Building a large civic building is a prize for any architect, be that back in the early 20th century, or now. The chance to put your stamp on a city, to build something both useful and necessary and quite public is a great coup and a huge ego boost. By those criteria and more, architect Rudolf Daus was a very successful man. Part One of this story tells about his rise to the top of Brooklyn’s architectural world. By 1900, he had a number of very public buildings to his credit; the Lincoln Club, the St. John’s Orphanage for Boys, and most recently, the impressive NY and NJ Telephone Building, downtown on Willoughby Street. He had designed several of the new Brooklyn Carnegie Libraries, and perhaps the biggest and most noticeable building of all – the massive 13th Regiment Armory in Bedford that took up almost an entire city block. Now he was looking for another hotly contested prize; the expansion of Brooklyn’s Hall of Records, which stood on the corner of Boerum Place and Fulton Street.
The commission would be decided by a mayoral committee that looked at submissions by several interested architects or firms. They submitted drawings, floor plans, scale models and budgets. Budget was everything in a civil project, and the winner of the contest would be expected to deliver on time and on budget. As one of three fine architects vying for the job, Daus had one disadvantage: all of his other projects, most especially the recent armory, were way over budget. Daus did not like limits, not on his work, or on the money it would take to make it work. But he had connections, he was the consummate insider, and this time, his Brooklyn connection was Hugh McLaughlin, the powerful boss of the Democratic machine in Brooklyn, which was itself a subsidiary of Manhattan’s Tammany Hall. When Daus beat two other architects out for this Hall of Records job, some cried “Foul!” Daus really didn’t care. (more…)
I have an informal roster of about ten top Brooklyn architects from the late 19th, early 20th century, who come up quite often on my pages. These are the men who designed many of the homes, houses of worship, commercial and civic buildings that make Brooklyn what it is, and has been for the last hundred and fifty years; a great looking city. Rudolf L. Daus is on that list and with good reason – he was extremely talented and extremely well connected in Brooklyn’s building and political worlds. One of those attributes would keep you in beer and skittles, both give you the power and talent to get top commissions, top money, and keep you in champagne. The bubbly must have been flowing at the Daus house.
Daus was born in Mexico City to German parents in 1854. Many German Catholics immigrated to Mexico and Texas during the mid-19th century, the same time other large groups were also immigrating to New York City. The Daus family came from wealth, and young Rudolph was educated in the United States, Germany and France. He studied at the famous L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he won top honors, including the coveted Achille LeClerc Medal, as well as other prizes. In 1879, he came back to NY, and worked at the studios of two American L’Ecole alumnae, Richard Morris Hunt and George B. Post, both extremely significant architects in their own right. Hunt was one of the premiere architects of the Gilded Age, who designed Carnegie Hall and Biltmore, the Vanderbilt mansion in Asheville, NC, while Post was the designer of the Brooklyn Historical Society and the NY Stock Exchange. Daus set up his own practice in 1884 in downtown Brooklyn, and worked there until he retired because of ill health, at the age of 54.
Once he was settled in Brooklyn with his own practice, the commissions began coming in. He also began courting the powerful men of Brooklyn’s political world, and his cultured, Old World charm and American style brashness and talent proved to be a winning combination. (more…)
Last time we took a bit of a vacation from Brooklyn, and journeyed up the Hudson River to Troy, NY, my new home. There is a wealth of great architecture here, and among the very impressive buildings that were built for the industries that gave Troy its wealth and prestige during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, this building stands alone, noticeable for its size, condition, and prominent place in South Troy, near the Hudson River. Originally, before I saw it close up, I thought this might have been an armory, one of many castle-like buildings built, as Brooklyn’s armories were, to store weaponry and provide a barracks and training ground for National Guard regiments. But when I saw it for myself, I knew this was no armory, it was a warehouse or factory building.
Troy has a wealth of factory and warehouse buildings, all built for the iron and steel industry, and garment trades that flourished here. The heavy industry trades were concentrated in South Troy, and the mills, sewing factories and warehouses stretched northward along the Hudson, up through Lansingburg, to the north, and over to the city of Cohoes, just across the river. Many of those factories still stand, most converted to other use, and a few standing empty, waiting for the next wave of development.
