The Bay Ridge Chronicles

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All rights reserved. Copyright Š 1976 by Jerome F. X. Hoffman This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission from the author. Published by the Bay Ridge Bicentennial Committee of the Planning Board 10 Printed in the United States of America

A Proclamation by the President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, January 2, 1976 I call upon educators, clergy and labor, business

and community leaders, as well as those in the communications media to review our history and publicize the shaping events, people, and ideas of our his toric beginnings. I call upon every man, woman, and child to celebrate the diversity of tradition, culture and heritage that reflects our people and our patrimony. Let each of us resolve to cherish and protect what we have achieved in the United States of America and to build upon it in the years ahead, not by words alone, but by actions which bespeak a continuing commitment to a heritage of individual initiative, creativity, and liberty.

The Bay Ridge Bicentennial Committee of Community Planning Board Ten wishes to publically acknowledge the most generous and wholehearted support given to the observation of our Country's Two Hundredth Birthday. To try to enumerate the contributions of each group and every individual by name might well exceed the major part of this volume. We must remember that this work is only one Bicentennial Commemoration. The others have involved a two day Community Festival. the New York State Barge visit a costume ball, a picnic, several film festivals, religious services of bicentennial nature, a school flag contest, numerous parades and the visit on July 4th of the world's tall ships known as Operation Sail. All members of the Bay Ridge Bicentennial Committee outdid themselves in their devotion to making this year a most honorable and memorable occasion for our community. These Chronicles might never have come to fruition without the boundless enthusiasm and dedication of the author, Jerome Hoffman, and his committee. We take off our tri-corner hats to Jerry and his editor Doris Miller; the photographers Manny Ottaviano, Mark Savad and Daniel Hoffman; the secretary Eleanor Wilson; the financial chairman Jim McMahon; the chief researcher Dr. John Roche; the designer Ernest Unz. Valuable pictures were supplied by Mary Bennett Elligers, Edith Carraba, Percy Varian, the Bay Ridge Reading Club, the Long Island Historical Society and the Brooklyn Collection. We believe this to be a wonderful legacy for future generations of Bay Ridgeites. May they read and enjoy it as our gift to them. In this and other ways, we the citizens of Bay Ridge express our love of Country, our reverence for the past and our hopes for the future.

BICENTENNIAL COMMITTEE PLANNING BOARD NO. 10 Thomas Meagher June Meagher Doris Miller Theodore General Paul W. Sottnek, Jr. Philip Klingle Ann Cagan Henry Vogt Carolyn McGuire Leonard Shea Jane Kelly Joseph Keeler Richard Pontone Ernest Unz Margaret Unz Walter K. Forst

Seymour Hionas John Nersten, Jr. Dolores Cleary Manny Ottaviano Helen McManus Kay Reilly Frank C. Spinner, Jr. James McMahon, Jr. Jerome F. X. Hoffman John J. Rusin Kitty Raphael Howard Dunn Joseph Farage Al Nahas Dr. John Roche


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Chapter I Topology - The First Seiilere - The First Europeans The Dutch - The Beginnings of the English Conquest CIENTISTS tell us that the earth is more than a billion years old. For many centuries the waters that surround Long Island, and border our part of it, swept up to shores unknown to the tread of man. These same sparkling waters knew nothing of the sound of cars or anchors for many years. They glistened in the fading sun much as they do today. The great trees which sway in the nighttime breeze and the birds and the animals which knew this area as home were all the first observers of the beauty of this area. Among those animals were deer, wolves, foxes, wild cats, beavers, bears, opossum and racoons. Migratory birds often rested here while on their long journeys North and South. These animals lived out their natural lives among forests of Locusts, Oaks, Chestnut, Walnut and Yellow or Pitch Pine trees, as well as other species of trees found in deciduous forests. They scampered over ground rich in clay, useful for the manufacture of pottery and brick, and in minerals to feed growing crops. When the first Indians arrived is a date lost to history. Radio-active charcoal tests have indicated that Indians were living here at the time the Egyptians were building the Great Pyramids of the Nile. The abundance of game, the fertility of the soil and the beauty of the region probably all combined to convince them to stay. When the first white traders arrived they found the Indians enjoying their particular life style and going about the business of trapping, hunting, fishing and farming. These Indians were part of the Mohegan nation and spoke Algonquin. In the area of Bay Ridge lived a group known as the Nyacks, members of the Canarsie tribe. 1

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The first descriptions we have of the Indians of the area was provided by the explorer Giovanni Da Verrazano, an Italian working for the French Dauphine. After safely anchoring his ship "La Dauphine" he relates: "We were with the small boat, entering the said river to the land which we found much populated. The people, clothed with feathers of birds of various colors, came toward us joyfully, uttering very great exclamations of admiration showing us where we could land the boat more safely." Verrazano went on to describe them, according to E.M. Rutten in his book "History of the Indian Tribes of Hudson's River," published in 1822, as follows: "In person, they were of good proportions, of middle stature, broad across the breast, strong in the arms, and well-formed ... In size they exceed us, their complexion tawny, inclining to white, their faces sharp, their hair long and black, their eyes black and sharp, their expression mild and pleasant, greatly resembling the antique."


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"The women were of the same form and beauty, very graceful, of fine countenance and pleasing appearance in manners and modesty. They wore ... a deerskin ornamented like those of the men ... very rich lynx skins upon their arms, and various ornaments upon their heads, composed of braids of hair."

Verrazano also found them very generous with whatever they had. This description was repeated in 1609 by Henry Hudson, the second European to appear in the Narrows. His log records: "This day many of the people came aboard, some in mantles of feathers and some in skins of diverse sorts of good furs. Some women also came to us with hemp. They had red copper tobacco pipes, and other things of copper they did wear about their necks."

These are the earliest descriptions of the Indians made by the first Europeans who stopped here. These Indians did not live, like the plains Indians, in teepees but in long-houses which looked similar to Quonset huts. We are indebted to Jasper Danckaerts, who came here in 1679, for his description of the long-house in his "Journal of a voyage to New York, and a time in several of the American colonies, 1679-80", the original manuscript of which is in the Long Island Historical Society. Danckaerts described the situation as he was led by an old Indian woman to her house. "We went from thence to her habitation,

where we found the whole troop together, consisting of 7

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or 8 families and 20 to 22 persons, Ishould think. Their house was low and long, about 60 ft. long and 14 or 15 feet wide. The bottom was earth ... The top, or ridge of the roof was open about half a foot wide, from one end to the other, in order to let the smoke escape ... On the side, or walls, of the house, the roof was so low that you could hardly stand under it. The entrance, or doors, which were at both ends, were so small and low that they had to stoop down and squeeze themselves to get through them ... They build their fire in the middle of the floor, according to the number of families which live in it, so that from one end to the other each of them boils its own pot, and eats when it likes ... " Excavations at many Indian sites indicate that they caught many oysters and clams. The shells of these were particularly valuable as wampum, the Indian medium of exchange. Archaeologists inform us that their religion was based on nature worship, that the sun and moon, thunder and the winds were controlled by various deities. Standing on Shore Road at dusk, which one of us can blame these early men for such belief when we watch the red ball of the sun slowly fade beyond the horizons, see the gold which glitters on the waves and feel the warmth depart as the chill of night descends? The early Dutch settlers lived in good standing with the Indians. They early realized the importance of wampum and at one time it was recognized as the currency of the colony. In 1683 the Flatbush schoolmaster was paid in wheat at wampum value. In 1693 the price to be ferried from New York to Brooklyn was 8 stivers of wampum. However, this is getting a little ahead of our story. The first European explorer to look through the Narrows at what is now New York Harbor and Gravesend Bay was Giovanni Da Verrazano. In 1524 this explorer sailed along the Atlantic coast of the present United States after some piratical undertakings in the Caribbean. He called the land he saw" Angouleme". He


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travelled as far north as Maine and then sailed for France to report to the King. Little is known of the remainder of the intrepid explorer's life. However, since he was the first documented European to view the Narrows, it is only proper that his name should grace the bridge which spans that body of water. Although Verrazano noted that the land was not without some properties of value, all of the hills showing indications of minerals", it wasn't un til 85 years later that another European viewed this land. /I


In the year 1609 Henrik Hudson, an Englishman employed by the Dutch East India Company, sailed into New York Harbor in his ship, the Half-Moon. He had been searching, as were many explorers of the time, for the fabled Northwest Passage to India. While it is possible that others, most especially the Vikings, visited New York between Verrazano and Hudson and even before Verrazano, these claims are hard to verify.



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We do know that Hudson not only sailed into the harbor but up the Hudson river as well, claiming all he saw for Holland. He spent a few days anchored between Sandy Hook and Coney Island, questioning the Indians as to what lay beyond. His report to the company when he returned to Holland was probably a disappontment in one sense. He had obviously not found the much sought Northwest Passage. However, he had brought back information which would prove much more important to the world. The Dutch were not ones to let the grass grow under their feet very long. They recognized the importance of the information which Hudson had brought back and so, in 1612, they sent out two more ships, the Fortune under Hendrick Christaensen and the Tiger under Adraen Block. Christaensen sailed up the Hudson and founded Fort Orange. Block, however, met with difficulties. The Tiger, all set to sail for the Netherlands, burned and sank, leaving Block and his party stranded. They lived on Manhattan Island, ably assisted by the Indians who lived there. The main beam of the Tiger was uncovered by workmen for the Transit Authority while digging one of the tunnels into Manhattan. It was found 30 feet below the surface of Day and Greenwich Streets. It is now on exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. Block and his crew set about to build another boat, the


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"Onrust" or Restless. In it Block explored the Bay and the rest of Long Island, establishing for certain that Long Island was, in fact, an island. Block Island gets its name from the courageous Dutchman. The Dutch set up their first trading posts on the Southern tip of Manhattan. It was strategically located for both trade and military purposes. They paid a price known by almost any New Yorker, approximately $24 in beads, trinkets, knives, combs, etc. This must certainly go down as one of the greatest land deals ever transacted. However the Indians used Manhattan basically as a temporary camp ground while passing back and forth between the much richer areas of New Jersey and Long Island. Being primarily interested in hunting and fishing, the island didn't have much to recommend itself to them for anything else. We can only wonder what they would think if they saw it today. Many of the Dutch who ventured to the new world were farmers. Being farmers they soon realized the advantage of expanding onto Long Island, known to the Dutch as Nassau. Early land owners in the area were the Dutch Governor, Wilhelm Keift and an individual known as Anthony Jansen van Salee, a man of dubious character who was patented in 1639 with 100 morgens (200 acres) in the area of Gravesend and New Utrecht. This property later on was sold to Nicholas Sillwell. The first real land owner of importance to Bay Ridge was Cornelius Van Werckhoven, a member of the Dutch West India Company, which had been set up to regulate trade in New Netherland. He was from the city of Utrecht and it is here that the area gets its name. The early history of Bay Ridge is tied to that of the town of New Utrecht and so the story of that town must be told. Van Werckhoven arrived in New Amsterdam in 1652 accompanied by Jacques Cortelyou, a man of education 7

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who was to be the tutor for Werckhoven's children. He purchased 180 acres of the original Keift property, including the Nyack Indian village which was located at the present site of Fort Hamilton. There is a marker just inside the Main Gate of the Fort testifying to the Indians early presence there. In November of that year Van Werckhoven found that the Governor, Keift, was not the only one he had to deal with. The Indians who were living on the property said that they knew nothing of Keitt's original purchase and required payment. Van Werckhoven complied and paid more for New Utrecht and Bay Ridge than the Dutch had paid for Manhattan. The price was six shirts, two pairs of shoes, six pairs of sox, six axes, six ha tchets, six knives, two scissors and six cans. We can only guess what they intended to do with the cans. One month later Van Werckhoven had to pay again for the property. Probably other Indians had moved in and when Van Werckhoven went to see his bouwerie (estate) these Indians probably demanded payment also. So for a second time New Utrecht and Bay Ridge were purchased. This time the price was six coats, six kettles, another six axes, another six hatchets, six small looking glasses, twelve knives and another 12 cans. This second time it was written into the contract that" ... they ... and their descendants remove immediately from the land now occupied by them, called Naieck and never return to live in the limits of the district as described in the foregoing act nor ever make any claim upon it." The Indians knew where the valuable property was and made sure they got a good price for it. Perhaps it is proper then, in light of these dealings, that Bay Ridge has so many Real Estate offices. The occupation had an early start here. The property which Van Werckhoven purchased is described in the original deed as stretching from behind Mr. Paulus' land called Gowanus, across the hills to 1/ •••

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Michawanieck, lying on the South West side of Amersfoort (Flatlands) and thence past Gravesend to the sea following the marks on the trees ... " These were the boundaries of New Utrecht, of which Bay Ridge, originally known as Yellow Hook, was a part. In 1881 Tunis G. Bergen described the area of the Nayacs tract, Bay Ridge to " 路 路 路 extend along the bay from a lane between the farms belonging to the late Albert N. Van Brunt and the late Chandler White, to Cortelyou's lane on the present highway leading from the bay to the village of New Utrecht near the residence of John C. Bennett". This description is notable in that the names Cortelyou and Van Brunt still figure prominently in Bay Ridge affairs as late as 1881. Once having settled the problem of ownership, Van Werckhoven left New Amsterdam to return to Holland and recruit families to live upon the land. However, as we all know, the best laid plans of mice and men may often go astray. While in Holland the Honorable Mr. Werckhoven died, leaving Jacques Cortelyou in charge. From 1655 when Werckhoven died until 1657 little is known about the area. It probably lay idle. During that time, however, Cortelyou was busy. He had been planning the creation of a settlement and in 1657 he petitioned Peter Stuyvesant, Governor since replacing Keift in 1647, for patents. He broke the land up into 21 grants of 50 acres each,2 of which were set aside for the poor. Stuyvesant issued the patents to each of the following, a list of founding fathers as important to this area as the founding fathers of the country are to the nation at large. They were: Jacques Cortelyou, Nicasius De Sille, Peter Burgs, Johann Zeelen, Albert Albertsen (Terhune), William Williamse (Van Engen), Jacob Hellickers or Swart, Pieter Jansen, Huybert Hoock, Jan Jacobsen, Squire Jacobus Corlear, [ohan Tomasse (Van Dyke), Jacobus Backer, Rutgert Joosten (Van Brunt), Jacob Pietersen, Pieter Roeloffse, Claes Claessen (Smith), Cornelis Beeckman, Teunis Joosten.

