Two Brooklyn Public Library branches in Cypress Hills and Dyker Heights have received large grants from the city to repair and renovate their aging buildings, according to press releases. The Arlington Library in Cypress Hills, pictured above, has gotten $1,000,000 in city funding to replace its boiler and install new piping, concrete padding, and damaged partitions. The work will be done while the library is open and not in need of heating, unless it has to close because of noise disruptions. Also, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilman Vincent Gentile have devoted $750,000 for replacing the badly damaged roof of the Dyker Heights library branch. Roof repair will involve demolishing and removing the current roof and installing a new one, as well as potential drain and paver additions. The roof replacement project will most likely be completed by 2016.
Name: Built as New Lots Town Hall, then 71st Precinct, then Bradford Street Hospital, now apartments Address: 109-111 Bradford Street Cross Streets: Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue Neighborhood: Cypress Hills Year Built: 1873 Architectural Style: Greek Revival/Italianate Architect: Unknown Landmarked: No
The story: In 1860, a group of men gathered in the town of New Lots to form a volunteer fire department. By 1866, they were pretty much established and were able to build a tall, octagonal wood framed bell tower on this site which was manned 24/7 to watch for fires in this small town of less than 100 families. In 1873, the Town of New Lots had grown to the extent that they needed to have some more formal civic structure, and the lot near the fire tower was the perfect place for building the New Lots Town Hall. This sturdy two-story plus basement brick building housed the town offices on the ground floor, and the fire department on the upper floor, which was a large open room.
In 1878, a new law required towns to house a police force, and the town hall was called into duty again. Everyone was shuffled around and squeezed into the building. Downstairs became the town meeting room and Clerk’s Office, the fire headquarters office, and the police receiving desk and muster room. Upstairs was made into a barracks, while the basement held four cells, plus two rooms for emergency lodging. The town morgue was placed in the fire tower, and it was the busiest place of all, as there seemed to be a lot of fatalities in New Lots due to the LIRR surface railroad, which according to the Brooklyn Eagle, supplied a wealth of mangled bodies. (more…)
Name: Private house Address: 78 Norwood Avenue Cross Streets: Ridgewood Avenue and Etna Street Neighborhood: Cypress Hills Year Built: Late 1880s, early 1890s Architectural Style: Italianate frame Architect: Unknown, perhaps Henry Meyer Landmarked: No
The story: Norwood Street, in Cypress Hills/East New York, was once part of the Rapalje homestead, one of the many local farms belonging to Dutch settlers who called this area, then all part of New Lots, home, in the 17th and early 18th century. This Dutch presence is known today only by street names and one or two precious architectural remainders, buried underneath modern facades and “renovations.” As the 19th century progressed, the great grandchildren of those Dutch farmers realized their land was worth much more with houses sitting on it, than crops, and one by one, they sold to developers, and the city grid was carved out, block by block. East New York, the new 26th Ward, was now on the maps.
Even though the neighborhood was now laid out in a grid, with streets and lots, it still took time for the neighborhood to get built up. It was remote out there, but not completely unknown. In 1858, the City of Brooklyn began building the Ridgewood Reservoir to provide water to a thirsty city that was outgrowing the Mount Prospect Reservoir in Prospect Heights. The Ridgewood Reservoir, located in what is now Highland Park, had to pump its water to a processing station, down below the reservoir in New Lots, which was accomplished by forcing the water through a series of large underground pipes called “force tubes.” This pipe way cuts through the street grid directly to the site of the old pumping station. Force Tube Avenue was laid above the pipes, and it just missed cutting through the backyard of 78 Norwood Avenue. (more…)
Name: Private House Address: 303 Highland Boulevard Cross Streets: Corner Barberry Court Neighborhood: Highland Park/Cypress Hills Year Built: 1906 Architectural Style: Queen Anne Architect: Henry E. Haugaard Other works by architect: similar large suburban houses in Queens and Brooklyn Landmarked: No
The story: If you’ve ever seen the huge scrap yards near Lowe’s in Gowanus, you can imagine that there’s money to be made in scrap metals. A man named Andrew Watson knew this to be true, and made a tidy fortune on the metal leavings of other people and their industry. At the beginning of the 20th century, Watson operated a large scrap dealership called Watson & Sons, Inc. on Withers Street, near Lorimar Street, in Williamsburg. This Scottish-born entrepreneur was very successful, and in 1906 was able to commission Queens based architect Henry E. Haugaard to design and build a large expansive Queen Anne house for the family. The Watson’s had five children, and needed the room a big 40×45 foot house would give them. (more…)
Name: Private house Address: 107 Pine Street Cross Streets: Fulton Avenue and Ridgewood Street Neighborhood: Cypress Hills Year Built: Unknown, likely between 1886 and 1893 Architectural Style: Now it’s a Colonial Revival Architect: Unknown Landmarked: No
The story: Look at this place! A Colonial Revival temple in the heart of East New York. What an unusual house, in an unusual place. You’ve got to wonder – was this house built with the oversized columns, or were they added later? Who lived here, and what were they thinking? You know there is a story behind these doors, and many questions still remain, but I was able to find out some interesting answers.
