In the late 19th century, Brooklynites had many ways to celebrate the New Year but your ability to participate depended on your social class.
In the Victorian era, the city of Brooklyn was home to 48 breweries. Here's the story of one of Brooklyn's most popular beers, Rheingold, which is still produced today, although its former factory, in Bushwick, is now a controversial development site.
More than anyone else in recent history, Robert Moses shaped the physical infrastructure of Brooklyn. We drive on his roads, stroll through his parks, live in his housing developments and are surrounded by his influence at every turn. From the 1920s through the late ’60s, Moses molded New York City like clay, creating a legacy of projects that are greatly used, while being loved, hated and controversial, even today.
Imagine being told your entire life that you were not really a citizen of your town or country. Imagine being treated as an inferior, offered only the most menial of jobs, and told to be happy with your lot in life. Imagine being banned from churches, stores and theaters, even cemeteries, because they did not serve “your kind.”
Now imagine finding a town where you were accepted — a town where you were able to build your own home, worship in your own church, buy from stores owned by people like you, and raise and educate your children in a place where they would be welcome. A town where you could reach old age and pass on in dignity and equality.
For Brooklyn’s African-American population in the 19th century, some of whom were recently freed from slavery, this remarkable town was called Weeksville. And it survives today in bits and pieces, some of which now comprise a historic center in present-day Crown Heights. Here is its story.
Read Part 1 of this story.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses — aka the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society — first came to Brooklyn in 1908, in hopes of having their sermons syndicated in newspapers alongside the writings of the borough’s most famous pastors. It was under the Watchtower’s autocratic second leader, Joseph F. Rutherford, that the religious group truly began practicing the art of Brooklyn real estate.
This is the 100-year story of how the Jehovah’s Witnesses grew to be a global phenomenon and came to own some of Brooklyn’s most valuable properties.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been making headlines in Brooklyn since they moved their headquarters here in 1909. Back then they were called the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, led by a charismatic man named Charles Taze Russell.
In the last five years, the Witnesses have been in the news for selling off an impressive portfolio of Brooklyn real estate — like the soon-to-be finished Dumbo Heights complex, 200 Water Street and 85 Jay Street in Dumbo.
But how did this all this come to be?
After being closed up for decades, with the very real possibility of condemnation and destruction in its future, the old Loew’s Kings Theatre came back to life spectacularly in 2015, like the legendary phoenix from the ashes. It was easily one of the year’s greatest triumphs.
“Legendary” is apropos, because this massive theater was one of the Loew’s company’s five “Wonder Theaters,” all built with great pomp and splendor at the beginning of the Great Depression.
For those following the Gregorian calendar, and that’s most of us, that magic moment when the old year ends in the last seconds of 11:59 on December 31, and the new begins at midnight on January 1, is celebrated with music, fireworks, noise makers, parties and a kiss.
And thus it has been for centuries, with Brooklyn being no exception.
Beginning in the 1890s and for nearly 40 years after, the Brooklyn Christmas Tree Society brought holiday cheer to Brooklyn’s underprivileged children, treating them to a huge meal, gifts and musical performances.
The annual tradition was founded by a woman named Lena Wilson Sitting, whose legacy of generosity and holiday spirit deserves remembering around this time of year.
For many people in Bedford Stuyvesant, home to Brooklyn’s largest African American community, Fulton Street’s Slave Theater is not just a building — it’s a metaphor.
The name has always been uncomfortable. Who wants to be reminded of slavery? Who wants to be reminded of slavery when going to the movies, of all times?
That’s just why Judge John L. Phillips chose the name.