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Each of these gentlemen started off on an equal footing as far as land goes. Further, there was no patroon over them watching what went on and making decisions for them. They were able to make their own decisions and their own deals. And what deals they made! Not even a generation later the original owners were buying, swapping and selling their pieces. The result was that families such as Emmons, DeNyse, Barkelow (Barkeloo), Gelston, Bogart, Lott and Cropsey acquired property. A look at the names of some of the streets in Bay Ridge gives evidence to these settlers. Cropsey and Gelston Avenues were not made up names. Van Salee probably had built a house for himself and his wife. Some excavations conducted in Gravesend in 1879 resulted in the exposing of some early foundations which may have been his home. We do know that one of the finest old homes in the town of New Utrecht, and one of the first, belonged to Nicasius De Sille, built in 1657. We are indebted to Tunis Van Bergen for an







L. I.. 1(;'57. WHERE


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account of what the house looked like. He describes the house thusly, "Substantially built after the manner of the Dutch architects of the time, with its thick stone walls, its capacious fireplaces, its prominent chimney, its long rambling sort of roof of red tile brought from Holland, its heavy beams and long rafters, and its odd windows with their little panes of glass ... "Such was the

design of most of the early Dutch homes. De Sille was an educated man, a poet and a lawyer who wrote an excellent script. Much information we have about the early town of New Utrecht is known today as a result of his clear hand. In 1661 the town of New Utrecht was granted a charter by Peter Stuyvesant and elected its own officials. The first magistrates, or Schepens, were Jan Tommasse (Van Dyke) and Rutgert Joosten (Van Brunt). The duties of schout or sheriff were to be carried out by Adriaen Hegeman, who was the schout of Breukelen. The schout was similar to a sheriff or policeman. Imagine needing only one policeman for the whole area from the Narrows to Fulton Ferry. When the Dutch arrived they carried their customs and their traditions with them. They were a deeply religious people who believed strongly in the importance of maintaining home and hearth and their traditions. They had come, seeking farmland, from a crowded Europe where there was little chance of becoming a landOwner. Their wealth was in land and live-stock and their days revolved around the activities of running the farm. These were a hard-working people whose faith was unshakeable and whose word was as good as any contract of today. Locks on doors were virtually unheard of. In the summer and spring after the day's work was completed, the members of a family would ... "gather outside of the house, beneath the shade of the eaves, and there exchange greetings or discuss the events of the day." This type of

gathering houses.

can still be seen on the 'stoops' of many

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The interiors of their homes were snug if a little bare. There was a kitchen dominated by a large fireplace generally extending to a width sufficient to accommodate the whole famile with seats near the fire. "There was also a general sitting room.In Stiles' History of Kings County can be found an excellent description of their homes. "In the best room of every house, whether of the wealthy or humbler classes, the high posted, corded and unwieldy bed-stead was a principal object, and with its furniture and hangings, formed the index of the social standing of its owner ... In the principal room which held the fine bed, and was, also, tea and dining room on special occasions, was generally a round tea table, with a leaf which could be dropped perpendicularly when not in use, and a large square table, with leaves, for use at tea parties."



Aside from these, the early Dutch homes did not boast a lot of furniture. Stiles describes some of the principal pieces: "The capacious chest ... occupied a prominent place in the house, for several generations, as was also the trundle bed concealed under the bed by day to be drawn out for the children at night. Chairs, straight and high backed, were mostly of wood ... more frequently seated simply with matted rushes." Early Dutch homes had had dirt floors. However, when building began in earnest on a new home, plank floors were installed. These were not carpeted, however, and had to be scrubbed well to keep them clean. Stiles tells us, "The uniform practice, after scrubbing the floor well on certain days, was to place upon the damp boards, the fine white beach sand ... , on the following day, when it had become dry, it was swept, by the light and skillful touch of the housewife broom. · · " Scrubbing was a large part of the housewife's job, most especially the brass-ware or pewter which was the most common form of ware up to the Revolution. Besides scrubbing there was the spinning to be done. "Spinning wheels were to be found in every family, many having four or five - some for spinning flax and others for wool. A Dutch matron, indeed, took great pride in her large stock of household linen (then cheaper than cotton) and it was the ambition of every maiden to

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take to her husband's articles. "

house a full and complete stock of domestic

Courting, the giving in marriage and marriages themselves were celebrated with feasting and merriment. No doubt many a young man found his girl friend irresistible under the lovely moon and stars which shimmer on the bay at night. It is as irresistible today as it was then. Young people for many generations have found that a walk along the shore or a picnic on the grass can lead to a walk down the aisle or a wedding feast. Funerals also were a time of what Ross calls "solemn rejoicing". People would lay in good stocks of wine for just this purpose. Gabriel Furman notes " ... and frequently at those funerals you would meet with wine so choice and excellent that it could scarcely be equalled by any in the land ... "

The bill of expenses for a funeral might run something like the following, an actual bill of expenses for a funeral in Flatbush: 20 gallons good wine 2 gallons spirits 1 large loaf of lump sugar

Y2 doz. nutmegs Y2 gross long pipes 4 lbs, tobacco. 1Y2 doz. black silk handkerchiefs' 6 loaves of bread

And that's not counting the coffee! 13

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Besides these, the Dutch also enjoyed their holidays. On Christmas the Dutch children would anxiously await the arrival of Santa Klaas. They celebrated New Years Day by firing their guns, getting together to enjoy refreshments and by competing in athletic events and target shooting. St. Valentine's day was known as Vrouwen Dagh. Young girls would go forth with a cord or a rope and strike young men they liked on the shoulders. Hopefully these love-taps weren't given too hard. Easter or "Pausch" was a religious holiday of great importance. It also had a merry side though, the celebration lasting a week. During the celebration, it was customary to make presents to people of colored eggs. These "Easter Eggs" are with us today. As was previously mentioned, the Dutch were a religious and law abiding people. Some of their early ordinances might show some of their traits: "No one upon the Sabbath Day of the Lord shall be allowed during divine service to retail directly or indirectly any beers, wine or distilled waters or to open any ale-houses, in accordance with the proclamations of the last of May, 1647 ... " "All persons are obligated to marry within one month after the three publications of the bans, if there be no legal reasons to the contrary, upon penalty of 10 guldens for the first week after the expiration of the said month, for the following weeks each week 20 guldens, until the reasons for refusing shall have been made known." "Further no male and female persons may engage in housekeeping together as married parties until they have been legally united in marriage on penalty of forfeiting 100 guldens. 路 路 " "All fighting is forbidden as well as the drawing of knives, insolence and wounding and are punished according to the proclamation of December 15, 1657."

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They played games also, bowling or "roundes", turkey shoots and "Pulled the goose" among them and their arduous lives were anything but boring. In 1660 a stockade was built around the De Sille house with a blockhouse in the center. This was done due to fear of Indian raids. However, the settlers of New Utrecht fared well with the Indians and were not witness to the events which had marked the Blood years of New Amsterdam and the Hudson area. The greatest threat to Dutch security came not from the Indians, but from the English, in Connecticut and overseas. 1660 had also witnessed the coming of Peter Stuyves-

ant to New Utrecht to the home ofRutgertJoosten


Brunt. While there he raised the blue and orange flag of the House of Orange. For 4 years it waved peacefully there. Then in 1664 came a first clash with the English.


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In January 1664, Captain John Scott led a band of 150 followers into Long Island from Connecticut. He raised the English flag in Breuckelen and the other towns including New Utrecht and claimed all the land for Charles II of England. Despite the fact that Stuyvesant was governor of the colony he could only patch up a truce with Scott leaving the English towns on the Eastern end of the island under English control. Stuyvesant's treasury was empty and his defenses practically nil. Events in England settled the question of who controlled Long Island. Charles II, using the Cabot claims, gave his brother, the Duke of York, a charter for all the land between Maine & Delaware. The Duke sent out Col. Richard Nicolls with a fleet. In August of 1664, Col. Nicolls dropped anchor in New York Bay. Faced with the prospect of sure destruction if they tried to resist, on September 8, 1664, the orange and blue flag of the House of Orange came down and the English Jack raised in its place. Thus began the history of the City of New York, named for the Duke, and the period of English ownership which would last until the Revolution.


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Chapter II English Rule


NGLAND and Holland were not at war at the time of Nicoll's visit, and the people of New Amsterdam and the six towns comprising Brooklyn held no animosity toward the English. Nicolls did not attempt to interfere with the Dutch way of life and Dutch remained the official language, with the Reformed Church maintaining its high position. The new government was not much different than the old. Instead of the West India Company being the proprietor, now it was the Duke of York. The citizens retained the right to appeal, although now instead of going to the States General they had to go to the King. This situation, which seemed harmless at first, was to lead to difficulties later on when this right got in the way of royal prerogative. The local government set-up was also similar. The Burgomaster, schout and schepens became the mayor, sheriff and alderman. The court originally made up of Burgomasters and schepens became the city court. Both Englishmen and Dutchmen served in governing the colony, so that while the takeover was quick, it didn't radically change the life of the stout Dutch farmer. Nicolls did organize the colony along the lines of the shires in England. The colony became Yorkshire. The names of some of the towns were also changed: Midwout became Flatbush; Amersfort, Flatlands; and Breuckeland was now spelled Brookland. New Utrecht, however, was not changed. Perhaps Governor Nicolls found it easy enough to pronounce without any umlauts. In any event, New Utrecht was now a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. One thing which arrived with the English which was cause for concern was the Duke's Laws. While these 17

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were equitable laws in most cases, they placed almost all authority in the hands of the governor. He ruled with a Council, but he could send its members back to private life if he so desired. He had the power to make and repeal laws depending upon his purpose. Under Nicolls and his successor, Lovelace, the full impact of these laws were not felt by the people. However, in time they were, in the hands of autocrats eager to fill their own pockets and then return to England. These laws would then cause much discontent and lead to a severe crisis. In 1665 Nicolls called a convention of delegates to meet in Hempstead. All the delegates were to be elected by the townspeople and meet on the last day of February. The people of New Utrecht elected its previous organizers Jaques Cortelyou and Younger Hope. Here Nicolls promulgated the laws under which the people of the colony would live. New patents were also issued here for each of the towns. During the 9 years of English rule little changed in the Utrecht community. The settlers went about cultivating their corn and tobacco and raising cattle. The soil was good except in some swampy areas such as the part of the present fort a little beyond where the Indian village marker is. The first of many commissioners of highways were Aert Van Pelt and Andrios Emmons in 1721. In 1702 Peter Cortelyou was an assistant judge of the Court of Common Pleas. The office of Town Supervisor was held by a succession of Cortelyous and Van Brunts right up to the Revolution and following it. The first court house was located where the Dutch Reformed Church is at present but it was moved in 1680 to Flatbush, being more centrally located. During the occupation by the British this, the second court house, was used as a dance hall.


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The population of the town grew in 1738 to 282 hardy souls. They inhabited land valued in 1765 at ÂŁ2,852, 10 shillings. Despite the extensive woodlands stretching from 3rd Ave. and 87th St. as far as 9th Ave. and 40th St. and 13th Ave. and 79th St., the land steadily increased in value. In 1712 Peter Cortelyou and Cornelius Van Brunt surveyed the land and divided it so that beginning in 1719 the wooded lots could be added to private property. Previous to 1712 these woods had been held in common.