This castle warehouse was not a part of the iron and steel works surrounding it, but was a part of the textile trade. This was the United Waste Manufacturing Company, makers and dealers of shoddy. “Shoddy what?” you may ask. Yes, shoddy – the name given to recycled cotton and woolen fabrics; a product woven from the reconstituted fabric scraps from the mills and factories of the Troy area and beyond. Shoddy was big business, and long before the “Green Movement,” was a rather clever way to take all of the fabric scraps left over from cutting out the shirts, collars and cuffs that Troy was famous for, as well as other textile scraps, rags, old clothing, and other fiber materials, and reusing them. (more…)
The architecture and history of Brooklyn will continue to be the focus of my Walkabouts, but every once in a while, it’s nice to get out of town, and head north for a summer excursion. As I assume most people know, I’ve moved a bit north of Brooklyn Heights, all the way to Troy, N.Y., the home of Uncle Sam. Really, Uncle Sam Wilson was from here, is buried here, and this city loves him. By the end of the 19th century, Troy was one of the most prosperous cities in the country, with a burgeoning textile industry, iron and steel works, and a world famous bell foundry. It was the home of one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious engineering and technology centers: Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, and two of this country’s oldest and best women’s schools: the Emma Willard School and Russell Sage College.
Troy was also at the crossroad where the Mohawk River meets the Hudson River on the Erie Canal, and was therefore an industrial and manufacturing city where fortunes were made, and thousands of factory workers were hard at work. Those fortunes show up in the fine architecture here, in an historic downtown that sits on the Hudson River, with factories and warehouses along the river and well inland as well. The industry here is also represented by blocks and blocks of charming housing stock, in many different styles and sizes. It’s a great place for an architectural geek like me. By New York standards, Troy is small, but like Brooklyn, there are architectural goodies here, some of which rival Brooklyn’s best, and, in fact, a few of them were designed by Brooklyn’s best.
Troy lies about seven miles north of Albany, and the easiest way to get there when coming up the New York State Thruway is to get on I-787 north. The highway runs along the west side of the Hudson, and as you approach the exit for South Troy, one can look across the river to where much of Troy’s heavy industry once was, and see…a big castle. It looms large, sitting firmly on the river’s edge like a medieval keep, a fortress against invaders long gone, an anachronism, and one of South Troy’s most visible and well-known landmarks. The address is 1 Jackson Street. Locals have long called it, appropriately, “The Fortress.” This fascinating building has a New York City connection — several, in fact, so sit back and join me here in Troy for the story of the Fortress of Shoddy. (more…)
The Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Riverside Apartments, the Benjamin Moore Factory in DUMBO, the receiving vault at Green-wood Cemetery, PS 131, PS 134, PS 27, Erasmus Hall High School, the Polhemus Clinic, the Dime Savings Bank, the Hebrew Orphanage Asylum, facilities for Brooklyn Union Gas in Greenpoint, and the Casino Apartments on Hicks Street; what all of these buildings have in common is that they were built by the company of John Thatcher & Sons, one of the biggest and busiest building companies in Brooklyn in the late 19th through mid-20th century. From the company’s offices at 60 Park Avenue, John Thatcher oversaw the construction of the city he loved, and would give his life for.
Thatcher’s story began last time, recounting his beginnings, and his growing interest in superior tenement housing, developed from his association with Alfred Tredway White and Charles Pratt. Although his name has been lost to time, he was responsible for an innovative tenement complex called Franklin Court, located in Clinton Hill, near Our Lady of Mercy Convent. Franklin Court’s 96 apartments were airy, well-lit, and equipped with a waste disposal system, hot running water, toilets in each apartment, and a shower room in the basement for bathing, all at a modest price. The building was built in 1898, a time before the New Tenement Law of 1901 which mandated many of the features already built into Thatcher’s complex. Unfortunately, Franklin Court, and its advanced features, is gone, forgotten well before the building was torn down.
As one of Brooklyn’s busiest building companies, John Thatcher & Sons concentrated on larger projects, such as schools, municipal buildings, apartment buildings and civic structures. Although they bid, and eventually lost on enormous public projects like the Brooklyn Museum, that doesn’t mean they weren’t busy. Thatcher was a rare man in the building trade. He was fair to his workers, and honest with his clients, be they the city, or private concerns. His name only came up once in disagreements with suppliers and co-contractors. That was rare then and even rarer today. (more…)
Most of us hope to leave our mark on this world in some small way, so that others can remember that we were here. Some of us leave larger footprints than others, and if you are in the building trades, it is possible to leave quite a large footprint, in the form of a building, that people use, or pass, or notice every day. Of course, most of us don’t know who built, or designed that building, so we may not be on everyone’s lips after we are gone, but that’s why I’m here – to shine a little light, if only for a few minutes, on people who made an impact on the city we live in.
