1515 bedford avenue demo 1 92014

The historic Fox Savoy Theater has been reduced to rubble at Lincoln Place and Bedford Avenue in Crown Heights. Demolition began last winter and moved along pretty slowly, because workers took the building down by hand and salvaged pieces of its ornate facade. The 1926 Neo-Classical structure was originally built as a movie palace for mogul William Fox (of 20th Century Fox), but in recent years a church occupied the grand white terra cotta building.

Charity Baptist Church sold the Thomas Lamb-designed building at 1515 Bedford Avenue for the low seeming price of $575,000 in 2012, as we reported. A 10-story, 114-unit apartment building designed by Issac & Stern will rise in its place at 1515 Bedford Avenue. The development will have 60 subterranean parking spots, ground-floor space for a synagogue and a roof deck, as previously reported. The developer is Realty Within Reach.

Click through for a few more photos of the demolition.

1515 Bedford Avenue Coverage [Brownstoner]
Building of the Day: 1515 Bedford Avenue [Brownstoner]

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88th Precinct, SSpellen

On January 1, 1898, Brooklyn woke up to a new world in which it was no longer the master of its own destiny. It was now part of Greater New York City, where the seats of City power rested on the streets and in the buildings of Lower Manhattan, not at Brooklyn’s City Hall or in the office and bank buildings of Court Street. It’s hard to imagine what that may have been like. The closest analogy may be that it felt like Brooklyn had been conquered by another nation. All aspects of city life were different after January 1st, and in the coming months, it got a lot worse before it got better.

Take the police, for example. Since they were charged with maintaining order, stopping crime and apprehending criminals, all very important tasks, you’d think those in charge would have spent a lot of time planning for the re-organization of the police force, so that the transition of power and command would be swift and efficient. Yeah, you’d think… (more…)

saratoga-7-091114

Yesterday the restored war memorial in Saratoga Park was unveiled at a moving ceremony with an honor guard and local politicians. The field behind the statue, draped in a gold cloth until the end, was dotted with flags in memory of the 106 locals who died in World War I. After speeches by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Council Member Darlene Mealy and others, the names of the dead were read out loud and Mealy placed a wreath at the foot of the statue. A bugle played taps and the gold cloth was drawn up to reveal it.

It was so hot in the sun we worried someone would faint of heat stroke, but luckily no one did. (more…)

Lane Bryant, SB, PS

By the time Lane Bryant, the maternity and plus-sized women’s clothing chain, reached its 50th year anniversary in 1954, it was on top of the fashion world. Who would have dreamed that maternity and “fat ladies’ clothes” could not only be lucrative, but would be on the cutting edge of fashion? The reasons were simple – good products, and a respect and love for the customer. Lane Bryant made fashionable, stylish clothing of all kinds for their special-sized customers. They didn’t marginalize them to a rack hidden in the back of the store, or design down for them. They made their customers feel that they were just as worthy of a fine shopping and fashion experience as their thinner sisters, and offered products and services that reflected that philosophy.

Downtown Brooklyn saw its first Lane Bryant store in 1922. It was a large four story building constructed for Lane Bryant, with entrances on Hanover Place and Livingston Street, near Flatbush Avenue. By the end of World War II, they had outgrown the space, and in 1950 moved to the former Balch-Price Building on the corner of Fulton and Smith Streets. Lane Bryant herself, now 71 years old, was on hand for the opening ceremonies and the ribbon cutting. (more…)

bridge street AMWE church

Several leaders of historic black churches throughout Brooklyn will gather at the Brooklyn Historical Society next week to discuss how they used their pulpits to shape the civil rights movement. Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Organizations and cochair of Mayor de Blasio’s transition team, will lead a discussion inspired by her father, the late Reverend William A. Jones, who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and led Bed Stuy’s Bethany Baptist Church.

The panelists include pastors who played a vital role in the fight for civil rights: Reverend Dr. Herbert Daughtry of House of the Lord, Reverend David B. Cousin, Sr., of Bridge Street AMWE, above, and Reverend Dr. John L. Scott of St. John’s Baptist Church. The free event will happen at 6:30 pm on Thursday, September 18.