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Further land action took place in 1768 when a boundary dispute was settled by a board of 3 arbiters, John Lefferts, Engelbert Latt and Simon Boerum. The dispute, between Denyse Denyse and Isaak Cortelyou, had caused great strife, debate and controversy." The settlement of the case is interesting in terms of the way lines were laid out. The arbiters decided that the line between the two begins by a sasafras mark stake standing at the Northeasternmost End of a certain Krupelbush or Swamp on the partition line ... running from the sasafras mark stake between this land." Today's real estate agents would be hard pressed to divide up lots this way, sasafras marked stakes being hard to find. Isaak Cortelyou was probably the grandson of Jacques Cortelyou, the original founder. The previously mentioned Peter Cortelyou was a son. 1/




With population ever increasing, not only in New Utrecht but throughout the colony, transportation and roads were very important and becoming more so. An integral part of that transportation system was the ferry. These ferries were, early on, little more than row boats. We know that the passage from Brooklyn to New York was 8 stivers of wampum. Just what the first ferry in New Utrecht charged is unknown. However it is known that its location was at the foot of the Narrows.

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The land was important because it traversed the towns which were then in Kings County. Using designations more modern and therefore familiar, it ran to and crossed Dyker Heights." From the Dyker Heights it dipped down into the head of the Dykes Meadow (so called because the early settlers had built dykes here) and passed on to the old village of New Utrecht at Main Street and 18th Avenue. (84th St. and 18th Ave.) It joined Kings Highway running through the town of Gravesend, through Flatbush and up into the town of New Lots. This road was part of the colonial mail route as well as a major highway for travelers going to and from New York and cities to the South, especially Philadelphia. /I


A branch of the lane diverged at 11th Ave. and 80th St., passing the Denyse house at 78th St. and 7th Ave. The land crossed Stewart Avenue (6th Ave.) and became Bennett Lane. It was almost identical with 79th St. from 5th Ave. to Bennett's farm at 79th St. and Shore Road. Shore Road is first mentioned in 1715. It's described as a road 22 yards wide, running along the banks of the river /1 •••

from the land of Bernardus Janse (Bay Ridge Avenue) beyond the Dyker Meadows ... "

to a point

A second ferry went into operation in 1753. It was begun by Thomas Stilwell and was known as the "Upper Ferry". It was located at the end of Van Brunt's Lane, close to the present 79th Street. Two other interesting small events that occurred during the period indicate some aspects of life in New Utrecht during the period. In 1749 Justice Cortelyou is said to have caught 9,000 shad in his seine in the Bay. In 1759 a bear is reported to have been shot while trying to swim across to New Utrecht from Red Hook. With

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bears prowling around as late as 1759 it's no wonder people were apprehensive about travelling long distances. The population grew slowly and steadily so that in 1673 41 males took the oath of allegiance to the Dutch when they retook New York that year. This was a religious community and church going was serious business. The first settlers in Breucheland, Flatbush and Flatlands had had to travel into Manhattan to get to church. Those who lived further away, such as those in New Utrecht, would have services in a schoolhouse or private home if they couldn't make the difficult trip from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The ferries were sail boats or row boats at the mercy of the river currents and the wind. Until the 19th century when safer means of transport were invented, many people and animals drowned making the crossing. Needless to say, the burghers of Long Island would stand the trip to church only so long. Flatbush was centrally located and could be reached from the other towns, so in 1654 a small church was erected for the use of the villages on Long Island. The first ordained minister to serve the towns exclusively was Rev. [ohanus Theodorus Polhemus. He was responsible for all the services, the morning ones being held at Flatbush and the afternoons alternately at Brooklyn and Flatbush. In 1677 the people of New Utrecht organized themselves into a true congregation. At this time Rev. Polhemus was being assisted by the Rev. Casparus Van Zuren and it was Van Zuren who conducted the dedication. More than 26 families formed the congregation and there were 27 communicants at the first service. As in all Dutch Reformed Churches, Elders and Deacons were chosen and the new church required two of each; Jan Gruphertz and Myndert Korten, and

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Aarom Williams (Bennett) and Jan Hansen. Construction of the building began in 1695 and was completed in

1700. It was similar to the church in Flatbush, an octagonal stone structure with a large rooster on top of an iron cross which sat atop the belfry. This church was located on 16th Ave. between 84th and 85th Sts. 84th St. was at that time referred to as Main Street. These grounds are still occupied by the old cemetery and St. Johns Lutheran Church, the Dutch having moved this church to 18th Avenue in 1828. The education of the children was also looked after by the church. The teacher in those days was required to teach the children, " ... perform the duties of court messenger, to ring the bell, perform the duties of precantor, attend to the burial of the dead (dig their graves), and all that was necessary and proper in the premises ... ". His daily routine, although it may have

differed somewhat from town to town, was similar to that described in an Agreement reached between Johannes Van Eckelen and Flatbush: 1. The school shall begin at 8 o'clock in the morning and go out at 11 o'clock. It shall begin again at 1 o'clock and end at 4 o'clock. The bell shall be rung before the school begins. III. He shall instruct the children in the common prayers and the questions and answers of the catechism

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on Wednesdays and Saturdays ... IV. He shall be bound to keep his school9 months in succession, from September to June, one year with another ... He shall be chorister of the church, ring the bell 3 times before service and read a chapter of the Bible in the church between the second and third ringing ... ; after the third ringing he shall read the Ten Commandments and the Twelve Articles of Faith, and then set the Psalm. When the minister shall preach (elsewhere). 路 路he shall be bound to read twice before the congregation a sermon from the book used for the purpose. He shall provide a basin of water for the baptism. 路 . He shall furnish the minister, in writing, the names and ages of the children to be baptized. 路 . He shall give the funeral invitations and toll the bells ... Needless to say, the man who was hired had tobe a jack of many trades. Meanwhile events occurring in the outside world again intruded into the life of the fledgling colony. In March 1672 England and France declared war on Holland. On July 29, 1673 the villagers of New Utrecht looked out to

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find another fleet sitting in the bay, but now it was not an English fleet but a Dutch fleet. New York found itself in much the same position in 1673 as New Amsterdam had in 1664! In August the members of the different towns took a new oath of allegiance to the House of Orange and the old Dutch laws. Once again schouts and schepens were selected. Once again new patents were issued by the new Dutch governor, Colve. But in less than a year the Treaty of Westminster ended the hostilities between England, France and Holland, and New York, called New Orange by Gov. Colve, was once more given back to the English. In August of 1674, after only 11 months of Dutch control, another English fleet arrived in the bay and the flag of the House of Orange was taken down for the last time. The English sent a new governor, Edmond Andros, in 1674. He had been chosen because he spoke Dutch and favored the Dutch Reformed Church, contributing to its building fund despite being Episcopalian. The English thought he would be just the right man to reinstitute the Duke's Laws, but such was not the case. He ruled with an iron fist. At times he jailed citizens without trial or offense being charged. Many of the people of New York, New Utrecht included, balked at his tyranny. The result was that he was recalled and replaced by Thomas Dongan in 1683. One social note during the Andros administration was the visit by the two diarists Jasper Danckaert and Peter Sluyter. They give us a good picture: "Saturday, September 30th. Early this morning we left after breakfast. (They had slet at a friend's house in Gowanus, approximately 30th St. and 3 rd Ave.) We went through a woods and found new made land, and

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saw along the shore to the west of the island, Najeck ... We arrived then upon this land, which is all good and yields large crops of wheat and other grain. It is of blackish color but not clayey, and almost like the garden mould I have seen in Holland. 'They further relate their meeting with Jacques Cortelyou. At the time of their visit New Utrecht was suffering from a smallpox epidemic, an event which occurred all too often in the colonies. They also tell how a fire, which had occurred in 1675, had burned down most of the town and left many people impoverished. They conclude with a humorous description of their night's lodging with Jacques: "After supper we went to sleep in the barn upon some straw spread with sheepskins and in the midst of continual grunting of hogs, bleating and coughing of sheep, barking of dogs and crowing of cock, and especially a goodly quantity of fleas and vermin, and all with an open barn door through which a fresh northwest wind was blowing." Dongan's appointment was greeted with relief by the colonists. They had suffered, under Andros from an arbitrary autocracy and under his predecessor, Francis Lovelace, from taxes which were levied to rebuild the fort. They had felt that these taxes, although within the power of the governor, were in direct violation of their rights as English citizens to be protected from such arbitrary taxation. This is perhaps the first instance of the struggle against taxation without representation, a phrase which would carry much importance .one hundred years later. Under Dongan the people of New York made progress toward self-government in words which would eventually become a cornerstone of our nation. In 1683 Dongan convened the first Popular Assembly and with it framed the "Charter of Libertys and Privileges". This document provided:

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1) The people (are) to be part-source

of legislative

authority. 2) The legislature (is) to meet bi-annually, or oftener. 3) No coercion - the majority to decide election of represen ta tives. 4) No punishment, except after being adjudged guilty by due process of law. S) No taxation to be assessed without legislative consent. 6) Trials to be by a jury of 12. 7) No enforced quartering of soldiers except during war and state of martial law not to be proclaimed. B) Property rights of married women to be legally protected. 9) Provisions for widows' dower rights to be made. 10) Religious liberty to be granted all peaceable Christians. With a few deletions you have our own Bill of Rights. Dongan forwarded this document to James, the Duke of York, but he failed to show it to his brother Charles II, and when he ascended the throne as James II, it was conveniently forgotten".


At home New Utrecht flourished under this excellent governor. After having been purchased from the Indians at least three times, given six different patents by different governors with four changes of government, the town peacefully entered the IBth century unmindful of the dramatic events that would close it. The population had now grown to 2S9 with 4B slaves. In 169B a militia had been organized, the officers of which were members of the original families. The Captain was John Van Dyke with [oast Van Brunt as Lieutenant and Matyse Smach as Ensign. In 1702 the boundaries were

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established between New Utrecht and Brooklyn. The line was marked by a famous "winter white oak tree."

A judicial system had been established consisting of a Towns Court, a Court of Sessions, Oyers Court, Terminers Court and a Court of Chancery. This system, begun in 1685, remained intact until 1691 when a Court of Common Pleas was added and the Oyer and Terminer Courts were combined into a Supreme Court. This system of 1691 continued until 1821 before it was revamped. A humorous example of the type of punishment meted out occurred in October 1696 when a man was tried and convicted of stealing a cow bell. He was sentenced to stand for 3 hours, under a gallows, with a halter around his neck and an empty scabbard in his right hand. A somewhat similar punishment was given to a guard found drunk who had to parade around town, a bottle in one hand, his scabbard in the other, to proclaim that his love of drinking was greater than this love of country or his duty. The record of court officers and officials, compiled by Terence Bergen, gives the names of some of the oldest families. The first Justice of the Peace was Jacques Cortelyou, in 1675. The first immigration slowed down as the English and others increased. The English were

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more tolerant of other religious groups also. Many of the early Dutch families had moved to the open areas of New Jersey. Church services however continued to be said in Dutch, even though English was quickly becoming the official language. New Utrecht and Geelen Hook, or Yellow Hook, were experiencing the typical troubles of the period. The trend of events outside the colony would, however, lead to an event of even greater importance both locally and world-wide. New Utrecht had an important part in our revolution and it is to this integral part of our history as a nation and New Utrecht's part in it, that we turn.


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30 Happy Birthday, America The Students of William McKinley Junior High School

Chapter III The Revolution OST people living in Long Island were neither ardent patriots nor staunch Loyalists. In fact, not choosing sides was the common position of the majority of people living in the colonies. For them the question of whether they could be taxed without their own consent was most important but it was not an issue which necessitated open rebellion. This was looked upon by many as the worst possible means of settling the problem between the colonies and England, and one which would certainly bring about the colonies' downfall. What then caused the rebellion to take place? New Yorkers today are not strangers to taxation. We pay taxes on a variety of items and although we may balk at paying them, tax laws can only be passed by the consent of our represen ta tives. In the colonial period, however, there was no way of controlling those who were responsible for taxation, and it was this issue which caused the conflagration. During the French and Indian War, which ended in 1765, many colonists had served England well by figh ting in the different colonial militias. Taxes were paid without grumbling because the presence of the English army, protecting many of the colonists from the enemy, was a direct result of the taxation. It was a situation easily understood. With the end of hostilities however, the need for both the troops and the taxation began to be questioned. The colonists maintained that only their duly elected representatives in the colonial legislature had the right to impose taxes upon them. Parliament and Royal Prerogative saw it differently.