It happens quite often that people in the private sector are called to office in the public sector. We can all come up with a few names of those who were minding their own business, doing what they do, and they are tapped to become cabinet members, superintendents, ambassadors, or even heads of state. The best of them take up these jobs with the same dedication they gave to their private sector jobs, and become the most ideal of public servants – those who are dedicated not to politics or ideology, but to getting the job done well. Sadly, most appointments are laden with political payback or indebitness; this is true today, and has been true since there has been politics. But every once in a while, a truly great public servant comes along, and this is the story of such a man – a builder whose life was more than just about bricks and mortar, or profit and loss. This is John Thatcher’s story. (more…)
Yesterday we celebrated Memorial Day with food, festivities and perhaps even a day at the beach, on the semi-official start of the summer season. Perhaps you went shopping, taking advantages of all of the Memorial Day sales at practically every large department and discount store. Because the experience of war, losing someone in war, military service, or even having a relative in the service is so foreign to most of us, nowadays, it’s hard to conceive of this convenient holiday on the last Monday in May being anything more than just a blessed day off, a break in the schedule of hard work that we are all too familiar with. But it was not always so.
My parent’s generation were veterans of World War II, so war, national and personal sacrifice, were something they were very familiar with, especially with the Korean War following right on its heels. I grew up in a small town upstate where patriotic parades took place on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veteran’s Day, with the school band marching down the village streets, followed by the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the 4-H, the Grange, church groups, and anyone else who wanted to participate.
Looking back, I’m surprised there was anyone left to line the streets, but there always was a crowd, waving flags and cheering. I started out marching with the Girl Scouts, and by high school, was in the marching band. Our parade began at the school, wound through the town, and ended at the cemetery, where a very solemn ceremony of wreath laying took place, accompanied by prayer, a twenty-one gun salute fired by proud veterans, and ended with the lonely and poignant sound of taps echoing across the hills. My brother was one of the two trumpet players on opposite sides of the cemetery, one playing the echo to the other. The Viet Nam War was still dragging on, but on that hill above Gilbertsville, time stood still, the ground was sacred, and even as a rebellious generation, we knew and honored those traditions. (more…)
“Can it get any worse?” That’s what Dwight Pardee probably asked his wife Mary, after their oldest child had the details of his very short and very public bad marriage published in newspapers across the country in 1909 and 1910. Dwight W. Pardee was the Secretary of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railway, and twenty year old Roy Pardee was a young man in love with a pretty girl and the idea of marriage. His whirlwind marriage to twenty-two year old Lillian Beasley, a supposed recent widow and current chorus girl, resulted in twenty days of wedded bliss, ended by her spending, and his suspicions of her wandering eye, and finally a messy divorce, with the details written for all of the country to read. For all the details on this juicy story, and the early story of Brooklyn’s Pardee family, check out Part one of our story.
If Mary Pardee had been clairvoyant, she might have answered her husband by saying, “You think this is bad? You haven’t seen anything yet, my dear. Our daughter is going to make even bigger headlines than Roy ever could.” And so she did. The Pardees lived at 1310 Dean Street, in the St. Marks District, now Crown Heights North. Like many wealthy people, they also had a summer home, this one in Bay Shore, Long Island. With all of the mess going on with young Roy, the Pardees found themselves out in Bay Shore a lot, escaping the prying eyes of the press and the curious.
Elsa Pardee was just nineteen, and was herself, tall, dark haired and pretty. She had just graduated from finishing school, and was looking forward to a summer with her friends, especially her best friend, Marion Van Kleek, who lived only three doors away from their Dean Street home, at 1316 Dean. The Van Kleeks had their summer home upstate, at Lake George, and the girls planned to spend time at both cottages during the summer. The only problem was that the Pardees were short on a chauffeur. (more…)
Dwight W. Pardee was born in New Jersey in 1852. He was educated in public schools, and attended the Wilbraham Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. His first job was at the Fourth National Bank in New York City, and then he entered the railroad business. Cornelius Vanderbilt’s many railroad holdings became his career. In 1884, he became the Assistant Treasurer of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad Company, and in 1889 he became Secretary of the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley, and Pittsburgh Railroad Company. He then landing a plum job at the business office at Grand Central Station. When the Secretary of the New York Central Railroad died, Dwight Pardee assumed his job, and successfully handled the business affairs of the largest railroad system in the country. That demanding career was easy, compared to running afoul of the law in his automobile, and the love affairs of his only two children. This is the Pardee family story.