From looking at maps, it appears that 107 Pine Street was built somewhere between 1886 and 1893, those being the dates the maps we have were printed. That coincides with the development of Cypress Hills/East New York, a neighborhood that came into its own when the 26th Ward, once the Flatbush town of New Lots, was annexed into the city of Brooklyn in 1886. Several developers, including Edward Linton, who was the topic of this month’s Walkabouts, built blocks of homes for the people who were flocking out here from more crowded parts of the city. But this house was a one of a kind, a small cottage on a large lot. More than likely, the columns were not there. Stylistically, they definitely wouldn’t have been there at that period of time. (more…)
If you live in Brooklyn today, you know that the borough is sports crazy. Having a Brooklyn team means all kinds of city cred to many people, including some of the borough’s biggest and most well-known movers and shakers. That has been true not only recently with the Brooklyn Nets, but for the last century and a half with the Brooklyn Dodgers and, before them, the earliest of Brooklyn’s sports teams. Brooklyn baseball started in the 1850s. The first league club convention of early baseball teams had 16 participating clubs. Brooklyn sent eight of them. Brooklyn’s Eckford, Excelsior and Atlantic clubs dominated baseball for most of the 1860s, and Brooklyn led the way for establishing the first enclosed playing fields, and the first admission fees. But up until the 1870s, baseball was still balancing between being an amateur and a professional sport.
But professionalism eventually won out, especially when it was possible for teams and their owners to actually make money having fun like this, and professional baseball was born. I’m glossing over a lot of history here, because this story is not really about the history of baseball, it’s about the history of one of Brooklyn’s league owners, Edward F. Linton. As we saw in Chapter One, Linton was a wealthy and powerful landowner in the 26th Ward, the new Brooklyn neighborhood called East New York. He actually owned half of it, and was a force in the community when it came to politics, land use, and anything that had to do with his domain. He also liked baseball and other sports, so when professional baseball emerged, it was a gift from heaven, because who is more popular and influential than the guy who owns a baseball team? (more…)
East New York. For many who read these pages, or live in more affluent parts of Brooklyn, the neighborhood of East New York is terra incognita, the land not explored, or rather, the neighborhood passed through as fast as possible in the cab to the airport; that vast stretch of Atlantic Avenue between Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and the Conduit. If you take the subway a lot, you may have changed trains at the massive hub now called “Broadway Junction,” one of the few stations where three different lines of trains cross over each other, with the LIRR station not too far away, as well.
From the elevated station, one can see across to Jamaica Bay and Kennedy Airport. In the other direction, you can see the Victorian-era cottages and homes that make up the neighborhoods of Cypress Hills and Highland Park. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of Highland Park itself, one of Brooklyn’s larger neighborhood parks. What you may not realize is that practically everything I’ve mentioned was influenced in some way by a man named Edward F. Linton, an East New Yorker who was instrumental in turning much of the old town of New Lots into one of late 19th century Brooklyn’s nicest neighborhoods. This is his story. (more…)
Name: Originally the Wilhelmus Stoothoff House, now two-family private house Address: 494 Jamaica Avenue Cross Streets: Elton and Linwood Streets Neighborhood: Cypress Hills Year Built: Original house, before 1800, heavy alterations in 1889, remuddling later in 20th century Architectural Style: New Netherlands Dutch, with Victorian alterations Architect: Unknown Landmarked: No
The story: When you walk by this house, you can tell it’s much older than it looks today. First of all, there’s its position. It’s off the street grid, skewed at bit sideways, usually an indication that it predates the laying out of present day Jamaica Avenue. Secondly, if you look beyond the enclosed porch and the vinyl siding, there is an old Dutch overshot roof, and all of those dormers, front and back. What’s up with this house? Many times, these houses are so mucked up the records are totally gone, but I was surprised to find some real information.
This was originally the Wilhelmus Stoothoff house, built sometime before 1800, when this was still Dutch farm country in New Lots. Up until the middle of the 1900s, several other Dutch colonial houses still stood in the area, the most important being the Isaac Cornell Schenck house, which stood across the street in what would become Highland Park. Early records show that Jan Berents Bloom owned the land and the house, and sold it to Wilhelmus Stoothoff somewhere around the turn of the 19th century. A barn was erected for Stoothoff in 1800, and the house is mentioned in 1814, in the diary of John Baxter, in which he refers to Stoothoff as “Bill.”