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The seaport of New York was particularly hard hit by the Navigation Acts requiring all goods to be shipped via England and only in English ships. Merchants complained about the prohibitive cost involved in transshipment as well as the revenue lost through dealing directly with foreign countries. These were followed by the Sugar and Stamp Acts which also bit into everyone's budget. Perhaps the most odious of all was the Billeting Act and the Townshend Acts. The Billeting Act required the colonists to provide barracks, bedding and fuel for the 10,000 soldiers here. Since New York was the headquarters for His Majesty's armies in the colonies, it was particularly hard felt here. The first of the Townshend Acts suspended the provincial assembly until New York complied with the Billeting Act. With the French threat gone colonists began wondering why the troops were still in the colonies anyway. The answer seemed to be that they were there to enforce the illegal taxes. The existence of the body of troops within the city was bound to lead to violence. It erupted at Golden Hill in New York a few weeks before the Boston Massacre. Outbursts of violence such as this were to be repeated in many of the colonies and tensions were mounting on both sides of the Atlantic. Benjamin Franklin warned the English Parliament, to no avail. After 20 years of rising tensions the fighting at Lexington and Concord sparked the rebellion to action. When the news reached N ew York a Provincial Congress was quickly established and a Committee of Safety organized in Albany called for the organization of 4 companies of militia. New Yorkers were hardly a unified force, however. The question of whether or not a complete break with Great Britain would be made was still unanswered and

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citizens behaved accordingly. George Washington came through the city on his way North to assume command at Boston on the same day the British Governor, William Tryon, arrived. The city organized two parades, one for each, one uptown and one downtown, although it was obvious they couldn't really avoid each other in a city the size of New York. The crisis was resolved when Tryon remained on board his ship until after Washington's parade. Many persons turned out for both and since there was only one militia in the city at the time, it also turned out for both. Soon the Provincial Congress issued orders for additional units to be organized and also set about the task of rounding up Loyalists or Tories. From the time of its creation up until the cessation of hostilities this body was in almost complete control of the popular govern~ent of New York, even though its powers rested on no firm legal foundation. It was the body which ruled New York's transition from colony to State. New Utrecht was represented in this body by Denyse Denyse. Governor Tryon tried to deal with the situation within ~he city but found it increasingly difficult. He became Increasingly fearful for his own safety until finally on October 19th he took refuge on an English ship in the harbor. From then on until the final victory of the English in August 1776 he conducted all of his business from the quarterdeck of the "Duchess of Gordon", leaving the city virtually in the hands of the patriots and the Provincial Congress. !he Provincial Congress had been worried about Tories, the people loyal to the King. It was known that many people on Long Island were Tories and something had to be done in case the British attacked New York. The Provincial Congress ordered the arrests of known Tories and passed a bill in September 1775 forbidding them to own firearms. Many Tories had built up a


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supply of weapons by this time, however. Enforcing the law meant encouraging hostilities between colonists. Opposition to the Provincial Congress was widespread. At the end of 1775 the Congress declared Kings and Queens Counties in a sta te of rebellion. To quell the disturbance two units were sent into Queens. One group of troops, under Major De Hart, disarmed farmers and ransacked their farms. They were recalled. The New Jersey militia under Colonel

Heard was ordered to round up Tory weapons but he didn't have much success either. Those he arrested were soon released. The greatest success of the roundup was in changing apathy to anger against the Provincial Congress on Long Island. At this point General Charles Lee arrived. Lee had been despatched by Washington from Boston as soon as Washington held command over Boston. Washington

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was sure New York would be an important target. Lee was to prepare the defenses and take care of the Tories. Lee ran rough shod over the colony and the Provincial Congress. He began a round-up of Long Island Tories under Isaac Sears whom even good Patriots disclaimed. While constructing the breastworks and forts in Brooklyn Heights he made many raids on neighboring farms for supplies. Needless to say, these raids did not increase his popularity. He also strung a line of sentries along the shore to prevent communication with the British ships in the harbor and forbade any trading with them. The Provincial Congress could do little but hope that something would happen to cool the rising crisis within the colony. Finally on March 6, 1776 Lee was replaced by William Alexander, Lord Stirling. Lord

Stirling was indeed what the city needed. He worked with the Provincial Congress and called off the manhunt on Long Island. He continued the construction of the breastworks and forts stretching from Wallabout Bay to the Gowanus. In this activity all the people of the city were united. Not only militiamen but even wealthy merchants pitched in


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to help. Slaves were employed to help regular troops. Those who were not members of the militia or the regular army protested that they should get the same ration of rum as those in the militia. This being granted, cons truction proceeded very quickly. These redoubts and forts were to be the second line of defense against the British invasion. The first line had

~=~~ 1.Se"brinC • .Min. 2 Drouwe.- .. lIiIl.

5.J\ed Lion Tln"ml



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been created by nature milleniums before, the line of hills that runs through Prospect Park, with Queens the so-called "Backbone of Long Island". By holding these hills it was hoped that the British could be stopped from making further progress into Manhattan and from there up the Hudson to split the colonies. In March 1776 the British evacuated the city of Boston. By placing the cannon captured at Fort Ticonderoga on Dorchester Heights, Washington had sweeping command of the city. No sooner had the British begun their evacuation operations than the question about where they were going gave rise to all sorts of rumors which spread throughout the colonies like wind-swept fire. Every colony along the Eastern seaboard feared that at any moment the sails of the large English fleet would appear on the horizon. General Lee had hurried South to complete the defenses of Charleston. When the patrol boats reported that the English fleet was headed for Nova Scotia to pick up supplies and drop off Tories, Washington was sure New York was next and he headed there himself. In New York, Lord Stirling had succeeded in establishing an orderly system. Farmers were no longer being raided. Instead they were told that the government would pay for all goods when the current crisis was over. The sceptical doubted it, and in truth it did take the Federal government many years to repay these debts, but Long Island was calmer. Washington arrived on April IS, 1776, with a regiment of the Continental Army. Under his command were troops representing New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, the first such composite army here.

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The colonists throughout the area were watchful. Signal lights had been set up so that as soon as the British fleet was sighted the news could be relayed to the commander. The shore line of Brooklyn from Red Hook out to Long Island was vigorously patrolled. Many farmers, including most of the people of New Utrecht, complained that the constant moving of troops had destroyed some of their crops. These same farmers were doubtless apprehensive as to what a battle fought in their newly planted fields would leave them. New York, Queens, Westchester and Brooklyn were all alive with activity in the months preceding the battle. A plot against George Washington's life as well as many other intrigues kept people busy. The British warships in the harbor moved down to Gravesend Bay on April 8th for nautical reasons, bringing the first sound of

alarm; then relief as the boats headed out of the harbor; then caution as they dropped anchor again. Then on June 29th the English fleet was sighted off Sandy Hook. 4S ships dropped anchor in the lower bay, under the command of General William Howe. As the day wore on more ships kept arriving so that by

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nightfall the count was 110. General Greene's outpost on Long Island kept reporting that more were coming. Washington expected a quick attack through the Narrows but such was not Howe's plan. Howe intended to wait for the arrival of his brother, Richard Howe, who was sailing with a fleet from England of what William thought was 150 ships and 20,000 more troops, along with Hessian mercenaries. He also expected General Clinton to arrive soon with 2,500 men from the South, after defeating the patriots at Charleston. The wait for Clinton took longer than Howe expected however, nor was the news he brought good. Clinton had repulsed by General Lee Clinton had cas ual ties.

attacked Charleston June 28th but was the fire from an only half-completed fort had been constructing on Sullivan Island. been forced to withdraw, suffering many

The patriots feared that Howe might try to establish a camp around the village of Gravesend. General Greene, who was in charge of the area, had troops patrolling it continually. The only guns the patriots had in the area were 3 nine-pounders up on the Narrows. Luckily Howe ordered his ships and troops to move toward the Watering Place on Staten Island instead and the move was completed without serious injury to the fleet, despite the vigorous firing of the Narrows batteries. The last ship was the Asia. Unlike the other British ships the Asia responded by hurling a volley from a 24 pounder at the battery which did little damage to the battery, but did damage three homes in the neighborhood belonging to Denyse Denyse, Adrian Bennett and Simon Cortelyou. One of the shots struck a wall in Bennett's house and remained lodged there. Another shot damaged the fence of the Denyse house. From July 1st through


22nd the English re39

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mained on Staten Island, preparing for their attack. During that time all spyglasses were trained, watching every English movement. Never bfore had so large a fleet with so many troops been seen on this side of the Atlantic. A young Continental Army private, Daniel McC urtin wrote 1/1was upstairs ... and spied as 1 peeped out the Bay something resembling a wood of pine trees trimmed. I declare, on my noticing this, that 1 could not believe my eyes ... 1 thought all London was afloat. This was probably the reaction of many of the inhabitants of New Utrecht. There hadn't been a fleet like this anchored in the Bay since 1674! II

By July 12th William Howe had 437 ships anchored in the Lower Bay and standing off Staten Island. Among these were 37 Men-of-War, large ships with heavy guns, plus frigates, brigs, sloops, bomb-ketches and bateaux that could hold 50 soldiers in addition to the crew. His army, under the command of Generals Grant, Cornwallis, Clinton and De Heister, numbered approximately 35,000. These men were trained veterans, used to the stresses of combat. They made up the world's strongest army at that time with the addition of 7800 Hessian Grenadiers and Jaegers, hired from the German province of Hess. Each soldier was fully and resplendently equipped in keeping with England's position of pre-eminence. In a letter dated August 4, 1776 an English officer wrote: "We are now in expectation of attacking the fellows very soon, and if 1 may be allowed to judge, there never was an army in better spirits or in better health." Against this vast armada Washington commanded only some sloops fitted out to be privateers. Some of them, a few days before the arrival of the English fleet, had tried to destroy the lighthouse at Sandy Hook but their fire power was not adequate. The army was not much better. Troops numbered between 17,000 and 18,000 had to protect the area from Westchester to our part of Long Island. Subtract from the total the 4,000 men sick or otherwise unfit for duty and the number of men who

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didn't have muskets and the number dwindled significantly. This situation was not aided by the fact that Washington was somewhat short of gunpowder. To oppose the great fleet Washington had a few batteries, one on Governor's Island and one on Red Hook, as well as at the foot of Manhattan. These forts received some of the 100 cannon and field pieces that

Washington had available. General Knox, in charge of artillery, was suffering a shortage of trained gun crews and so used some of the men without muskets, giving them a brief course in artillery and then sending them out to try and combat some of the best trained gunners in the world. The hope was that by using the defenses nature gave him Washington could keep the English from moving into the downtown area and from crossing into Manhattan. Troops were therefore stationed along the hills in Prospect Park and by the passes which led through them. Other units were stationed farther out to watch the English and report their movements. One of these units was Col. Hand's Pennsylvania Riflemen, which had been patrolling the Narrows, Yellow Hook and part of Gravesend making sure no one sent messages or goods to the English. On the morning of August 22nd the English began to ferry troops across the Narrows and by 9:00 A.M. 4,000 light infantry with 40 pieces of cannon had crossed over. The crossing was made under the protection of the guns of the Rainbow, anchored where the bridge stanchion is today, and 3

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frigates who anchored in.closer. The landing took place at Denyse Ferry Wharf. A second division of English and Hessian troops landed an hour later in Gravesend Bay at the farms of Isaac Cortelyou and Adrian Van Brunt. Before noon 15,000 troops, with guns and baggage, had been transported across. Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers told of the events: The guard alarmed our small group and we assembled at the flagstaff· We marched our forces, about 200, to New Utrecht to watch the movement of the enemy. When we came on the hill we discovered a party of them advancing toward us. We prepared to give them a warm welcome, when an impudent fellow fired and they immediately halted and turned toward Flatbush. Col. Hand and his men watched the English throughout the day. To feed such a large army, Hand knew the English would try to feed off the farms in the area. To prevent this he had been herding cattle downtown. Now that the English were here Capt. Hamilton and 20 men fell back upon the road in advance, burning grain and stacks of hay and killing cattle." II , ••

From August 22nd to August 26th when the English began their advance they bivouacked in the flat plain that stretched from the hills toward the Bay. Many of them availed themselves of the hospitality of the farmers and many of the officers took up quarters in their homes, a practice continued during the occupation. The Hessians, many of whom had come from farms, took an interest in the soil and some wrote home to tell of the fertile land which was to become a battleground. Needless to say, romances were also begun, some to end tragically. There is the story of Jane Cortelyou who married a young Hessian officer, Joseph Conrad. When told never to return by her father, Simon, he killed himself in grief. It is recorded that Maria Van Brunt married an English officer and moved to Maryland. One of the Van Bergen daughters also married an English officer and moved to Nova Scotia. Every family was touched by the war.