Dwight Pardee and his wife Mary had two children, Roy and Elsa. They were two years apart, and Roy was the eldest. By the time they were young adults, the Pardees were living at 1310 Dean Street, in a George Chappell designed row house featured as a Building of the Day, last week. The Pardees were wealthy; being an executive for the Commodore paid very well, and the family enjoyed all of the perks that came with being quite well-to-do. They, like everyone else in the St. Marks District, had servants in the household, including maids, cooks and chauffeurs. Mr. Pardee was driven to work every day, and after automobiles replaced carriages, he was driven around in a handsome open touring car. (more…)
“Automobile Row on Bedford Avenue became almost as well known throughout the United States as Automobile Row on Broadway…In those days, Bedford Avenue was the Sunday afternoon walk of the most substantial portion of Brooklyn. It was the Easter Parade street, the auto parade street, the center of life and recreation. It was Automobile Row!”
These were the fond memories of Charles Bishop, one of the pioneers of Automobile Row in the first half of the 20th century. He and his father, Eli Bishop, were two-thirds of one of the most successful automobile dealerships in Brooklyn: Bishop, McCormick and Bishop, which operated out of a series of showrooms on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Halsey Street. Eli Bishop had started out in the real estate business, and was responsible for a great deal of the development of the Bedford area, but had turned to the automobile in the first years of the 1900s, realizing that this could be big, perhaps as big as real estate. He was right. (more…)
“As Brooklyn goes, so goes the world,” Charles Bishop told the Brooklyn Eagle in 1941. He was referring to the automobile industry in Brooklyn, a world he knew as well as anyone, being one of the pioneers in the industry that once dominated the core of the city along Bedford Avenue in Central Brooklyn. In the space of forty years, approximately between 1905 and 1945, the automobile industry took over Bedford Avenue and its environs, creating one of the most lucrative and far-reaching areas of business, the likes of which we will never see again.
It all begins with the road and the wheel. The road was Bedford Avenue, the main north-south roadway in Brooklyn, stretching the length of the city, a vital thoroughfare connecting the towns that make up the city of Brooklyn, running from Greenpoint, south to Sheepshead Bay. By the end of the 19th century, Bedford Avenue, between Grant Square in Bedford, and Williamsburg, was one of the busiest and most important streets in the city. There were blocks with fine homes, especially in Williamsburg and central Bedford, but it was also filled with large houses of worship, clubs, theaters, schools, restaurants and businesses. The street was connected by trolleys and omnibuses, and the Long Island Railroad stopped at Bedford, near Fulton and Atlantic, but in the mid-1880s, a new mode of transportation had also taken to the streets. No, not the car, I’m talking about the bicycle. (more…)
Unfortunately our columnist’s computer problems are continuing today so we are republishing a Walkabout from a few years ago.
Photo: First AME Zion Church, McDonough at Tompkins. Bedford Stuyvesant. Home of this congregation since 1947.
Sidney L. Painter was a well-known Negro band leader in turn of the 20th century Brooklyn. He hailed from the Wichita, Kansas area, but when he died in February of 1905; his funeral took place at the First African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Fleet Street, in downtown Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s had several large African-American communities, as Brooklyn has always had African-American residents, and at this time, one of the largest communities was centered in the area of downtown Brooklyn near Fleet and Concord Streets, near Hudson and Myrtle Avenues, in the area now occupied by Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and the northern part of MetroTech. The black community there had a long history of religious participation, and several of modern day Brooklyn’s largest black churches got their start in this community.
The First AME Zion Church on Fleet Street had originally been built as the Fleet Street Methodist Episcopal Church, in 1849. It was a large two story wooden structure with a gabled roof, but no steeple. Inside, it had a large open downstairs room that was used for Sunday school classes and church events, and upstairs was the church sanctuary, with two aisles, and three rows of benches. In order to get upstairs, people had to go up one of two stairways on the left and right of a hallway. These stairs were narrow, and about halfway up, turned on themselves, before continuing upstairs. The church had been sold to the black congregation about twenty years before, and was one of the more important houses of worship in this downtown black community. A celebrity like Sidney Painter would bring out a large crowd for his funeral. Unfortunately, death would be there to claim more than Mr. Painter that day. (more…)
Ever since Henry Ford’s assembly line made it possible for the average American to purchase a car, we’ve been in love with the automobile. But Ford was not the only automaker around, and no sooner than the first cars started to appear, than it seemed that every inventor and blacksmith with a knack for engines and enough money to go into business, was becoming a car maker. The beginning of the 20th century was a marvelous time for the automobile, and there were dozens of companies, long before the “Big Three” took over the industry. Most of these names are long forgotten. Some of the cars produced by these smaller companies no longer exist outside of photographs and drawings. But back then, they were all here, rolling down the streets of Brooklyn.