Bill Stoothoff died in 1837. Before he died, he sold the property to John R. Pitkin, of Connecticut, who was planning East New York’s development. But the Panic of 1837 caused Pitkin to lose the property, and it went back to the Stoothoff family. After the Civil War, William Stoothoff, Bill’s son, sold the house and forty acres to Edward F. Linton. Edward F. Linton would have a great impact on both the house and the neighborhood. (more…)
Name: Private house Address: 278 Highland Boulevard Cross Streets: Miller Avenue and Barbey Street Neighborhood: Highland Park Year Built: Early 20th century, before 1915 Architectural Style: Arts and Crafts Architect: Unknown, perhaps Adam Wischerth Landmarked: No, but entire block should be
The story: Highland Boulevard was the Gold Coast of the Highland Park/Cypress Hills neighborhood. This broad street is lined with some impressive mansions, as well as smaller, but no less interesting turn of the 20th century one family houses. Almost all of the houses on this block date from this time period, when fortunes were being made by the mostly German-American households who lived here. The largest monuments in nearby Cypress Hills and Evergreen Cemeteries all bear witness to the success of those people, and the general community.
One of those successful people was Adam Wischerth (often spelled Wischert, as well). Both variations of his name appear in the papers and building trade magazines, identifying him as a successful local developer and builder and sometimes architect. His name was connected to Adolf Gobel, the “Sausage King of Brooklyn,” who lived just across the street, and Wischerth is on record as the architect and builder of Gobel’s factories in Bushwick. He also built or designed many other small industrial and commercial buildings in the areas of Bushwick, East New York and Ridgewood, Queens.
Researching Mr. Wischerth can be confusing. Between the variations on his name and some confusion as to where he lived, which at times is here, and other times is at the Gobel mansion address, he seemed to be all over this block. Perhaps he was, but the preponderance of evidence seems to be that this house, number 278, was his actual home. There are mentions of his wife entertaining here, which appear in the Eagle and other local papers. It’s an interesting house with a large parcel of land around it, giving it a wonderful isolation within a city block. The land also allows the house to present itself with great panache. (more…)
The first quarter of the 20th century was a wild ride for Mrs. Ottilie Gobel. She had seen her husband Adolf’s business go from baskets of sausages, sold door to door in Manhattan’s delicatessens, to a multi-million dollar business, with 96 trucks over 400 employees, and several factories in the metropolitan area. Adolf Gobel’s meat products had a stellar reputation for taste and quality, and his products had become so popular that he had earned the sobriquet, the “Sausage King.” This success had resulted in a fine mansion in the Highland Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, and a country estate in Annandale, New Jersey. The couple had four children, oldest daughter Ottilie, son Adolf Junior, and two younger daughters, Helen and Edith.
The Gobels were socially active, especially within the tight-knit German-American community in Brooklyn, and enjoyed the perks that their social status now gave them. Mrs. Gobel liked to entertain, and the Highland Boulevard house was home to dinner parties and other social events. But Adolf Gobel didn’t enjoy his hard earned success for all that long. In 1924, at the age of 60, he died suddenly in his Highland Park home. Ottilie and the children were devastated. Adolf had left a large estate and a detailed will which made Ottilie Gobel the sole executrix of the estate, able to make all of the decisions regarding not only their homes and personal fortunes, but also those of the company. (more…)
In March of 1924, Adolf Gobel, crowned the “Sausage King”, died in his home in the Highland Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. His meat company, the Adolf Gobel Company, had grown from door to door peddling to the largest independent processed meat company in the country. His sausages, frankfurters, bacon, bologna, ham, and other products were on the shelves of delicatessens, restaurants, and in the homes of millions. Like Oscar Meyer, and Boar’s Head, today, in the 1920s and beyond, one could find Gobel meats everywhere. See Part One of our story for more details.
The popularity of delicatessens, hot dogs, and sandwiches; the “fast food” of the day, had made German immigrant Adolf Gobel a millionaire. At his death, his company was worth millions, and his personal fortune was estimated by the papers to be at least $3 million, to be split between his widow, Ottillie, and their four children: son Adolf Junior, and daughters Ottillie, Helen and Edith. Sadly, like many wealthy families, once the funeral was over, the battle for the estate began. (more…)
There are as many ways to make a fortune as there are fortune seekers in this great city of ours, and that has been true since the very beginning. The 19th century saw great wealth being made by those who invented, manufactured, or sold everything from water meters, to coffee, to machines that fold boxes, typewriters, to Chiclets gum. Food items, or a great recipe, can make a man a millionaire, and so it was for a German immigrant named Adolf Gobel, the early 20th century “Sausage King” of Brooklyn.
Great wealth brings great rewards, and the Gobels family enjoyed life in a large, impressive home that still stands, although the neighborhood and the Gobel family are no longer household names. But like many families with great wealth, their story is also filled with family drama, tragedy and acrimony, much of which became fodder for a public always eager to read that the rich can be just as contentious and miserable as everyone else. Here, too, is the story of a corporation that also had an interesting history, and was part of the change in America’s food consumption habits throughout much of the 20th century. (more…)