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General Howe set up his headquarters in New Utrecht and despatched his other commanders to their various positions. Sporadic fighting took place for a few days. They intended to attack the patriots at each of the 4 passes through the hills, the Shore Pass, Bedford Pass, Flatbush Pass and the Jamaica Pass. With the limited resources of men and materials it was impossible to man the entire line of defense and so the Jamaica Pass had been left virtually unguarded. When Howe was informed of the situation he developed the following plan: 1) General

Grant was to move along the coast road toward Gowanus. At the same time some of the ships would come up to menace the American rear and right flank. 2) The Hessians under De Heister would attack at the Flatbush Pass by a direct assault. 3. The Right Wing under Clinton, Cornwallis, Percy and Howe would move from Flatbush to New Lots to try and turn the American left flank. It was decided that at the firing of signal guns, Generals Grant and De Heister should begin to press the fight, as they, the signal guns, would indicate that the Americans had been outflanked. So, very early in the morning of August 27th, while it was still somewhat dark, the sound of marching feet could be heard coming down Main Street and turning into what is now 3rd Avenue. Skirmishes broke out with American pickets at about 70th Street. These pickets rushed the word along that the attack was underway. General Stirling responded and moved forward. Many of the troops with him had never fought before but they met the British in regular battle formation at 36th Street between the hills of Green-Wood Cemetery and the bay. The two forces faced each other and fought as the morning sun rose.


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De Heister meanwhile had begun his assault on General Sullivan's men on Prospect Heights, neither side pressing, the Americans content to hold the Hessians, the Hessians content to be held until they heard the signal guns. The English fleet had tried to sail up the Narrows to harass the American right and rear, but wind and tide combined to keep all but one, the Roebuck, from threatening the American position. The Roebuck alone began to shell the Americans and return fire was aimed at her from the fort on Red Hook. To General Stirling it appeared as if the Americans were indeed holding their own. At 11:00 o'clock, however, the truth was made known as the Americans heard the report of large cannon behind them. The flanking maneuver had worked and already General Sullivan was captured. He had moved toward the Jamaica Pass with 400 men and there had come upon the vastly superior numbers of General Clinton. The word passed quickly along the ranks that the English were behind the Americans and so the English began to press their advantage. The Americans broke and sought refuge behind the redoubts. Since the English had descended from their left the only means of escape open was over the mill bridges at Gowanus or through the swampy creek itself. To this point the broken ranks fled, pursued and cut down by dragoons and marksmen who had taken the heights in the Park. Small groups formed to withstand the terrible onslaught but discipline was gone for many of the units as they rushed toward safety. General Stirling retreated until he found himself between General Grant pursuing him and Cornwallis who had occupied and fortified the Cortelyou-Vechte

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house where 3rd St. and 5th Ave. is today. Stirling understood his men would be easy prey for the English unless some rear guard was formed. Stirling ordered most of his command to retreat across the Gowanus marsh, and taking with him less than 400 Maryland troops, he attacked the house. By all military science the attack could only have proved a disaster. Not only were the men exposed to the fire from the house but also from the heights and from Grant's column advancing from the rear. Like the noble six hundred at Balaklava Heights, "into the jaws of death" marched Stirling and his men. Four times they moved against the hail of musket fire and four times they were repulsed, each time with fewer men than the last. These soldiers were the young sons of some of the best families of Maryland. Their determination and sacrifice led George Washington, wa tching the ba ttle from BrooklynHeigh ts, to comment "My God, what brave fellows Imust this day lose." When the fighting ceased 256 were either dead or wounded. General Stirling made his way through the lines and surrendered to General Heister. The house around which the savage fighting took place has been rebuilt. It stands in the middle of a playground between 3rd and 4th Streets, 4th and 5th Avenues, with no marker to record that great sacrifice. The house, instead of being a memorial to those gallant heroes, has been left to decay. Trapped between the forts and earthenworks and the river, the colonists awaited what appeared to be certain doom. The English were in complete control of the island and their fleet, with a favorable wind and tide, could easily sail up the Narrows into the Bay. The colonists would be caught in a deadly trap. However General Howe was loath to press his advantage. He had restrained his troops from attacking the fortified positions in Brooklyn Heights although many of his com-


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manders felt it could have been taken. It was felt then, and many historians of today agree, that his failure to pursue his enemy and take advantage of his strength led to the final victory for the colonists. As the afternoon of the 27th wore on, Howe's army regrouped and settled down. Messengers were sent with dispatches to the fleet. Within the earthenworks the colonists sought to find their companies. Cattle which had been herded within the lines added to the chaos. As night fell it began to rain and exhausted soldiers fell asleep. The rain which kept up for the next few days was a godsend. It kept the English army from advancing and also kept the English fleet from moving up into the Upper Bay. A thick fog and heavy mist continued through the 28th. On that day regiments of Marblehead fishermen and sailors arrived and it was decided to

retreat under cover of night. The fog hid their movements and by next morning Washington's army was preparing to march North.

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The English were now masters of Long Island and on November 16th the island of Manhattan was also theirs. From this time until they evacuated in 1783, New York was the headquarters of the English army and an occupied city. It meant that the inha bitan ts were now under martial law. Housing was in short supply so some soldiers remained in tents but most were billeted in private homes. Churches were used as stables or barracks. The Dutch Reformed Church was being used as a prison when General Woodhull, mortally wounded, was taken there. When it became obvious that he was dying he was placed in the old De Sille house next door which was used as a hospital, and there he died on September 6th. There is a marker in the old graveyard at 84 th Street and 16th Avenue which records the event. The Dutch Court House was used as a dance hall by the members of the army. The English and Hessian soldiers brought with them their games and songs and taught them to the people wherever they lived. One of the first plays ever produced in New York, "The Battle of Brooklyn," possibly written by General Burgoyne, used soldiers as actors. The troops brought trouble, too. Many homes were robbed by soldiers and drunkenness, destruction and criminal acts were common. Attempts were made to prevent such practices and punishment meted out by military tribunals was swift and harsh. Roll call was taken several times a day to make sure the men remained either in camp or fulfilling their duties. Soldiers were not allowed to go more than half-a-mile away from camp during the day, and not at all after sundown. Officers living with families were expected to beon their best behavior. Nevertheless, residents could never forget the war.

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There were many raids launched against the English occupation forces. Perhaps the two most spectacular were made by Captain William Marrener. In the first, which took place on June 13, 1778, the plan was to kidnap Major David Matthews and some other Tories and exchange them for American officers who had been captured. Marrener with a group of hand-picked men landed at night near the farm of Andreas Van Brunt. They informed Petrus Van Pelt of their plans and stealthily made their way inland. Major Matthews was not at home so they kidnapped some other Tories and disappeared back into the night. When the English found out they arrested Van Pelt and Colonel Van Brunt who continued to maintain that they knew nothing of the affair. Eventually they were released, but this was not the last Marrener raid. At another time he kidnapped Simon Cortelyou. While all of the colonists had benefitted somewhat by the English occupation-they were paid well for their produce-they were all joyous when the news of the English defeat at Yorktown reached them. The English completed their evacuation in 1783 by way of the Denyse ferry, seven years after their landing. A Liberty Pole was erected at 84th St. and 18th Ave. to commemorate the event and there has been a Liberty Pole on this site ever since.

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Chapter IV 1800-1850

Fort Hamilton Village and Yellow Hook Village OLLOWING the evacuation of the British the ity began to expand rapidly because its location made it a prime spot for commercial business of all kinds. It became the port for the transshipment of goods from the interior to Europe and vice versa. Naturally the city attracted individuals interested in making their fortunes and as they grew rich they found they could maintain close ties with their work in Manhattan and at the same time enjoy country life on an estate in Brooklyn Heights. Later in the century Bay Ridge became popular for a similar reason. All through the first half of the 19th century however, the entire town of New Utrecht, Bay Ridge included, was a sparsely settled area of farm land. The town of Brooklyn grew rapidly during this period, becoming a city in 1834 and by 1860 having 250,000 people but the town of New Utrecht had a slower-paced, more gradual increase. The first U.S. census undertaken in 1790 showed the population of the area to be 562. By 1800 this figure had become 778 with a similar increase to 907 in 1810. By 1840 the population was up to 1,283 and in the next five years almost 600 people immigrated to the area. Growth was fed by revolutions in Europe and the crop failures which many countries endured. Slave labor was common here into the 19th Century. While the state of New York had legislated against the further importation of slaves shortly after the close of the Revolution, slaves already here were not emancipated until 1799 . The revised New York State Constitution of 1821 ended slavery throughout the state, but as late as 1820 slaves made up one-sixth of the population of the farming communities of Kings County.


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Bay Ridge had free blacks also. In 1670 a Swan von Tuane had come from Sierra Leone. After gaining his release he bought a large farm on Shore Road and 69th St. and became an accepted member of the community. Two of his daughters were baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church. With the new settlers from different countries came new ways. Dutch had been replaced by English as the official language which most people spoke, requiring pastors to adjust Sunday sermons. In 1774 Jacques Barkaloo advertised for a teacher of English, but this does not mean that the old Dutch families had left. The record of Town Supervisors indicates that after the English occupation Isaac Cortelyou picked up where he had left off followed by Jacques Barkaloo and Adrian Hegeman. These names continued for many years to be prominent in the affairs of New Utrecht. A Frenchman, Moreau de St. Menz wrote a journal of his travels in the area between 1793-1798: "One road from New Utrecht to the upper part of Brooklyn skirts the western shore of Long Island. It is not always beautiful but there is something singularly picturesque about seeing a large city on one side and truly rural sections on the other. This road is thickly bordered with cherry trees and passers-by are customarily permitted to pick the fruit which hangs over the road." He continues: "Some time ago a house for sea-bathing was built close to the waters edge. As it was also planned as a pleasure resort, it has a dining room 45 feet long by 18 feet wide. The owner makes his greatest profit from certain picnics at which the palm is awarded to the one who drinks the most." The War of 1812 and the subsequent building of Fort Hamilton were, perhaps, the major catalyst in beginning the transformation of the area from one of scattered farms to one which could boast villages of its own. In 1807 a military engineer, Colonel Jonathan

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Williams, had recommended that a battery of artillery be built on Hendrick's Reef in the Narrows to defend New York harbor but the suggestion had been shelved. Other matters concerned the city fathers. But in June, 1812, the city fathers suddenly woke up to the possibility of another invasion similar to the one in 1776. They acted on Colonel Williams' suggestion and at first installed a battery of logs about one acre in extent. This fort was originally called Fort Diamond. The battery was right on the water level and had no height advantage. It was on the heights where Fort Hamilton now stands that an earthenwork fort known as Fort Lewis was finally constructed and placed under the command of Colonel Robert Bogardus. As the war progressed the British Navy blockaded New York harbor and occasionally sent raiding parties ashore on Long Island. In 1914 the English launched major attacks on Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Fear mounted that New York would be the next target, and fear led to fort building activity. Three new blockhouses were built, two on Gravensend Bay and one north of Fort Lewis on land owned by the Barkaloo family. Each of these was armed with one cannon and militia were encamped nearby to man the posts. New Utrecht provided a company of militia for the Kings County regiment led by Captain William Denyse, Lieutenants Barkaloo and Van Hise. This regiment was the old New York 64th. Captain J.L. Bergen was head of another company. In addition many residents with a thousand colored citizens of New York" labored on new fortifications at Red Hook and Fort Greene. 1/


Then on March 30, 1814 the State of New York ceded 60 acres of land to the u.S. Government to build a


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permanent fort at the Narrows. The government began implementing the plan by acquiring an additional36 acres from the City of New York, the Town of New Utrecht, the Dyker Meadow Land and Improvement Company, as well as from individual ownersthe Gelston, Nostrand, Delaplaine, Flaherty and Morrison families. Meanwhile the log fortifications at water's edge were improved upon. Called Fort Diamond upon completion

in 1822, it was renamed Lafayette in 1825 when the famous Frenchman returned to the U.S. to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. It had stone walls 8~ feet thick and 30 feet high with emplacement for 96 guns in three tiers covering some 2~ acres in area. In April 1825 construction got underway for the fort on the land. Plans had been approved in August 1824. These plans called for a granite-walled bastion topped


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by an earthen parapet and surrounded by a dry moat. Quarters for the officers and men of the garrison would be built into the granite-walled casemates. Facing the waters of the Narrows, four large sandstone pillars would frame a gate-way or sally-port, with a separate battery in front of it, close to the water's edge. The cornerstone of the structure was laid on June II, 1825 and it was named Fort Hamilton after the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. The construction of the fort brought an economic boom to New Utrecht. Wharves were built along the shore for the landing of supplies. James, "Boss," Cropsey supervised the civilian workers. The total expenditure for the construction of the fort came close to Y2million dollars. The Work was completed in 1831 and the first garrison, 52 men and 2 officers, Battery F of the 4th U.S. Artillery Regiment, moved in in November of that year. Between 1833 and 1839 the U.S. experienced a period of peace and so the fort remained undermanned and armed considerably below original expectations. In that year it took on the role of a training camp for the New York State Militia. The 27th Regiment set up their encampment for six days to take part in a reception and parade held in New York for President Van Buren. On July 4th the entire regiment paraded in the city in the morning and then returned to Fort Hamilton with members of their families and other guests for boating and fishing in Gravesend Bay. Ball games were played at the fort and an evening of entertainment " ... conducted with the greatest order and decorum." was planned. The last boat left the fort for the Battery at 2:00 A.M. " ... loaded with the

delighted guests of the National


In 1840 Congress appropriated funds to add to the fort armament. The following year a young engineer from Virginia, Robert E. Lee, became the Post Engineer.

