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…)

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…)

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Brooklyn Heights Promenade, 1954. Photo via Brooklyn Public Library.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Brooklyn Heights’ designation as New York City’s first historic district, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Law, the Brooklyn Historical Society is having a party — and Brownstoner is giving away two tickets. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Brooklyn Megaproject Development

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.

Mega-projects. These enormous neighborhood-changing visions have the power to create controversy and community outcry like little else. Some never make it off the drawing board. (more…)

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…)

Brooklyn Concrete & Steel Construction History

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.

Imagine living in the far future, able to look back in time and watch when Roman engineers came up with the arch, or medieval church builders developed the flying buttress. Impressive stuff there — some of the foundations of modern Western architecture. (more…)

Dumbo Brooklyn -- Arbuckle Coffee John Arbuckle History

Read Parts One and Two of the Brooklyn coffee history series.

John and Charles Arbuckle came to Brooklyn from Pittsburgh and built the largest coffee company in the United States. By the early years of the 20th century, their operation in Dumbo received, stored, roasted and packaged more coffee than any other company in America.

Their signature brand, Ariosa, was packaged in small, one-pound, branded packages of freshly ground coffee. It was sold everywhere in the country.

Ariosa was nicknamed the “cowboy’s coffee,” as it was the brand of choice for cowhands on the range. The iconic cowboy campfires with the coffeepot on the fire, later copied into movie and television legend? They were drinking Arbuckle Ariosa.

Arbuckle’s success lay in the roasting process. John Arbuckle invented most of the company’s innovative methods and machines, then wisely patented them, further adding to the company’s revenues.

His first invention was a process using eggs and sugar in a glaze that coated the raw beans, sealing in the flavor. His patented roasting machines took care of the rest. (more…)