Coney Island Bike race, 1890s, theroadswerenotbuiltforcars.com 1

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Last time we visited the Bedford Rest, a unique restaurant/café/rest stop developed primarily for the thousands of people from all walks of life enjoying the cycling craze of the 1890s. A place like that would be equally popular today. The owners wanted to expand with the new century. But how far could they go?

The Bedford Rest was Brooklyn’s most popular restaurant/café/event space of its day. Opening in the last years of the 19th century on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway, it catered to the young men and women of the new leisure class.

Eastern Parkway was still primarily a beautiful road through undeveloped fields at this point. The Rest stood alone, a large tented structure on the northwestern side of Bedford and the parkway. It was a convenient rest stop for the many cyclists taking a break here at the top of the hill.

Bicycles were enormously popular at that time. Cycle technology had advanced the bike so that it resembled and rode like the single-gear bikes of today.

Unlike most sports, bicycling was equally popular with men and women, and it was one of the few sports a couple or a family could do together.

The streets of Brooklyn were filled with cyclists, and on weekends they rode up and down Bedford Avenue and Eastern Parkway by the hundreds, even thousands.

Bedford Avenue was part of a popular route to both Long Island and Coney Island. Professional and amateur racing clubs and excursionists used the Bedford Rest as a starting and ending place for their trips. (more…)

taco-domo-733-franklin-avenue-2-072715

Domo Taco just opened today at its new location at 733 Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, according to a post on the company’s Facebook page. When we stopped by a few days ago, it looked close to opening.

Domo started as a taco truck. This is its first permanent location.

A liquor license is coming, according to a sign posted in the window. The menu is by no means straight-up Mexican but includes an asian twist, with items such as fish tempura, five spice pork, lemongrass chicken and teriyaki steak. (more…)

Rufus Perry, Sr. Weeksville houses, BPL

I often write about the movers and shakers of the 19th and early 20th century Brooklyn — they could be fascinating, and in their own ways, thoroughly modern people. Some of their names grace our streets, our schools, businesses and other buildings.

Most, however, are gone and forgotten, in spite of glowing like torches during their own times.

Rufus Lewis Perry, Senior and his son, also Rufus L. Perry, were quite newsworthy in their day. Between the two of them, their names appeared often in the Brooklyn papers between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression.

During those years, they were the topics of pride, envy, derision, scorn and grudging admiration. Why? Their accomplishments were impressive and many.

But for too many Brooklynites, this proud father and son were too smart for their own good, too uppity, and too grandiose; not exhibiting the proper humility expected from two sons of Africa. But that never stopped them. (more…)

Bedford Rest Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

As the 20th century loomed before them, the middle class Victorians of Brooklyn found themselves with a new phenomenon on their hands — leisure time. Their ancestors never had too much of it, unless they were wealthy. Those below them on the economic scale wouldn’t have any for a long time to come.

As it is again today, bicycling became the favored mode of transportation for those seeking fresh air. Individuals bicycled everywhere they could, and bicycle clubs formed, encompassing members of just about every group of people in the society.

Everyone liked to bike, and the “wheelmen,” (and wheelwomen) as they were called, took to the streets looking for nice long rides within the city. Soon, they began to look for places to stop and rest. (more…)

affordable-96-Brooklyn-Avenue-1

One of Crown Heights’ most important houses is about to begin its new life as affordable housing.

The John and Elizabeth Truslow House at 96 Brooklyn Avenue was originally built for a brilliantly wealthy family who made a fortune in stove manufacturing. But after it moldered in obscurity, affordable housing developers NIA JV and ELH Management swooped in to brighten its future.

Restoration on the home — which began in 2013 — is visibly nearing completion on the outside. When Brownstoner visited on Sunday, the exterior was notably spruced up and, we presume, all the holes and leaks fixed. When it’s done, its seven renovated apartments will be occupied by families making $36,680 to $120,240 a year. (more…)

Ebbetts Field , opening ball, 1913, Wiki 1

In Chapter One, we met architect Clarence R. Van Buskirk, mired in a corruption scandal in Chapter Two, but victorious designer of Ebbets Field in Chapter 3. Today, our story concludes.

Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, opened with an exhibition game between the Dodgers and the Yankees, held on April 5, 1913. A few days later on April 9, the Dodgers played their first league game here against the Philadelphia Phillies. Charlie Ebbets’ daughter threw out the first ball, as seen above.

A great deal of planning went into Ebbets Field, with architect Clarence Randall Van Buskirk and his partner, Alexander F. W. Leslie, taking field trips to other stadiums, and meticulously planning with their client, Charlie Ebbets.

Ebbets was determined to have the best stadium in baseball.

But when the stadium opened, they realized it wasn’t perfect. Even after all their research, Van Buskirk and Leslie had still forgotten a few things.

(more…)

Common-Bed-Stuy-Crown-Heights-Brad-Hargreaves-4

Co-living is having a moment. Common, the co-living startup founded by General Assembly cofounder Brad Hargreaves announced this morning that they raised $7,350,000 in Series A funding for operating costs and business growth.

