KC Courthouse, undated photo 1

If you are a fan of procedural cop shows, you are no doubt familiar with the character of the coroner or medical examiner. Since the days of “Quincy, M.E.,” we have grown to love the crusty and quirky personalities tasked with investigating the deaths of thousands of people in a given city.

Over the years, our TV coroners and medical examiners have changed. In today’s shows most of them seem to be black women. But no matter who is cast, on television they are invariably dedicated and brilliant doctors with a passion for finding the facts of a person’s death. They are immune to politics or profit, and serve only the law and the truth.

Well, back in 19th-century Brooklyn, things could be different. Our tale concerns the last mayor of Brooklyn, his administration and the two doctors who served as the last coroners of Brooklyn. (more…)

100 Willoughby1

Listings for the Ava DoBro at 100 Willoughby Street in downtown Brooklyn went up late last week and its leasing office and a model unit open today. The still-under-construction high-rise tower — soon to be the tallest in Brooklyn at 575 feet — is offering studio apartments, one, two and three bedroom units.

Studios start at $2,890 for a 534 square foot unit. One bedroom units start at $3,300, two bedrooms at $4,185 and three bedrooms $5,625. Occupancy will start August 14, according to the development’s website. (more…)


A Dos Toros will be opening soon at 64 Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn. A tipster spotted signage up in the window this morning and sent this photo.

Located near Livingston Street, this will be the taqueria’s second location in Brooklyn. Dos Toros also has an outpost in Williamsburg, and five others in Manhattan.

The spot serves San Francisco Mission-style burritos. (more…)

385 Jay St. S.Spellen 1

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former row house
Address: 385 Jay Street
Cross Streets: Willoughby and Fulton Streets
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: probably late 1850s-60s
Architectural Style: probably Italianate with many alterations
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: In 1887, this odd numbered side of Jay Street had a row of six brownstone row houses on it, as can be seen on the map below. They took up all the lots on the block except for the corner lots on Willoughby and Fulton. Like much of downtown Brooklyn at this point, Jay Street was an amalgam of buildings.

The brownstones, which were built when this was a fashionable residential part of town, were slowly disappearing. They were replaced by newer, taller and larger buildings; mostly stores, theaters and banks, or they were altered and used for other purposes.

Unlike today, the Victorians were not in the habit of letting a perfectly good building go to waste. (more…)

Sylvan Electric Baths composite

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

For as long as mankind has been around, we’ve been trying to find ways to alleviate our aches and pains. In late 19th and early 20th century America, advances in science combined with ancient cures had been shown to produce results.

Mineral and hot springs baths were one popular way to sooth aching limbs and calm agitated organs. The resort towns of Sharon Springs, Saratoga and other locations in upstate New York were popular places to get the cure. Fortunes were made by spa owners, and entire towns dedicated to hosting the guests of these spas flourished for many years.

But you had to have time to go there, and you had to be wealthy, or at least well-off. Didn’t everyone deserve to benefit from nature’s cures? And if you lived in New York City, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place in the city itself where you could take a treatment, and then walk back out onto the street and continue your busy day? Some savvy entrepreneurs thought so, and decided to bring the spa experience to Brooklyn. (more…)

Holy Cross Cemetery, Flatbush. Jim Henderson, Wiki 1

Pretty 16 year old housemaid Barbara Gronenthal was dead, and her boyfriend, James Walsh killed her. Now he was in jail, awaiting his murder trial. Would he end up like his older brother, sentenced to Sing Sing Prison, or, as we learned in the last chapter, would his fate also match his brother’s – death?

James Walsh sat in Brooklyn’s Raymond Street Jail alone and friendless. His mother, Catherine Duffy, came to visit him once, and left shortly thereafter, weeping bitterly. The guards told reporters that James would be calm and quiet in his cell, and then suddenly rage and throw himself at the bars. He also liked the prison food, which in their estimation proved he was insane.

An autopsy was conducted before Barbara was returned to her family for burial. It determined that the four inch knife had been plunged into her heart up to the hilt, killing her in minutes. She never had a chance. Her funeral took place on January 6, 1881. Only her mother, her two sisters, her brother-in-law, and a few family friends followed the funeral procession to Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush. The Carlisle family was not there.

Investigators went to talk to anyone who knew James Walsh. They visited his job and found out a lot of information that was not positive for James’ case. His supervisor said that James had been a fine worker until about a year ago, when his brother Buck had been arrested for the home invasion robbery. After that, James had started to pick fights with management and with fellow workers.

The day James killed Barbara he had suddenly taken off from work in the afternoon, and never came back. That was it for his supervisor, who told other workers that if James came back the next day, he was going to be fired. (more…)



Construction is finally coming along at 180 Myrtle Avenue, where grocery mogul John Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Group is planning a 15-story mixed-use residential tower. The first level has risen, with 14 more to go, we saw when we stopped by Sunday.