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During his 5 year stay he planned and supervised modification of many military installations in the area, most notably Fort Wadsworth as well as his home base. He lived in a house which still stands on the

grounds of the fort today, although it has been much altered since that time. When high ranking officers were assigned to the fort he yielded his house to them and rented a nearby house from James Church for $300 a year. This inconvenience was also part of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's stay. This future Civil War colleague of Lee's was at Fort Hamilton briefly after graduation from West Point in 1846. Jackson served in the Mexican War and returned in 1848 a major. For part of that year he lived in a house later known as the Dillon Mansion on 99th St. He became a familiar figure in the village which had grown up around the fort and was known for his eccentricities. A great walker, he carried a heavy cane which he continually swung and brandished as if it were a sabre. He was also noted for the precision with which he excused himself from any social gathering at exactly 10:00 P.M. each evening.


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The village known as Fort Hamilton was along the northwest side of the fort itself. The beginnings of this village were the construction workers' shacks which had been built during the period from 1825-1831. Many were Irish, having recently escaped from both famine and English cruelty at home so the village was referred to locally as Irishtown. Many Irish women became laundresses for the soldiers and opened small stores. By the mid-1830's a regular stage service was opened between the fort and the New Utrecht town center, 2l1zmiles away. The line then proceeded to Gravesend, through Flatbush, and into the City of Brooklyn. This stage was owned and operated by the Church family, probably James Church. He also owned a store in the village where a person could get everything from a nail to a bale of hay and a second line along the Gowanus Road which led to Brooklyn through Yellow Hook village. The center of this village was Bay Ridge Avenue and 3rd Avenue. In 1836, with the railroad age barely under way, a company was engaged to build a line from Brooklyn to Fort Hamilton, then along the Gravesend Bay to New Utrecht, Bath, and finally Coney Island. These plans apparently fell through when the Panic of 1837 frightened investors. The subsequent depression which lasted 4 years made it difficult to renew interest and the line along that specific route was never built. The small village of Fort Hamilton continued to grow nonetheless. Streets were laid out which were only dirt roads but bore such pretentious names as United States Avenue (now the section of Fort Hamilton Parkway next to the fort), Atlantic Avenue (present 92nd Street), Washington Avenue (now 94th Street) and Lafayette Street (present 95th Street).

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The only church was Dutch Reformed. For Sunday services many soldiers had to travel to Brooklyn or New York, so the need for another church was obvious to all. In 1834 soldiers from the garrison and local inhabitants joined forces to build St. John's Episcopal Church just outside the Fort. The prime movers were two former English officers who had married two of the Denyse girls. The cornerstone was placed in 1835 and the church built on land donated by the Denyse family. Known also as the "Church of the Generals"

because Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jackson were parishioners, Lee served as Vestryman from 18421844 and was sponsor for the baptism of Jackson in 1849. Lee also planted a tree outside the church which was restored in 1912 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy complete with a tablet commemorating Lee's environmental action. As the second half of the 19th century began, the village became a famous resort. As the number of men stationed at the fort increased, so also did the number of visitors, necessitating the construction of resort hotels. The rural surroundings with magnificent vistas

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of the Narrows and the harbor lured many people to vacation here. The Hamilton House, built right over the original Denyse house outside the fort (between

3rd & 4th Avenues) was an early leader and one of the most splendid in the area. A number of small hotels and boarding houses soon clustered between the fort and 95th Street along the present day Shore Road, and right to the very edge of the water. Often the roads were filled with fashionably dressed ladies and gentlemen, their coaches gleaming, arriving for the weekend. Third Avenue presented a lovely view which remained virtually unchanged for almost another century. Trees and flowers (honeysuckle, roses, daisies and buttercups) lined the avenue leading to the ornate entrances of various estates. The unhurried gait of the carriage horses, the sunlight filtering through the outstretched arms of leaf-laden trees would certainly make an idyllic scene worthy of a painter's brush. As the community thrived, the churches were busy. In 1830 a meeting was held in a home near the present intersection of 4th Avenue and Senator Street for the purpose of organizing a church to be known as Grace Methodist. Completed in 1831 at 6th Avenue and Conovers Lane (the present 76th Street) it also offered a Sunday School but in 1848 it was destroyed in a fire started by some juvenile delinquents. The community



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was horrified, the youths were fined and imprisoned, and a new church was built closer to the village on Ovington Avenue and Stewart Avenue (between 6th and 7th Avenues). The old Dutch Reformed Church was growing too. In 1825 a Women's Missionary Society was formed among the leading ladies of the town and the Fort Hamilton Dutch Reformed Sabbath School was founded under the leadership of Doctor John Carpenter. It probably first met in a barn but soon moved to the Narrows school house on the shore near 88th Street. It was thereafter known as the "Narrows Sabbath School." The first entry made in its roll book dated May 5, 1839, shows the Superintendent was William Barkaloo, assisted by his secretary Francis Berries and Librarian Nicholas Van Brunt. On the teaching staff were 5 Van Brunts, 5 Bennets and 2 Cortelyous. The original families still ran the town! Even into the 20th century these names would continue to be prominent. In 1828 New Utrecht Church was moved to a new location on 84th St. and 18th Avenue. The stones used to build the original church had arrived as ballast for a Dutch ship & they were carefully saved to use in the new edifice. Stand at the corner of 84th Street (called Main Street then) and 16th Avenue today and look toward 18th Avenue. You will notice that the street widens significantly where it once was part of the Kings Highway and that it runs right up to the front door of the church, the most important building in the neighborhood at the time. In 1844 a chapel for the Narrows school was built at 98th St. and 7th Ave. Each month the pastor of the New Utrecht church would visit the chapel and hold services. The site was chosen because it afforded the room necessary for the carriage sheds of a "country church."

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It is possible that the first Roman Catholic Mass was celebrated in 1843 in Cummings Barn at 99th St. and Shore Road. In 1849 services were held in Peter Murphy's home on United States Avenue and Lafayette Street (present day Fort Hamilton Parkway and 95th Street). In this year the Archdiocese of New York designated the area as one of its missions, and in 1852, Archbishop Hughes was ferried across from Staten Island to dedicate a new frame church. Since the parishioners would come primarily from Irishtown, it is no wonder that the first Catholic church was named St. Patrick's. During this time the village of Yellow Hook was beginning to assume identity within the town of Utrecht. The center of this village was at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue, then

known as Pope's Lane. Here could be found a few stores and the heaviest concentration of homes. It was called Yellow Hook because of the color of the sand on the shore as distinguished from Red Hook. In 1848 the old road from Gowanus to Yellow Hook was straightened II


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out and widened from 60th Street (the city line) to Van Brunt's Lane (79th Street) and was called 3 rd Avenue." The elimination of curves, widening of the road and general improvement of the grade led quite naturally to the opening up of new businesses and transportation. Between this village and that at Fort Hamilton were the large farms of many of the early settlers. In 1807 the Van Brunt home was built on the site later occupied by the Crescent Athletic Club and today by Fort Hamilton High School. The house was one of the most beautiful and novel of its day with doors and cornices made of solid oak. The brick house walls and circular stairs which led from the broad main hall were unknown here at that time. The workmanship on the

lintels and door jambs, all hand carved, made them valued later as works of art. When the wreckers were destroying the building to make way for the Athletic

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Club, Judge Van Brunt's brother Albert made it a point to preserve as many of these valuable pieces as possible before they were destroyed forever. In 1839 David C. Bennet built his homestead on the southeast corner of 79th Street and 4th Avenues. Each of these farms had its own dock from which the farmers sent their goods to New York. Items such as furniture purchased in New York were also delivered by boat, a more direct and faster route than via Brooklyn and overland. A trip to Brooklyn was an all day affair and not made regularly. Most daily purchases were made from traveling peddlers or from the few shops in Yellow Hook and Fort Hamilton. As late as the early 20th century the trip to Brooklyn was not ligh tly planned. Horses were the mode of transportation at the time as they were throughout most of the United States. Mail to the West Coast went by boat around South America


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or overland by stage. Being such an important part of the daily lives of people, the care of horses was essential. Each estate had stables and it was not unusual while driving along 3rd Avenue to see an occasional horse grazing. The blacksmith shop was in Pope's Lane and 3rd Avenue right next to the Wagon Shop. William Bennet lived on the north corner of 79th Street and his property extended to 3rd Avenue. Next to him lived J. Remsen Bennet whose house was on the south corner of 77th Street. On the north side of 77th Street was the property of Van Brunt Bergen, with the property of James Bergen next to it. South of Van Brunt Lane (79th Street) was the property of Jacques Van Brunt. His property extended from this lane to just a little South of the present 80th Street and ran from 3rd Avenue to the Shore, as did almost all of the big estates. Continuing South, the lot on 83rd Street and the Shore belonged to Isaac Bergen, followed by Charles Van Brunt and J. Holmes Van

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Brunt. The land where Old Glory Lookout is now belonged to Daniel Van Brunt. A look at the Clark map of 1870 shows that these estates remained in the hands of the same families for many years. Between 1840-1850 a yellow schoolhouse made its appearance, 4 years after the red schoolhouse in New Utrecht was built to serve an increasing population and to keep children from having to travel so far to school. Located between Ridge Boulevard and 1st Avenue on 87th and 88th Streets, it provided further education after the Sabbath School. Both schools represented New Utrecht in the annual Sunday School parade. By the time the Civil War engulfed the nation, the village of Yellow Hook had added Public School No.2 of the Town of New Utrecht. A 2-story frame building with five rooms, it stood on Ridge Boulevard near the present site of P.S. 102 at 72nd Street. The students came not only from the village but also from some of the farms on Dyker Heights, two miles away. In 1850 a group of artists and artisans organized themselves into the Ovington Syndicate Company and purchased the Ovington farm which extended from about 3rd Avenue to 7th Avenue and from 72nd Street to Pope's Lane (Bay Ridge Avenue). They then incorporated under the name Ovington Village Association with Charles Parsons, art director for Harper Brothers, as President. Through the center of the plot they opened a broad roadway and named it Ovington Avenue. Each member had a lot 400 feet wide on which were built lovely homes, each with a garden. Among the members of this group were Otto Hienigke, a stained glass designer who is responsible for the windows in the Bay Ridge Dutch Reformed Church. He also did the Ridge Boulevard windows of Union Church, with the exception of the Van Brunt memorial, when that church was built. Other members of the 63

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group included George Schlegel, a noted lithographer; Joseph Perry, important later for his work in connection with the organization of Christ Church; Edward Kent and his brother Henry, noted for the large

"castles" they built for themselves. Edward's castle was built between 69th and 79th Streets, 1st and 3rd Avenues. Henry built a second one on 65th Street and 3rd Avenue. Other members of the group included William Williams, Otto Fremel, Jeremiah Meyer and Jack J. Moore. During the 19th century many new people moved into the area while The Yellow Fever which swept the area in 1848-49 drove some of the older families out. The medical profession braced itself for yearly outbreaks of such epidemics & they had great influence on the patterns of growth for many years.

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Chapter V 1850-1900 ~ ATIONALLY, the years between 1850 and 1900 were ones of expansion, violence and redirection. ~~The transcontinental railroad connected the two oceans and the world was brought closer together through the Atlantic cable, the telegraph and the telephone. For the town of New Utrecht and its two villages of Fort Hamilton and Yellow Hook, it was also a time of expansion and growth. The Civil War which had split the nation had its effect upon the area, as did the Spanish-American War. The country was changing from a rural, agricultural economy to an urban industrialized one. New Utrecht made plans accordingly. Interest in the area was growing and it was hoped that the Ovington settlement would be followed by similar groups. The name Yellow Hook seemed incongruous and had lost its significance. People living in the area also thought it might serve to remind people of the Yellow Fever. Something had to be done. In December 1853, a meeting was called in the District School House. Many of the large land holders, the most distinguished men in the area, attended. Among them were Benjamin Townshend, Joseph A. Perry, William Langley, Jacques Van Brunk, J. Remsen Bennet, Winant F. Bennet and Isaac Bergen. Also present was Henry C. Murphy, whose career will be related later; Francis C. Bergen, who later wrote a history of New Utrecht; and James Weir, the florist who had nurseries in the area and served as Vestryman for the Bay Ridge Episcopal Church for 30 years.