While shared living arrangements are not new, a successful business model hasn’t yet emerged. Campus, a once-burgeoning co-living company with 30 locations across the country (including one in Park Slope), announced in June that it would close its doors. “[W]e were unable to make Campus into an economically viable business,” says a statement on their website.

But Common’s model is different. The company will cleverly use investor assets — Brooklyn brownstones — through a sharing model.

(more…)

1-24 Revere Place, CHN, SSpellen 3

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1-24 Revere Place
Cross Streets: Dean and Bergen Streets
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1896-1897
Architectural Style: Mixed Romanesque and Renaissance Revival
Architect: Albert E. White
Other works by architect: Similar row houses on Dean Street, St. Marks Ave., Prospect Place in Crown Heights North, also Park Slope and Stuyvesant Heights
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase III of Crown Heights North Historic District

The story: Brooklyn has quite a few one and two block streets that unexpectedly appear on the street grid, creating semi-private enclaves with their own quiet charm.

Isolated from the street traffic of main thoroughfares, some of these blocks were purposely created to invoke a sense of privacy and exclusivity. Others were simply the practical use of odd-shaped lots, enabling a developer to get the most bang for his buck.

The eastern end of the Crown Heights North Historic District has three such enclaves, but Revere Place was the first. Over the years, this elegantly designed block attracted two notable Brooklyn families. (more…)

Ebbetts Field 1914, ebay 4

In Chapter One, we met Clarence R. Van Buskirk, the eldest son of Rev. Peter Van Buskirk, a well-known pastor of one of Brooklyn’s oldest churches. After getting his degree at NYU, he landed a plum job with the City in the Department of Highways. But this architect and engineer became mired in a corruption scandal in Chapter Two and lost his job. Undeterred, he went into partnership with architect Alexander F.W. Leslie. Somehow, the firm was chosen by Charles Ebbetts to design the new baseball stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Sounds like the job of a lifetime, doesn’t it? You know what they say about getting what you wish for? Our story continues…

In early January, 1912, Brooklyn Dodger owner Charles Ebbets announced at a sportswriter’s dinner at the Brooklyn Club on Pierrepont Street that he was going to build a new stadium for Brooklyn’s beloved team, the Dodgers.

The news was met with great applause, and became the front page story in the Brooklyn papers the next day.

What was an even greater surprise was the news that the site of the stadium and its design had been in the works for over a year, and had somehow managed to remain top secret from everyone inside and outside of both baseball and government.

Charlie Ebbets was in secret negotiations to buy the land near Bedford and Montgomery Streets in what is now Crown Heights South, and his architect, Clarence R. Van Buskirk, had already completed the plans. (more…)

St. Johns Home for Boys, Albany Houses Composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the eastern part of Central Brooklyn radiating north and south of Atlantic Avenue became the go-to neighborhood for large charitable institutions.

Encompassing parts of the present-day neighborhoods of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, this area once teemed with hospitals, old age homes, orphanages and sanitariums. There were multiples of all of these facilities, as all were segregated by race, religion and gender. Land was cheap.

The St. John’s Home for Boys was founded in 1868, a part of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Society. It was a time when more and more poor Catholic immigrants (especially Irish) were pouring into Brooklyn, and the need for charitable facilities was on the rise.

St. John’s Home for Boys was located on the block of St. Marks Avenue running to Prospect Place, between Albany and Troy Avenues. Back then, the neighborhood was in Bedford, but today we’d call it Crown Heights North. (more…)

951 Prospect Pl, Composite 1

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Most of the Past and Present pieces involve photographs of old buildings that are now either gone, replaced by something else, or transformed into something less than what they were.

Here we have something different. This is a building that was pretty great to begin with, was totally wrecked for a generation, but now is back, better than ever.

Number 951 Prospect Place was built as the standout corner building in a set of four, along Brooklyn Avenue, right across the street from one of Brooklyn’s prettiest small parks, Brower Park.

When developer Louis Meyer had these flats buildings built in 1906, this area was known throughout the city as the St. Marks District. A block away stood the huge, opulent mansions of some of Brooklyn’s wealthiest people. (more…)

1095-1099 Park Place, CDB, LPC 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Row houses
Address: 1095-1099 Park Place
Cross Streets: Kingston Avenue and Hampton Place
Neighborhood: Crown Heights North
Year Built: 1899
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: August Norberg
Landmarked: Yes, part of Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District (2015)

The story: Two-family houses were standard fare for this eastern part of Crown Heights North at the turn of the 20th century. Ninety percent of the row houses in the new Phase III of the Crown Heights North Historic District are two-families.

But within that broad category are some great examples of diversity and talent. The neighborhood’s streetscape reflects that on every block. These houses are among those examples.

Numbers 1095-1099 Park Place were built in 1899, designed by August Norberg. He was one of those architectural ciphers who pop in, design something that makes you think they could have been quite stellar, and then disappear. (more…)