Although there were dealerships, garages and suppliers all over the borough, Bedford Avenue, especially between Malbone Street (now Empire Boulevard) and Fulton Street, a long stretch of road starting in Flatbush, through the entirety of Crown Heights, and on into Bedford Stuyvesant, became known as “Automobile Row.” Residential development in this area had been slowed down by the looming and forbidding presence of the Brooklyn Penitentiary on Bedford and Union, but as soon as that structure was torn down in 1907, things started to take off. (more…)
Brooklyn’s housing stock is comprised of thousands of buildings, some designed by Brooklyn’s finest architects; some of whom trained in Paris, London and Germany, as well as in the universities and the most prestigious architects’ offices here in the United States. Even more buildings were designed by those not touched by greatness, but nonetheless, talented and competent, men who more or less anonymously went about building our great city block by block.
This second group comprised all kinds of men, and as far as we know, they were all men, who came from many lands, many backgrounds, and had many different kind of skills. Most came up in the building trades, many had fathers and grandfathers who were architects, carpenters, masons and builders, and they learned at their side, apprenticing with their elders until they could go out on their own. As they became successful, many of these men became developers as well, buying plots of land in growing Brooklyn neighborhoods, and building houses which they then sold to eager buyers.
Building can be a high calling, but many people feel that there is an even higher calling, that of the ministry, and while many in the building trade had strong religious convictions, I have learned of only one man whose building skills encompassed both heaven and earth. That would be different enough, but the fact that he was also African American puts him in a category all his own in Brooklyn’s architectural pantheon. This is the story of Essex Roberts, perhaps Brooklyn’s first named black architect and builder. (more…)
Big trials got big press, especially in the days before 24/7 news coverage. Newspapers lived for circus-like trials, when everyone, high and low, spent their three cents on a paper to see what was going on in the courtroom. Dirty deeds had no place to hide. No one knew that better than the good people of Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights, because in 1901, the trial de jour, which captured the front pages of local newspapers, was all about dirty rugs and a self-righteous wealthy housewife named Leila Wunderlich.
She was one of their own, a wealthy homeowner; wife to a rich and prominent doctor named Frederick Wunderlich. Leila was a perfect wife, born in Massachusetts, raised in New Orleans, and was beautiful, fashionable and educated. She ran a tight ship at home, with a staff of servants that she worked all day, every day, in order to achieve a home that was so clean and perfect that her husband could have operated on the floor. Her house was her pride and joy; her house was a reflection of herself, as perfect as was humanly possible in a dirty and uncivilized Brooklyn world. (more…)
Officers Grant, McKee, Donlin and Sullivan were part of a special unit – the Sanitary Squad. The year was 1901, and the place was Remsen Street in tony Brooklyn Heights. In June of that year, these officers were doing what they had been assigned to do for close to a year: they were looking for the serial rug beater who was terrorizing Remsen Street. The cops knew where the miscreants lived, but the perps were crafty, and they could never catch them in the act. So they patrolled the roof of the Title and Guarantee Building, on Montague Street, a tall office building that overlooked the backyards of Remsen Street. Next door, in the Garfield Building, an office building on the corner of Court and Remsen, where the Temple Bar Building stands today, the office workers, architects, lawyers, secretaries and other tenants of the building could see these plainclothes officers peering over the parapet, looking for something. They were obviously some kind of police, but whatever they were looking for was eluding them. But that would soon change.
Everyone on this block of Remsen Street knew who the perpetrator was. Everyone, especially the neighbors on either side of 165 Remsen, had been the victims. This block was populated by some of the wealthiest and most important people in the city. This was Remsen Street, one of the premiere blocks of Brooklyn Heights, home to doctors, politicians, financiers, lawyers, and well-paid professionals. 165 Remsen belonged to Dr. Frederick Wunderlich, a distinguished, well-known and highly regarded medical doctor. He had lived in this house for about six years when the trouble went down, with his wife, children and a staff of several servants. (more…)
Brooklyn Heights has long been home to some of the city’s elite, and that was never more true than in the latter half of the 19th century. Some of Brooklyn’s most important and influential people lived in the Heights, those who were kings and royal families of finance, commerce and political power. The Heights was also home to wealthy professionals: doctors, lawyers, and others who worked hard to achieve great success and wealth in their professions. Put all of these people together, and you have… well, you have people who acted like everyone else who lived in less exalted stations, just with better wardrobes and perhaps a greater chance of getting their business in the paper. Take the case of Mrs. Leila Wunderlich and her neighbor, Hugh McLaughlin, and the offending rugs that landed her in court.
