Binge Watch Brooklyn’s Past With Brooklyn Historical Society’s New Online Video Resources

Projectionist Susan Baptist in the 1940s. Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps. via Library of Congress


    There are always new opportunities to go down the rabbit hole of online history hunting and now some Brooklyn-themed videos have been added to the mix.

    The Brooklyn Historical Society already has a stash of online resources, including maps, photos and newspapers, and a new project has added film, video and audio recordings.

    “We are very excited to make new video footage and audio recordings of Brooklyn available to researchers worldwide,” Maggie Schreiner, Manager of Archives and Special Collections at BHS, told Brownstoner. “The recordings include gems from the Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers that allow us to look back at the early days of Brooklyn’s historic preservation movement, radio spots for Gage and Tollner’s restaurant, and footage of exhibitions right here at BHS.”


    A screenshot from “Cinderella of Berkeley Place” by the Brooklyn Union Gas Company

    Right now history enthusiasts can work their way through seven audio recordings and 37 films. Definitely worth binge watching are the handful of the circa 1970s films produced by the Brooklyn Union Gas Company. In the late 1960s, the company began the Cinderella Project, which rehabilitated historic homes, stores and apartment buildings. Vacant buildings were purchased and renovated (with gas appliances, of course) to attract new residents and demonstrate that the existing building stock could be salvaged. The program also installed vintage looking gas lamps next to houses, many of which still survive in Park Slope and Bed Stuy.

    They began with demonstration projects in Park Slope and one of the films, “Cinderella of Berkeley Place,” includes some nifty period reenactors and the story of the renovation of two houses on Berkeley Place. Architect Edwin B. Taylor, Evelyn Ortner and other experts discuss the process of renovating brownstones, including how to preserve details and fit in new amenities.

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    A screen shot from “Restoration in Bedford-Stuyvesant” by Bob Bailey Productions, circa 1972. Film accessible via Brooklyn Historical Society

    Other highlights in the collection include the circa 1972 “Restoration in Bedford-Stuyvesant” and a 1980s Regional Plan Association film about Downtown Brooklyn. There are some older resources in the collection as well, including family films from the 1920s through 1940s.

    Resources will continue to be added to the film, video and audio collection. Next up will be recordings from the Packer Collegiate Institute, scheduled to be accessible within the next few months.

    While you are on the BHS online research and collections portal, make sure to check out the other resources. New items and information are regularly added. If you are an early 19th century Brooklyn buff, the digitized newspapers, including the Brooklyn Evening Star, The Long-Island Star and Brooklyn Daily Evening Star, are a handy resource.

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