Go down the rabbit hole of online history hunting in a new way with some Brooklyn-themed videos.
A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
Most of my Past and Present entries tell the story of what happened to buildings that are no longer — but this one is about a much-hyped building that never was.
Houses of Worship in Prospect Heights
With very few exceptions, Brooklyn’s brownstone neighborhoods live up to the 19th-century epithet “City of Churches.” Many of our neighborhoods can boast of a church seemingly on every other corner, and some have more than one on a corner.
Prospect Heights is therefore an anomaly. It’s a later-19th-century community, developed at the same time as parts of Park Slope, Crown Heights North and Bedford Stuyvesant, but unlike those neighborhoods, very much lacking in large houses of worship.
We conclude our look at the “Great Mistake,” the creation of Greater New York City, and the end of an independent Brooklyn. Part One of our story gave the background of the move to consolidate and Part Two explained why it was so important to New York City. Now, the aftermath.
What must have it been like to wake up in Brooklyn on January 1, 1898, and realize that you were not in an independent city but instead part of Greater New York City? To be no longer the captain of your own team, but now a player on someone else’s?
I would imagine for most people, especially the average working man in New York, the consolidation meant nothing, and it was just another New Year’s Day. Some Brooklynites embraced the change, eager to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new rules.
A look at Brooklyn, then and now.
A search through the photo archives of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Brooklyn Collection can often turn up mysteries. Take today’s period photograph, dated 1937. It shows the side elevation of a large brick building in the Queen Anne style, located on a crowded street.
The caption notes that this is the Adams Street Courthouse and Police Station, near Myrtle Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. The wooden tracks of the El train that snaked up from the Brooklyn Bridge to swing around Borough Hall and on to Fulton Street can be seen in the foreground.
We know that this building is long gone, but exactly where was it? A look at the maps reveals the answer.
This was 318-322 Adams Street, just down and across the street from the post office, between Myrtle Avenue and Johnson Street. Today, this address is part of the block-long Supreme Court Building site at Cadman Plaza.
Here’s an updated look at the most important thing to happen in Brooklyn since Henry Hudson landed at Coney Island. Many people call it “The Great Mistake.” Was it? Read Part 1 of this series. Next, read Part 3.
On January 1, 1898, the City of New York officially rose from the collection of cities, towns and neighborhoods that made up Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.
For those who had worked for close to 20 years to make this happen, it was a glorious day. For the common folk of New York, business probably just went on as usual.
In 1873, talk of a Greater New York City began in earnest. The leading citizens and politicians of both New York and Brooklyn began talking about joining the two cities. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 gave the idea wings.
Simon Chittenden, one of Brooklyn’s leading citizens, was one of the first serious proponents of this annexation, and he held meetings in his Brooklyn Heights home, successfully getting the proposal to the 1874 State Legislature. The measure did not pass.
The chief mover of the Consolidation Movement was Andrew Haswell Green, a Manhattan lawyer, city planner and visionary. Some historians refer to him as the 19th century’s Robert Moses for his vision and determination in changing the face of New York.
Appointed chairman of the New York City Parks Commission, he worked tirelessly on city planning projects. His name is associated with the creation of Central Park, as well as Riverside, Morningside and Fort Washington parks.
He widened Broadway, created the circle at Columbus Circle, and sponsored the creation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. He also joined the Tilden, Astor and Lenox funds to finance the creation of the New York Public Library system.
Green was appointed by the state legislature to be the head of the consolidation commission called the Greater New York Committee.
Brooklyn Brainery is hosting another cool Brooklyn history class, this time on the rise and fall of Prospect Park, which planners Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux envisioned as a pastoral refuge. By the mid-1970s, the park had become a symbol of the borough’s urban decay and rising crime rates, and “the goddess driving atop the arch in Grand Army Plaza had fallen over in her chariot,” writes urban planning researcher Patrick Lamson-Hall in the workshop description.
“Prospect Park is the the heart and lungs of Brooklyn,” writes Lamson-Hall. “Its decay and subsequent revival showcase important lessons about urban public space, public safety and policing, and the powerful role of citizens in reclaiming their city.”
The workshop costs $10 and will happen from 6:30 to 8 pm on March 11. You can buy tickets here.