Photo via Bridge Street AMWE Church

Lane Bryant, 50th anniversary, BE 1954

It’s never been easy being a woman of, shall we say, operatic proportions. Society is not kind, to say the least, and neither was the ready to wear clothing market. Larger sized women have always desired to be fashionable, elegant, and feel good about themselves, just like everyone else. Had it not been for a tiny Lithuanian Jewish lady named Lena Bryant, who knows how long it would have been until someone took notice and did something about it? Since 1904, Lane Bryant, the clothing company she started in her apartment in Harlem, has been providing beautiful and stylish clothing to pregnant women, larger sized women and girls. If you were in one of these categories, you were probably a Lane Bryant customer.

Part One of this story tells of Lena Bryant’s start, and early life. Part Two chronicles the rise of a huge retail and mail order business that branched out to locations in cities across the country, including, of course, Brooklyn. The first Lane Bryant store in Brooklyn was in a building constructed for them, a modern reinforced concrete, L shaped, four story building with entrances on Hanover Place and Livingston Street. The store opened with great fanfare in 1922, and joined Abraham & Straus, Loeser’s, and Fulton Street’s other grand clothing emporiums as shopping destinations for women and girls. (more…)

Lane Bryant Ad, new store opening, BE 1950

In 1909, dressmaker Lena Bryant was working out of a shop on 5th Avenue and 120th Street in Harlem. There, under the Lane Bryant label, she designed and manufactured maternity clothing for stylish women -– some of the first mass produced lines of maternity wear in the world. Before Lane Bryant, women who wanted to venture out while pregnant had few clothing choices. They had to either have clothing custom made to accommodate their growing bodies, sew them themselves, or wear oversized baggy clothing that would help them hide their pregnancies.

For most of the Victorian era, nonworking, well-to-do women simply stayed home and received their female guests. No self-respecting woman of that age would walk the streets in the advanced stages of pregnancy. It just wasn’t done. The women who discovered Lane Bryant and her clothing were able to take advantage of her design genius, and Lane Bryant became the head of one of the most successful fashion houses in America. (more…)

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The dedication ceremony for the newly restored Victory and Peace World War I memorial in Saratoga Park — now draped in a blue plastic tarp behind a fence so it is not visible — will take place at noon on Wednesday, September 10. Speakers and attendees will include veterans, service members and residents of the community.

Bed Stuy resident and former marine Brian Hartig of Brownstone Detectives, who let us know about the date, has researched the lives of some of the 106 men honored on the statue and contacted the descendants of 22 of them. So far, a great-niece and a great-great niece and nephew of one of them plan to attend the event. “As a Marine who’s fought in a war, myself, this is another passion of mine,” he told us.

All the servicemen honored on the statue were born and raised in the neighborhood. World War I was “a devastating event for Stuyvesant Heights,” said Hartig in a statement he prepared about the unveiling. (more…)

weeksville and creative time pic

Creative Time — the arts organization that produced Kara Walker’s Domino installation – and Weeksville Heritage Center have partnered to create four month-long exhibits exploring black history, politics and jazz at sites throughout Crown Heights and Bed Stuy. “Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn” launches September 20 at Weeksville Heritage Center in Weeksville, pictured above, one of America’s oldest free black communities and now part of Crown Heights.

For “funk,” artist Xenobia Bailey worked with students at Boys & Girls High School in Bed Stuy to design upcycled furniture “created in the African American aesthetic of funk,” which will be on display at Weeksville’s Hunterfly Road Homes. Then cinematographer Bradford Young is exploring the concept of “god” with a video installation paying tribute to the “pioneering Black women, men, and children who embarked on countless journeys in search of refuge” at the former site of the Bethel Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church in Crown Heights.

