headquarters at 128 Pierrepont Street. Tickets cost $10 or $5 for members.

Image via Brooklyn Historical Society

Mac Levy ad, NY Sun, 1905

We Americans love “Trials of the Century.” From time to time, heinous crimes are committed that cause the entire country to sit up and take notice of the deeds of a notorious criminal, usually a murderer or a thief of enormous proportions. Those trials are hyped up in the papers and media, and usually by the time the case actually comes to the trial phase, rare is the person who doesn’t already know every detail of the crime and the criminal already. Such was the case in 1903 when the murder case against William Hooper Young took place.

He was accused of killing a pretty young woman of dubious reputation in 1902. Her name was Anna Pulitzer. It was said that he picked her up on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, took her back to his father’s apartment near the Plaza Hotel, and killed her. He then took the body out of the apartment in a trunk, rented a horse and wagon, and dumped her body into the Hudson River in New Jersey. Her body washed ashore a couple of days later.

The motive seemed unclear until it was revealed that William Hooper Young was the black sheep grandson of the late Brigham Young, the powerful Mormon leader who founded Salt Lake City. The Mormons were a secretive and mysterious group, as far as much of America was concerned. They had a long history of persecution and death that ran from NY State, where they were founded, across the country to their haven in Utah. Up until it was outlawed, and even beyond, they practiced polygamy, which both repelled and fascinated Americans. They were also insular and as a group, extremely rich. (more…)

Singsing, ossiningdemocrats.com 1The murder trial of William Hooper Young was set to being in February of 1903. Young was accused of killing a woman named Anna Pulitzer of Manhattan. She was the pretty, 24 year old wife of a man named Joseph Pulitzer. The couple lived in what is now Hell’s Kitchen, on West 47th Street. Anna was known to police as a sometimes prostitute and streetwalker. Her husband was involved with local politics, but didn’t seem to have any other employment.

In spite of that, Anna walked around with diamonds and other jewels, was very well dressed, and was known to love the good life. She picked who she chose to step out with, always wealthy men, and been seen talking to William Young on the street after midnight, the night she disappeared in 1902. Her body washed up on shore in New Jersey several days after her disappearance.

The evidence against Young was strong. He was identified by several witnesses who saw him with Anna, and later, by those who said that he moved a large heavy trunk the night of the murder, and rented a horse and wagon to take that trunk to a pier in New Jersey. When police finally identified him and went into his apartment, they found bloodstained towels in a cupboard also filled with blood. They only needed to find William Young. (more…)

Mac Levy, Young and Pulitzer, NY Herald, 1902

On a balmy September night in 1902, a beautiful young woman named Anna Pulitzer went out on the town in Manhattan, on the last night of her life. Around midnight, she was seen buying rolls for her husband at an all-night bakery on West 47th Street. She was then seen talking to a young man on the street, and she went off in a cab with him, still carrying the rolls. Two days later, her nude body washed ashore in New Jersey. She had been murdered, and her body had a large cut in the abdomen.

Her husband, Joseph, had been considered a suspect, but was soon cleared. Suspicion went next to the mysterious young man who had ridden away with her into the night. Someone matching his description had also rented a horse and wagon in New Jersey, and had not returned it, the very same night as the murder. The man did return the rig late the next day, but couldn’t pay the overtime fine. He told the stableman that he worked for a local paper, and was good for the payment.

When police took the stableman to the office of the paper, he picked out the young man from a photograph. He was William Hooper Young, once a co-owner of the paper. Young was also the grandson of Mormon leader Brigham Young, and had a very wealthy father who kept a large apartment in Manhattan, near the Plaza Hotel. This was the same area where the West Side cab driver had let Anna Pulitzer and her gentleman friend out. It wasn’t looking good for young Bill Young. (more…)

M30207-6 001

Arts blog Hyperallergic has published some very cool photos of a Clinton Hill mansion, showing the interiors and decor as they were in the 19th century. The house, 353 Clinton Avenue, is no longer standing.

The photos surfaced as part of an auction at the Swann Galleries that takes place December 11. Lot 47 of Sale 2370 consists of seven albumen prints in a gilt-lettered leather album with marbled endpapers. The date of the album is estimated to be approximately 1876 and the photos show elaborate Aesthetic Movement, Neo-Grec and Japanese influenced interiors with painted ceilings, wallpaper and gas lighting. The spaces include the main hall, a reception room, library, drawing room (pictured above), family room or living room, dining room and a butler’s pantry.

We’re guessing from the type and arrangement of rooms that this house was wider than the average row house. The butler’s pantry is especially elaborate and interesting, with copious room to display plates, bead board backing, and Japanese-influenced cupboards and divided lights that would later become common in early 20th century bungalows. The home belonged to industrialist and chemist W.H. Nichols.

Click through to see all the photos.