Dr. Frederick W. Wunderlich was a prominent physician. He and his wife and family lived at 165 Remsen Street, between Court and Clinton Streets, in Brooklyn Heights. Their house was a five story brownstone with a large extension in the back, like many of the other large, mid-19th century townhouses that line Remsen on the other side of Clinton. Today, this block is more commercial, and the Wunderlich house is gone, replaced by an office building that was the choice for a BOTD last week. (more…)
After spending three weeks with Edward Linton of East New York, it’s time to end his story. He was such a major figure in the history of the 26th Ward, I’ve really only touched the surface in relating what a larger-than-life and influential man he was in his day. Any neighborhood would be glad to have such an advocate. True, a lot of what he worked so hard to get for East New York also enriched his own coffers, because as the largest of the area’s landowners and landlords, what was good for the 26th Ward was good for Edward Linton. Fortunately, his was a benevolent despotism. Most of what he lobbied for in the halls of city and state power was necessary for the community as a whole. Transportation, public services and economic opportunities: These were the things that moved Linton to action.
Many of his contemporaries were extremely jealous of him, especially local political functionaries. They managed to keep him out of public office, but they couldn’t keep him off committees and commissions put together by mayors or state officials. Linton didn’t need to be in politics; the politicians were going to come to him, regardless. If they weren’t coming to his door, he would be banging on theirs. And no fight would be bigger than Linton’s to get a sewer system in East New York. (more…)
Believe it or not, it was not easy being Edward F. Linton. It was hard work building an empire in East New York, building a new Brooklyn neighborhood in a town that wasn’t even part of the City of Brooklyn until 1886. When the former town of New Lots became Brooklyn’s 26th Ward, Linton was front and center as head of the powerful Atlantic Avenue Improvement Committee, lobbying hard for improved transportation and infrastructure. He was also amassing a fortune, buying up as many of the old Dutch farms as possible, and reselling the lots, or selling the houses he built on many of those lots. He invested in a baseball club, built a stadium for his club, and rented the field out for other sporting events. Like many wealthy men, he was drawn to the ultimate rich man’s sport, and bought himself a yacht, and a membership in a yacht club.
Linton had a loving wife and children, and a fine home, a former Dutch farmhouse that he had had enlarged and modernized. His real estate and development business had grown to the point that he started his own bank, in order to control his mortgages and real estate investments. He also had a business partner he trusted, William Winberg, his CFO, a man he regarded as a friend as well as former employee. In 1895, Winberg, had tragically tried to kill his wife, and succeeded in killing himself in a drunken jealous rage which may have been exacerbated by an undiagnosed brain tumor. That story and further background can be read in the previous chapters of our story, linked at the end of this chapter. With his death, Linton lost a fine financial mind, and a good friend. (more…)
On November 23, 1889, at three in the afternoon, a group of East New York dignitaries, Brooklyn officials, and well-wishers stood on the corner of Atlantic and Pennsylvania Avenues to watch East New York’s first bank have its cornerstone laid in the ground for its new building. The architect, Richard Upjohn, Jr. did the honors, and the venture was celebrated with speeches, prayers, and well wishes. The keynote speaker, Gustaf Dettloff, reminded his audience of how far East New York had come; from a small town called New Lots, inhabited by Dutch farmers, to the bustling community it was that day. He spoke about how a group of these Dutch farmers and businessmen, whose names read like a map of the city’s streets, had gotten together in 1868 to form the East New York Savings Bank. Most of the men were now gone, but they weren’t forgotten.
One of the East New York dignitaries at the front of the crowd was Edward F. Linton, the president of the Atlantic Avenue Improvement Commission, the local business improvement organization that had lobbied to get the bank built, as well as other amenities and services in the 26th Ward. As Linton listened to the early families being remembered: Schenck, Remsen, Stoothoff, Rapelye, Vanderveer, Lott, Palmer, Wyckoff and others, he must have chuckled to himself. Most of those names were very familiar to him, he had bought their farms, mostly from their heirs, and he was now the largest landowner in the 26th Ward. (more…)