Summer 2016 is the anticipated completion date, according to the sign on the construction fence. The building will be a rental with 213 apartments and will feature plenty of amenities, including a landscaped roof terrace.

Click through to see more construction photos and a previously published rendering of what the building will look like once complete.  (more…)

Brooklyn Eagle Building composite 1

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

The Brooklyn Eagle newspaper began as the paper of record for a growing city, and was at its finest as the city grew into a great metropolis. The paper reported about Brooklyn life, events and people continuously for 114 years.

The Eagle began back in 1841 as the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Kings County Democrat. Its owners were Isaac Van Anden and Henry Cruse Murphy. The two men had originally planned to publish the paper as a morning paper, which along with news, would be an arm of Democratic Party politics.

In 1842, Henry Cruse Murphy became Mayor of Brooklyn. The paper continued to grow, covering not just local news, but extending its range to international and national news as well. That was rare for most morning dailies.

The editor of the Eagle between 1846 and 1848 was poet Walt Whitman. Whitman was a printer by trade, in addition to being a writer and poet, and had worked for several different newspapers in NY and Long Island before coming to the Eagle.

He only lasted two years at the paper because he fell out with Isaac Van Anden. Whitman was a supporter of the “Free-Soil Movement” wing of the Democratic Party, and Van Anden was a strong supporter of their opposition, the more conservative wing of the party.

Crossing one’s boss over politics is never a good idea, and Whitman was encouraged to move on. During the Civil War, the paper continued to support the Democratic Party, quite a stand in what would be a very Republican city in later years. That would later change, as the times changed. (more…)


Three buildings in Downtown Brooklyn, at 8-16 Nevins Street, are being knocked down to make way for a new 28-story tower. The demolition is quite far along, as is apparent from these photos taken on Tuesday. The developer, Bushburg Properties, plans to build a 124,287-square-foot building on the site with 149 apartments as well as some affordable units.

One of the buildings, 16 Nevins Street, a Building of the Day in 2010, gained its whimsical mock Tudor look in the 1920 and housed a restaurant called Joe’s, once a favorite haunt of local civic leaders and politicians.

The new 318 foot-tall tower will be topped by a mesh-clad metal bulkhead that will light up with colored LEDs at night. The building, which was designed by Stephen B. Jacobs Group, will also have 6,440 square feet of ground floor retail.

Click through for more photos of the demolition and for a rendering of the planned tower.

Demolition Planned for Three Downtown Brooklyn Storefronts [Brownstoner]
Building of the Day: 16 Nevins Street [Brownstoner]


418-420 Fulton Street, SSpellen 4

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: The W. C. Vosburgh Building. Formerly the showroom for the W.C. Vosburgh Mfg. Co., now part of Macy’s
Address: 418-420 Fulton Street
Cross Streets: Hoyt Street and Gallatin Place
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn
Year Built: 1888
Architectural Style: Queen Anne
Architect: Parfitt Brothers
Other Buildings by Architect: All kinds of buildings, all over Brooklyn, including Berkeley, Grosvenor and Montague Apartments, Brooklyn Heights; St. Augustine RC Church, Grace Methodist Church, Park Slope; Truslow House, Crown Heights North; plus hundreds of row houses, as well as apartment buildings, office buildings, fire houses, churches and more.
Landmarked: No, unfortunately

The story: After the Civil War ended, the building boom that swept Brooklyn made fortunes for companies producing the fixtures and products that went into the modern home. There were fixtures for the bathroom and kitchen, the hardware on every door and window, not to mention the decorative woodwork, marble, tiles, and the like. And of, course, there was lighting.

Gas fixtures were the modern lighting of the day in 1865 when William C. Vosburgh started his company, the W. C. Vosburgh Manufacturing Company. The company made all kinds of gas lighting fixtures for home, business and industry. Their manufacturing facility was a plant at 269 State Street, near Smith Street.

With all of the residential building going on, the company decided to open a large, upscale showroom to showcase their extensive inventory of chandeliers, sconces, table lamps, and more. Vosburgh hired the Parfitt Brothers architectural firm to design a handsome and elegant showroom for Fulton Street, rapidly becoming the shopping and entertainment hub of Brooklyn. (more…)

Schermerhorn Street Facade

Adam America is the new developer of the 21-story tower planned for an empty lot at 319 Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn. The developer bought the development site from SC Nevins for an undisclosed price, reported Crain’s.

The brick building will be condos, Crain’s revealed. Construction has not yet started but could kick off any day because the permits and plans are already approved.

Plans call for 61 units — with one, two or three bedrooms — ranging from 650 square feet to 1,195 square feet, as we’ve reported before. Incorporated is the architect.

The development joins a few others in the vicinity offering condos, such as 388 Bridge Street, The Boerum at 265 State Street and on 4th Avenue, although rentals are much more typical in the borough. Click through for lots more renderings, including interiors.

Adam America Plans 21-Story Condo in Downtown Brooklyn [Crain's]
319 Schermerhorn Street Coverage [Brownstoner]
Renderings by Incorporated