The explosion of a Brooklyn hat factory, February 1860

A long time ago, 151 years ago this month to be exact, a hat factory exploded in Brooklyn. Hats being far more prevalent in the social fashion then than they are today, New York and the surrounding area were, pardon the pun, brimming with them. The city of Brooklyn had to make due with one… Read More

The original Farmville; or putting the ‘green’ in Greenpoint

Frozen farm: The Eagle Street Rooftop Farm waits out the weather for a better day. (Courtesy Scott Nyerges) NAME THAT NEIGHBORHOOD Some New York neighborhoods are simply named for their location on a map (East Village, Midtown). Others are given prefabricated designations (SoHo, DUMBO). But a few retain names that link them intimately with their… Read More

Ulmer Park: A toasty footnote in Brooklyn beer history

We’re putting together the first new podcast of the year right now, involving a major traumatic event in south Brooklyn history. As I’m getting that together, enjoy this blog posting from summer 2009 about one of southern Brooklyn’s long forgotten pleasure destinations, Ulmer Park. You can find the original article here. Over a 100 years… Read More

So, do we call it St. Patrick’s Old Basilica now?

New York’s original St. Patrick’s Cathedral located in Little Italy — or NoLIta, if you must– just got a serious upgrade yesterday, when the Pope deemed the old, revered Catholic church an officially sanctioned basilica. A Catholic basilica is a church with ‘certain privileges’, an elite designation where various religious rituals can take place. This… Read More

Brooklyn’s subway origins, at an insane intersection

The first subway into Brooklyn — not a product of Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT), but of an extension of the original Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) — terminated at what is today the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street Station, at the crossroads of several streets and a hub for the Long Island Railroad and a station for the… Read More

Brooklyn residents, beware the dangers of ‘the wheel’!

“The bicycle path from Prospect Park, Brooklyn, to Coney Island.” Illustration above an 1896 issue of Munsey’s magazine (Courtesy NYPL)You have been warned! From an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, dated May 11, 1896: “Several thousand men and women rode on bicycles in this neighborhood yesterday. Possibly twenty of them were injured in one… Read More

New York and Brooklyn’s first ferry — for a handful of wampum and the toot of a horn

ABOVE: A detail from an illustration of the northern points of the New Amsterdam colony, 1640. The year 1642 saw the very first regular ferry service in New York Harbor, between the two small villages of Breuckelen and New Amsterdam. The populations of both areas numbered less than 1,000 at most, combined, and most were… Read More

In Brooklyn, would newsboys sing for their supper?

Two wee newspersons prepare to disturb the air with their shrill, violent cries of commerce. Photo by Alice Austen[NYPL] Those newsboys — always causing trouble! Over 150 years ago in Brooklyn, it wasn’t a strike that caused consternation with readers of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle; it was the mere sound of their harsh little voices.… Read More

Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky….

Above: Lena Horne at the Copacabana, October 1948 Lena Horne, the Brooklyn-born entertainer who broke color barriers in the New York nightclub scene as well as in Hollywood, died in a New York hospital yesterday at age 92. She would make history in Harlem, in segregated hotspots like The Cotton Club, where the entertainment was… Read More

Joy Fong and memories of Chinese food past

I have this thing for kitschy Chinese restaurant design, so this picture from 1971 made my day. Joy Fong Chow Mein was located on Avenue J and Coney Island Avenue in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn nearby Di Fara’s Pizza and the old Midwood movie theater (which closed in the early 80s). Joy Fong is… Read More

Bensonhurst’s Sbarro: a non-New Yorker’s New York pizza

The Sbarro family in their original salumeria in Bensonhurst In my Friday roundup of famous New York-style pizzerias, I left out the one pizza company that could technically be called the most recognizable New York pie — at least to those who live outside the city. Sbarros Pizza is a fixture of shopping malls and… Read More

Salute to Ulmer Park, short-lived Brooklyn beer getaway

All aboard the train to Coney Island, Ulmer Park and Bath Beach Above pic courtesy NYPL Next weekend on Coney Island is the annual Siren Festival, sponsored by the Village Voice. Are you going? Believe it or not, over a 100 years ago, there was once a time you could get your beer, music and… Read More

Bowling Brooklyn-style: 100 years ago

The late-night scene at Subway Bowling Alley in Brooklyn, in 1910. Take a look here for a brief history of Manhattan bowling alleys. By the way, Bowling Green in Manhattan? Yeah, they originally bowled there. Pic courtesy Library of Congress PS — The caption indicates the bowling alley was at 65 South St. in Brooklyn.… Read More

What are the boys of Brooklyn wearing?

Fall fashion in 1912: this lad named Chester enjoys the cool ocean breeze in this stylish suit, modeled here at Sea Gate, on the western end of Coney Island. A year earlier, in 1911, Chester sports the latest in versatile beach wear, as his mother Mildred ensures not a ray of sunshine will hit her… Read More

Thank you Bob. Thank you Gowanus Lounge.

We’d like to offer our condolences to the friends and family of Robert Guskind, the creator and wit behind Gowanus Lounge, one of the very best blogs about Brooklyn. When I began this site over 20 months ago, Guskind’s was one of the first that I linked to and read on a regular basis, admiring… Read More