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The meeting deliberated about a new name for the village and its environs. Mr. Weir suggested the name "Bay Ridge" as one that included both the site and the geographic nature of the area. All agreed that the name was much more descriptive and attractive. The change was made without the necessity of City Council action or governmental approval and the name stuck. It soon became the official title of the Post Office and the School. The next year a meeting was held at the Chandler White house on 90th St. and Shore Road. With the host, who was ill at the time, were Peter Cooper and Cyrus Field. Papers were signed which made possible the laying of the Atlantic Cable permitting conversation between the U.S. and Europe. The first message would be from Queen Victoria and the world was suddenly much smaller. New York became closer too with the construction of the great Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883. One of the men involved in the work was the Honorable Henry C. Murphy of Bay Ridge. He was a respected man of

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" ... grace and learning ... " who fought against the Bossism of McLaughlin in Brooklyn politics. According to Stiles, "no public man has, probably, passed thus far through the trying ordeal of a legislative career so entirely free from the taint of corruption." He had graduated from Columbia Law School in 1830 and started a law firm in 1835 with John A. Tott and later John Vanderbilt. He also founded the Brooklyn Eagle in 1841. His distinguished career led him almost to the Presidency but he was beaten at the Democratic convention by Franklin Pierce, one of history's famous" dark horse" candidates. He was U.S. Ambassador to The Hague and served 6 terms as State Senator. He tried for the u.S. Senate three times and once for Governor, but he was defeated each time by Tweed and Tammany opposition. Present day Senator Street derives its name from this distinguished Bay Ridgeite. He threw himself into the work of the Bridge with the tireless energy which was his calling card until his death

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in 1887. "The feeling was that the day marked the end of an era. Murphy had been a historic figure, everyone felt. He was the closest thing to a Founding Father Brookilln ever had, both in his personal grace and in the things he had accomplished. To many he seemed a last holdover from a vanished golden age. His passing was like the tolling of a bell." His estate in Bay Ridge is currently Owls Head Park. There are two explanations for the name. One is that the shore itself at this point resembles an Owls Head. The other is that on the gateposts to the Murphy Estate were two stone owls. Two years after the meeting in the Chandler White house, Bay Ridge, Fort Hamilton village especially, was struck by another epidemic of Yellow Fever! It started when a ship infected with the disease moved to the Brooklyn side of the lower bay after a storm of protest from the Staten Island side. Wind and tide served to carry the germs on the bedding and mattresses which had been thrown overboard and washed up on the Fort Hamilton beach. The disease, sometimes known as Yellow Jack, was feared throughout the United States. When it struck it reached epidemic proportions SWiftly. In Bay Ridge many families left, selling their homes and property. One of the worst parts of the disease was that many parents, once their children contracted the disease, left them to die, unable to help or comfort lest they catch it also. General Oliver of Fort Hamilton described black vomiting prevailing in every fatal case."



Only by understanding the terror of this disease can we fully appreciate the efforts of Doctors John L. Crane and James E. DuBois before they too fell victim and died. The memory of their dedication is kept alive by a monument which was raised to them in the graveyard of what was the Dutch Reformed Church on 84th Street and 16th Avenue. This epidemic eventually led to the creation of quarantine stations further down the Bay.

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Then came the Civil War. Bay Ridgeites served in the 77th Regiment, the Kings County troop, with William]. Cropsey as one of its Captains. They first saw service in quelling the draft riots which took place in New York City, embarking from the Denyse Wharf, Fort Hamilton. Fort Hamilton was the site, in 1864, of the testing of a new cannon, the Rodman gun. This huge cannon weighed 116,000 pounds and fired a shot weighing

1,080 pounds. A derrick had to be used to load the gun.

The first shot fired failed to reach the water and before a second shot could be fired, the gun jammed and a man had to climb in to clean it out. Having a 20 inch bore it was not difficult to get in the gun, as many children have found out over the years. The second shot proved successful and the gun went into operation along the coast. Its effectiveness was short-lived however and the only one remaining in Brooklyn is now in Cannon Park, serving admirably as Monkey Bar.

69 Sponsor: Michael Giancola Sr. Builder of fine homes in Bay Ridge since 1921 Happy Birthday. The Giancola Family.

Fort Lafayette meanwhile served as a military prison in which the conditions were similar to those in all military prisons at the time, bad. The food and water were poor and there was little light. Built right on the water, there were also rats and mice. Families from the village helped out by bringing food and many of the young girls of prominent families visited regularly. One of the more famous prisoners was a nephew of General Robert E. Lee, William Henry Fitzhugh Lee. Many people, remembering his uncle's stay, sent him things and made visits, often inviting him to dinner. While he had to turn down the civilian invitations, he was often entertained at quarters on Fort Hamilton. Most of the prisoners at Lafayette didn't live so well, of

course. Grace Glen records that some prisoners would sneak out at night to steal potatoes or corn from the farmers in the neighborhood. This led some of the farmers to complain angrily, but Abraham Van Pelt

70 Sponsor: John B. Swift, Sr. John B. Swift, Jr. Ronald J. Swift

who had a large farm is reported to have said "If the poor devils are as starving as that, they are welcome to the little they take out of my fields." The ladies of Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton took part in the Great Sanitary Fair which was held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to raise money for the care of sick and wounded soldiers. Unbelievably they raised $400,000. The war also brought the Underground Railroad here. Blacks usually arrived at the home of David C. Bennet at night, and he would either let them work for him for a few days or take them immediately in a covered market wagon to Manhattan where they would make connections to continue the trip to Canada. The appearance of these blacks working on his farm sometimes led to hostility from the Irish, who worked most of the other farms in the area but there was no violence. Eventually the soldiers came home and took up the plow once more. A case of kidnapping soon got national attention. Two children were taken from the front of their home in Germantown, Pennsylvania on July 1, 1874. Walter Ross, 6, was found not far from the house, but there was no sign of 4 year old Charles. Several weeks later a ransom note came which said that if $20,000 was not paid, Charles would die. The parents followed instructions, spent $50,000 trying to find the child and sent two men to the Fifth Avenue Hotel to wait for the kidnappers. They never showed up. Detectives were " ... straining every nerve" when an incident occurred in Bay Ridge. On the night of December 14, 1874, five months after the kidnapping, Judge Holmes Van Brunt was lying in his bed, sick and resting. Next door his brother, Justice Charles C. Van Brunt, was out. At about 2:'00 A.M. Holmes Van Brunt heard a burglar alarm sound and a door shut in his brother's house. He roused his son


Sponsor: Eugene T. Walsh, Leader Jeri McKee, Co-Leader James Ryan 50th A.D. Conservative Party Club

Albert, who collected the superintendent of the grounds and his hired help. Together they surrounded the house. Two men emerged and then quickly ran back into the house. On a second dash to the docks they were met by a hail of bullets which felled them both. One of the men died instantly. The other lived long enough to tell that they had kidnapped Charles Ross and that the dead man was the only one who knew of the child's whereabouts. The second man died and the fate of Charlie Ross has been in shadow ever since. A relative of one of the slain men was convicted of being an accomplice and served 7 years in solitary confinement.

With the end of the war the effect of increased immigration could be felt in Kings County. In 1845 the total foreign born population had been 26,405. By 1860 this number had risen to 109,589. By 1890 in the town of Brooklyn alone the figure was up to 261,700 and the newcomers represented many nationalities:

1865 1870 1875 1880 1890

Irish 57,143 73,985 78,880 78,814 84,738

German 26,467 36,771 53,359 55,339 94,798

Nonoegian 199 301



173 384

287 1,105

112 225

874 4,873

814 1,839

2,848 9,325

1,180 9,563


The population of New Utrecht kept pace with these increases throughout this period: 1860 1865 1870 -

2,781 3,394 3,296

1875 1880 1890 -

72 Sponsor: Volckening Inc. 6700 Third Ave.

3,843 4,742 8,854

You will note that there is a sharp rise here between 1880 and 1890, just as there is on the previous chart for all of Kings County. In fact in 1890 27.4% of the population of Kings County lived in New Utrecht township with its two villages, Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton. The Civil War had not changed the agricultural basis of the area. Samuel W. Thomas is said to have tried purchasing some land after the war but was told the land wasn't for sale because it was all needed for farming. In 1896 the Eagle recorded that from west of 3 rd Avenue and south of Bay Ridge Avenue right to Fort Hamilton, there is not a single store or business house." Bay Ridge had maintained its rural appearance and with the growing congestion in New York and Brooklyn, this became a plus. The problem was transportation. /I


All the early lines of track, since they had been created primarily to transport people to the beaches of Coney Island and Bath, had bypassed the Bay Ridge area. The Brooklyn city line was 60th Street and the trolleys,


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73 Sponsor: Anna F. Hepp 7529 Shore Road

when they came into use only went as far as 65th Street before they proceeded down to the beach area. The early stage lines had been replaced by horse cars. In 1878 these gave way to dummies," steam engines /I

which pulled one or two cars for passengers. Businessmen travelling to work from Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton had to take the dummy to the 39th Street Ferry for the trip into Manhattan. When the Crescent Athletic Club opened, it provided its own ferry service for members. The horse car lines were really the first important local transit system. In August 1854 the Brooklyn City Railroad Company opened a line that extended from Fulton Ferry to the city line at 3rd Avenue and 60th Street. During the year 1862 a line to Coney Island was opened. The 1870's saw steam locomotives begin to supplement the horse cars and gradually replace them. In 1872 the New York, Bay Ridge and Jamaica Railroad was chartered. The express purpose of this line,

74 Sponsor: Kerns Industrial Services Corp. 140 53rd Street

recorded in a stock holders prospectus of that year, was " ... to divert to Long Island its legitima te proportion of the annual exodus from New York." Other lines began with similar intent. A glance at the map of the area In

1879 shows the route of the Bay Ridge and Sea-Shore

Railroad, the terminus of which was the Bay Ridge Ferry. Deck hands would shout as they prepared to leave the slip in Manhattan, All aboard for Bay Ridge. Come and see the beautiful country In the bay." /I

These lines were primarily resort lines which gradually reduced service. During the winter the New York and Manhattan Beach line ran only one round trip a day

75 Sponsor: Richard Varian 7721 3rd Ave.

from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge. By 1886 the ferry route from Bay Ridge to Whitehall Street was limited to summer service only. The 5th Avenue Elevated in Brooklyn was finally completed in 1899. It connected with the 3rd Avenue trolley at the station on 60th Street which was known to be a particularly cold place on wintry mornings. The trolley had to travel up an incline which then led to the "EL" The trolley generation really began in 1891 with the full changeover from horses and steam to electricity and trolley lore permeates Brooklyn history. It is popularly believed that the baseball Dodgers got their name because it was necessary to dodge so many different trolleys and traffic on Bedford Avenue to get to the ball park. Who does the dodging at Chavez Ravine these days! Among the lines which ran through Bay Ridge was the 65th St.-Bay Ridge Avenue line which was begun in 1891. This line ran" ... from Ulmer Park via 25th Avenue, 86th Street, 13th Avenue, Bay Ridge Avenue and then up to the "El"." A line known as the 3rd Avenue line ran to Fort Hamilton from Hamilton Ferry via Hamilton Avenue and 3rd Avenue. The Fort also connected to the 39th Street Ferry via a line which ran along 2nd Avenue and then connected with the 3rd Avenue. To get downtown from the Fort a line ran along 4th Avenue and then 5th Avenue as far down as Atlantic Avenue, probably following the same route as the B-63 Fifth Avenue bus of today. Two other trolley lines were the 5th Avenue-Manhattan line which followed 5th Avenue to 39th Street and then continued down 3rd Avenue to 65th Street, and the 39th Street FerryConey Island line which ran to Coney Island via Bath Avenue and 86th Street. All these lines of course were accompanied by their tracks and overhead wires. Judging by this, the Dodgers earned the name!