Also, an exhibit at Stuyvesant Mansion will examine the history of black female nurses and doctors, including the United Order of Tents, New York’s first black woman OB-GYN, and the Black Panthers’ community healthcare efforts. Finally, artist collective Otabenga Jones and Associates will broadcast live jazz from a temporary radio station in the back of a 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville at Fulton and Malcolm X. For more info on the exhibits and the opening party, head over to Creative Time.

Photo via Creative Time

Lane Bryant Ad, maternity gown, 1911, BEWestern society has long had a strange attitude towards pregnancy. Throughout much of its history, much has been made of producing children, whether they are the heirs to the throne, or workers on the family farm. We’ve told women that it is a biblical duty to have children, but up until the end of the 20th century, many Western societies have been loath to see a woman walking around pregnant. As soon as a woman was showing, in polite society, she entered her “confinement” and rarely left home until after the baby was born. It all has to do with attitudes about sex, and the war between fulfilling the biological and societal imperative to go forth and multiply, and the fact that one has to have sex in order to do it. We are a conflicted and messed up people.

At any rate, this is a story about a fashion empire and Brooklyn’s part in that empire. Pregnancy is at the heart of our story. At the turn of the 20th century, maternity clothes were not available the way they are now. Women of means had their maternity clothing custom made. Those who could sew made their own, and everyone else made do by letting their clothing out, or wearing larger clothes. Or they didn’t leave home much.

But this was not the Middle Ages. Women were out and about, unescorted, in record numbers. Many middle and upper middle class women had jobs, many more were active in sports like bicycle riding, and most did not want to spend half their pregnancies locked behind closed doors. There was a real need for well-fitting maternity clothing, including the ever present corset, so women could go out, be pregnant, and look beautiful and healthy. The conditions were right for the right person to come along and revolutionize the market. That woman was a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant named Lena Himmelstein. (more…)

Arthur D. Howden Smith, 1918, BEAfter spending a few months as a foreign correspondent in the mountains of Macedonia, Arthur D. Howden Smith would always seek a life of adventure and danger. He travelled to the Balkans to write the story of a lifetime; his adventures as a freedom fighter with a gritty band of Chetniks who were waging a bloody guerrilla war with the Turks. Young Howden Smith came from a family of world travelers, his forbearers were sea-faring men, and close relatives were famously trekking through the wilds of Africa, killing elephants and importing ivory.

Part One of our story introduced us to Arthur Douglas Howden Smith, who spent his youth and young adulthood living in what is now Crown Heights, at 907 Sterling Place. He was the descendant of New England shipping merchants, and in spite of his tony upper class British sounding name, was born in New York City, in 1887, lived as a small child in New Jersey, and grew up in this house in Brooklyn. He would live in Brooklyn for much of his life. He didn’t look like the adventuring type; he was a small man, about 5’7” tall and weighed 160 pounds, soaking wet. He wore round-lensed glasses and looked like someone who would be more at home in the stacks of a library than the mountains of Macedonia. But, he was a lot tougher and more determined than his appearance would warrant. (more…)

Arthur D. Howden Smith, Brooklyn Eagle 1908Many writers have found Brooklyn to be an amiable place to live while penning works of great importance, or at least works that pay the rent. Whether that work is a great novel or autobiography, or just a self-important blog post, writers have put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, here in Brooklyn since there has been a Brooklyn. One of those writers is someone I stumbled across while researching a group of houses for a Building of the Day column. He wrote in the early to mid-20th century, and in the height of his popularity, was practically a household name. By the time he died, he was only worth a few lines in an obituary column. His name was Arthur D. Howden Smith, and for many years, he was a resident of 907 Sterling Place in Crown Heights North.

For a man who spent part of his career writing the autobiographies of others, Arthur D. Howden Smith did not leave all that much information about himself behind. According to press releases, he came from an old aristocratic New England family. His family was in the shipping business, or as one release put it, “he was descended from owners of sail.” He was born in 1888 or ‘89, and spent some of his childhood in Port Richmond, Staten Island. By the time he was a teenager, he was living at 907 Sterling Place with his family. (more…)