19th-Century Photos of a Brooklyn Brownstone [Hyperallergic]
Photos via Hyperallergic


Early 20th Century NYC, Smithsonial Magazine 1

“Professor” Mac Levy, born Max Levy, of Brooklyn, was a self-made man, and one of America’s first fitness entrepreneurs. At the turn of the 20th century, he had made quite a name for himself in New York City and Long Island, and was building his fitness empire, ready to expand to wherever the market led him. As a puny and sickly teenager, he had decided he wouldn’t live that way, and through diet and exercise, especially swimming, calisthenics and weight lifting, he had built himself up into a healthy and strong young man; billed on the vaudeville and speaking circuits as a “young Hercules” and “Brooklyn’s Perfect Man.”

He spent years building up his business by building himself. He was an advocate for healthy living, and coached a curious and eager public through his speaking engagements, vaudeville appearances and through his health clubs. He ran the first gymnasium and health club at the prestigious Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights. He also ran summer health clubs at beach resorts in Babylon, Long Island and at Bath Beach, Brooklyn. Other locations followed, as did books, and a line of fitness equipment.

Chapter One of our story details some of his operations and his early days. Chapter Two continues the story of his career, including the would-be mugging on New Year’s Day, 1897, that propelled him into the limelight as a man who take care of himself, with gusto. But for all of the young Professor’s personal and business successes, none of them could propel his name into the history books like his involvement in one of the most sensational murder cases of the early 20th century. (more…)

Max Levy, Professor Mac Levy. Brooklyn Eagle, 1903

On New Year’s Day, 1897, Brooklyn’s premiere physical culturist, Professor Mac Levy, received a late holiday gift from the fitness gods. That evening he was at the Union League Club, on Dean and Bedford Avenues, giving the membership a lecture and demonstration of his journey from a consumptive and puny teenager to a fit and super strong modern day Hercules. Afterwards, he had planned to join friends downtown for some New Year’s Day cheer. They all met near the Elks Club on Schermerhorn Street, after which Mac Levy was headed for the trolley that would take him to his home on Union Street.

Because it was New Year’s Day, and because it was cold and miserable out, the trolley was nowhere to be found. The Professor was no longer in a good mood. He was walking up Court Street and had almost reached Union when two men stepped out from behind a building and demanded his money. It was late, and cold, and the police patrol was nowhere around, and he had been made to walk home. The old Max Levy would have handed his money over, and prayed he got home in one piece. Professor Mac Levy, the “young Hercules” whispered a prayer of thanks for this gift, and got busy. (more…)

Strongmen, Heliograph.com 1

We have been trying to improve the human body since we became aware of its strength and beauty. Mankind has been exercising for a very long time. We may have started with “run for your life” being a literal cry to escape predators, but in the centuries that followed our trip from the cave to the city, that mantra is still popular, although perhaps “run for life” is more accurate. The ancient Greeks and other civilizations glorified the perfect physical body, after all, they established the Olympics, and left an artistic record of their pursuit of the body beautiful, an ideal many still strive to reach. The Romans incorporated that ideal into their civilization, as they did so many of the ideals of their conquered foes.

The Dark Ages in Europe obliterated that Greco-Roman philosophy. Between plagues and religious zealotry regarding the sinfulness of the human body, physical perfection took a rest of a few centuries. But the Renaissance restored the glorification of the body human, and as nations rose and fell, so too did the idea of fitness. Of course, the lower classes utilized physical strength much more than the upper classes, so those above were getting weak, compared to those below. That did not go without notice, and over the course of the next few hundred years, various programs of physical fitness were delineated and put into practice in different countries and communities. (more…)

Throop Ave. Presbyterian Church, BE, 1890

In the early morning of January 9, 1895, a fierce windstorm rushed down the Hudson Valley and vented its fury on New York City. Gale force winds knocked down trees and power lines, and blew away anything that was not secured. Out on Fire Island, the roof was torn right off a hotel. In Brooklyn two buildings came crashing down. One was in East New York; a theater that was in construction on the corner of Atlantic and Alabama Avenues. The wind cyclone around the walls of the building and knocked them down. One wall fell onto Atlantic Avenue, the other on top of a house. The occupants of the house were injured, but no one was killed. On the edge of the Eastern District, on the corner of Willoughby and Throop Avenues, a similar scene played out. But in this case, two people died. (more…)

Working platform for catwalk on the Verrazano Bridge, 12-27-62. Photo by Lenox Studios. Courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive

Prominent journalists Gay Talese and Sam Roberts are coming to the Transit Museum this Thursday to discuss the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which turns 50 next week, and Talese’s book, “The Bridge.” Published in 1964, Talese’s work explores the bridge’s construction, engineering, and the political drama that played out in Bay Ridge before ground was even broken for the 13,700-foot-long structure.

Before construction began, 5,000 homes and businesses had to be demolished, and Talese, then a reporter for the Times, covered residents’ impassioned protests against the bridge. Joe Spratt, an ironworker whose grandfather helped build the Verrazano, will join Talese and Roberts for the discussion. The talk will take place on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Transit Museum, and tickets are free.

Photo via the Transit Museum, Courtesy of the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Archive