76 Sponsor: Edmund G, Seergy 49th AD, Reg, Republican Organization Angelo J. Arculeo, Leader Virginia A. Mallon, Co-Leader


Sponsor: 12:30 Club of Bay Ridge Inc. Founded July 16, 1925

78 Sponsor: Fritsch Custom Upholstering William Fritsch, Pres. Founded 1961

In 1900 the Brooklyn Rapid Transit System was created and merged all but three of the transit systems into one of " ... the largest and most complete city transportation systems in the world." The year is important to Bay Ridge also because the Long Island Railroad built the freight yard at 65th Street off the bay. "The Bay RidgeHell Gate line is the chief freight traffic artery in the New York area and in fact the principal gateway to all of New England," one contemporary noted. Since then, however, the march of time and progress has left it behind. As transportation improved so did church attendance. In 1853 local Episcopalians organized Christ Church. It was first located on 68th Street and 3rd Avenue, and in 50 years it doubled in size. In 1873 a fire swept the rectory, necessitating its rebuilding and in 1877 a Sunday School was added adjacent to the church. In 1875 the Methodist Church moved to its third home on 4th and Ovington Avenues in the center of the Ovington village and only a block away from the center of Yellow Hook village. A choice piece of property indeed as it is today. Members could now come to services in the heart of their community. By 1896 the Bay Ridge Presbyterian Church and the Bay Ridge Reformed (Dutch) Church were organized within one block of each other on Ridge Boulevard and 81st and 82nd Streets. As the population increased so also did the number of Roman Catholics. St. Patrick's, the "church in the woods," was too small to handle the increase and so a new church edifice called Our Lady of Angels was built on 4th Avenue and 74th Street. Services had first been held in the engine house of the Fire Company and later on, when the congregation grew too large, at the Atheneum. Although not actually within the limits of the area being discussed, it would be difficult to leave out so large a parish with so imposing a structure as Our Lady

79 Sponsor: Upper Fifth A ve. Board of Trade Louis F. Bernardo

of Perpetual Help. At one time this church owned property which extended into the old town of New Utrecht. The first mass held in the" ... pretty cottage church" was on January 14, 1894 and the Brooklyn Eagle headlined their article" Redemptorist Fathers build a church on the edge of fields." This is a fitting description of the area south of the church at the time. It is also recorded that at this time property divided up into neat lots were for sale. Progress and the city were moving toward the farming community. It is interesting to note that while 3rd Avenue was the business avenue, 4th Avenue was beginning even then to look like the religious one. About this time one Neils Pausen, being involved in the manufacture of architectural iron, bronze and copper, put his knowledge of these materials to use in the construction of a "fire proof" house. A contemporary report described the house as follows: "Copper, brick and cement have been so happily combined as to produce a warm, dry and attractive dwelling; fireproof construction was one of the main points aimed at by the

80 Sponsor: Mr. & Mrs. Zenon L. Post and sons Marinos and Roger

owner, and metal, chiefly copper, has been employed in such a manner as to produce striking and novel results." Such a method of construction brings to mind Manhattan buildings with their wrought iron facades. Here was an entire building of copper! This ingenious man also had a profit-sharing system among the employees of his factory.


Sponsor: Parish Realty James L. Sparano, Pres.

One of the most famous structures built in this period was the Crescent Athletic Club. This club had originally started in 1884 as a football club made up principally of college men on 9th Street and 9th

Avenue. In 1889 they combined with the Nereid Boat Club and purchased a tract of land in Bay Ridge belonging to the old Van Brunt and Bergen estates. The property extended from 83rd Street to 85th Streets, from the Shore Road to 1st Avenue. The clubhouse, completed in 1892 had a glass-enclosed dining room which looked out over the Bay and a high veranda which extended right up to the Shore Road. The boathouse was at the water's edge. The club was renowned for its excellence in athletic competition. When it was a member of the American Football Union, one of the earliest leagues, it won numerous championships and, according to early


Sponsor: Third Kings Masonic District District Deputy Grand Masters (1975-1977) John A. Donohue - Richard M. Schramm

chronicles, for 3 years no opponent scored on them. The Lacrosse team had the distinction of bringing that old Indian game to England for a demonstration. The club was also a member of the Amateur Baseball League and in 1899 finished in second place. The rowing team was good enough to win the Eagle trophy offered by the Long Island Rowing Association for the best team on Long Island. Championship tennis was also played on the grounds in the early 1900'5. We do know, as Grace Glen records, that they only grudgingly allowed women to play occasionally. A building of central importance to the Yellow Hook village was the Atheneum located on 2nd Avenue and


Bay Ridge Avenue. It had a large central hall which was used for many social activities such as church fairs, festivals, entertainments, dances and strawberry festivals. The building also served as a center for the cultural activities of the village. At this time the only libraries were in private homes and not readily available to many people. There was a small library in the school, but that was geared toward the school children who attended. To rectify this situation the Ladies Reading Class was organized in 1886. They collected books and used one of the long, narrow rooms alongside the Atheneum main hall as the first circulating library and reading room in Bay Ridge. The first telephone in Bay Ridge was installed. In 1896 this group changed its name to the Bay Ridge Reading Club. They soon outgrew the Atheneum and moved into a new reading room located on property donated by Mr. Bliss at 73rd Street and Ridge Boulevard. The members undertook the job of caring for the library in the beginning when there was no trained librarian available. In 1901 the Club formally presented the building to the Brooklyn Public Library. Altogether the donations amounted to 8,000 volumes with real property worth $30,000. This outstanding club is still performing valuable services for the community. Less cultural than the Atheneum was the "Inebriate's Home of Kings County" incorporated in 1867 and originally located on Bushwick Avenue and Chestnut Street. It continued to move as the population did, trying to stay away from heavily populated areas. After being located on 55th Street for a while it moved to Bay Ridge on "Ringside Road." It was no doubt felt that the area would be very therapeutic and by 1882 the home housed 305 people, only 63 of whom were female. The site is now occupied by the Visitation Academy.


Fort Hamilton was also undergoing a building process. The plans were to enlarge the fortifications and extend them further along the Bay. This decision meant the demolition of what was at that time probably the oldest house in the neighborhood, the old Cortelyou

homestead. An article in the Brooklyn Eagle of 1892 worried " ... in all likelihood this last survivor of the days of

Dame Moody and of the Revolution

will be destroyed."

At the same time Van Brunt and Bergen estates were offered for sale. The original families were replaced by

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85 Sponsor: Flood Company, Real Estate & Insurance 7403 Fifth Avenue

individuals interested in bringing progress into the Bay Ridge area. One of the most prominent was E. W. Bliss who purchased 25 acres of the old Henry C. Murphy estate. Many still refer to this Owls Head Park property as Bliss Park. Others were Fred C. Cocheau who was in the forefront of many activities to develop Bay Ridge, from tolley lines to real estate, and James A. Townsend who purchased the "William Thomas place," famous for its central hall so large a double team of horses could be driven through. They sought to bring better sewerage, lighting and transportation into the area as the signs of progress they wanted. That progress meant the end of a way of life for Bay Ridge. Throughout the so-called "Gilded Age" and the first decade of the 20th century, Bay Ridge enjoyed a style of life which the coming of the World War destroyed forever. Locally, the subway speeded the process even more.

86 Sponsor: Nahas Art & Picture Frammg 7612 Third A venue

Before such "progress" the Brooklyn Eagle in 1896 described Bay Ridge as the garden spot of Brooklyn ... it was like a small, quiet English town, dirt roads arched over with /I













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great trees, large residences, well cultivated farms and just a sprinkling of new building." 86th Street was, like 4th Avenue, lined with willow trees and had no buildings at all until 1896. By 1898, a new Town Hall appeared there near where it crosses the old highway from the shore of the Narrows to the village." Hotels proliferated along the shore. Pope's, Bennet's, the U.S. Hotel, Churches Hotel and Johnsons'. Resorts included one known as Donnybrook and Nappier's Sea View Hotel. One of the most ornate was the Grand View Hotel built right on the water's edge /I


87 Sponsor: Carmine A. Guadagnino, Leader and Kathleen LaBosco, Co-Leader 49th AD. Narrows Conservative Club 8415 Seventh Avenue

by the Brooklyn City Railroad Company. It had six stories and cupolas, the lowest floor almost at water level, the third floor at road level on the crest above the shoreline. Swimmers at the hotel had great sport

with a 200 foot long slide from an upper floor to the water on light wooden toboggans into the Narrows. The Brooklyn Rowing Club used the hotel as a base of operations since the Nautilus Boat Clubhouse was next door. The Club, as well as Hegeman's Boat House, rented pleasure boats and ladies used to row along the shore on moonlight nights, singing as they were rowed along by their young gallants," according to a contemporary. There were amusement houses, freak shows and wheels of fortune, a large park, many beaches, and even a merry-go-round! 1/


The Bath Hotel, which later changed its name to the Aeon Beach Hotel, was surrounded by "lovely groves


and summer cottages." Koche's Bay View Park, a beer garden, specialized in picnic parties on its grounds, at 3rd Avenue and 63rd Street, opposite the Theodore Bergen residence. Shore Road was the vacationer's promenade. The Brooklyn Eagle on July 26, 1891 described it: "ItÂť grade is as irregular as its serpentine course. At times it descends almost to the level of the water and a few hundred yards further on it skirts the edge of a precipice nearly a hundred feet high At the foot of the cliffs are scattered the cottages of fishermen The greater part of the road is sheltered by arching trees, and at intervals along the bank shaded benches invite rest. As one approaches Fort Hamilton the lower bay comes into full view. The Highlands and Sandy Hook can be distinctly seen, on the left is the point of Coney Island and on the right the low coastline of Jersey ... miles away into a blue haze. The landward side of the shore road is dotted with pretty villas and old farm houses ... Many of them are built in the old colonial style ... and date back before the time of Washington."


Diamond Jim Brady bought the villa on Shore Road and 96th Street, now occupied by Fontbonne Hall Academy, for Lillian Russell. While the rich and famous partied in style others would " ... wind up around some bonfire cooking spuds and sweet mickies in one of the vacant fields." There was "Lovers Lane," (71st Street between Ridge Boulevard and 3rd Avenue); the "Dell," which was part of the Dellwood estate frequented by children; the nurseries of James Weir and James Dean filling the air with lovely scents. From the farms and hotels could be seen the tall spars of East 1ndiamen . .. the trim coasting schooner, excursion and river steamboats, the colossal hulls of ocean steamers, the stern sides of men-of-war and the bright sails of pleasure yachts and river craft of every kind ... " And after the unveiling of Miss Liberty in 1886, residents had an unobstructed view as she began to light up the harbor. /I

On May 3, 1894 Governor Morton signed the articles which annexed the Township of New Utrecht to the City of Brooklyn. Four years later the City of Greater New York was created. As a contemporary writer observed: "In a few years no traces will be left of the former aspect of these surroundings and those that come in after years will find it difficult, amid the bustle and turmoil and claiter of urban traffic, to realize that the pioneers settled here with pleasant green fields stretched away to the waters of the Bay." Amen. 90

Chapter VI The 20th Century 1900-1950 The Era of Progress HE 20th century dawned with a promise of unparalleled progress. The telephone and telegraph linked the world and the automobile gave people the freedom to move about. On a national level, Theodore Roosevelt's "Big Stick" policy and his "corollary" to the Monroe Doctrine had made the U.S. the policeman of the Western Hemisphere. The defeat of the Spanish and subsequent naval build up had made the U.S. a colonial power in the Pacific also and a force to be considered in European affairs. Economic conditions were improving after the brief recession, the social ills of the days-poverty and ignorance, poor health care among the immigrants-were being looked after by settlement houses and other institutions like the Y.W. and Y.M.C.A. Everything seemed secure. In Bay Ridge then as now, tennis was in. The Crescent Club had Larned and Dwight Davis, donator of the Davis Cup, on the courts. Even the Wright Brothers were here! The first Davis Cup match was played here in 1902, and viewing the match from the newly constructed grandstand was President Theodore Roosevelt and part of his cabinet. More than 33,000 people showed up to see the championship match. College tournaments and county competitions were held regularly. Even President Taft made an appearance in 1912! Entertainments could be luxurious or simple. The Brooklyn Heights Railroad Company offered to rent their Buffet Parlor Cars, fitted out with wicker chairs and elegant appointments so that 20 people could enjoy each other's company, cards, music and refreshments while traveling leisurely to social events, club outings or the theatre. 91

More usually, as Grace Glen reports, "people entertained at home, giving dinners or evening parties. In the afternoon groups of ladies met on their verandahs or in their gardens to embroider and gossip, and sample the hostess' special cake and cookies and sip cups of tea in a genteel fashion. Croquet was the favorite outdoor game." The dark clouds gathering over Europe were still far away and they posed no threat to the sunshine of the period. In Bay Ridge many of the names of estate owners were still familiar. The John McKay home was on Bay Ridge Avenue and Shore Road. Continuing along the Shore Road, on 76th Street was the G. Bergen homestead. Next to him were three Bennett estates; J. Remsen Bennett at 77th Street, his son Adolphus on 78th

Street, and on 79th Street the home of William Bennett. (This family, father and sons, had served as superintendents to the Fort Hamilton Sunday School


for over 50 years.) At the top of the rise beyond 79th Street was the Jacques Van Brunt home and next to it the Crescent Club. The Charles Bennett house stood at 87th Street, with the Poulsen house on 88th. At the corner of 3rd Avenue and Shore Road stood the large Gelsten house. At Christ Church there was the problem of the trolley noise as it climbed the incline and headed toward the 5th Avenue "EL" By 1907 the incline, which started at Senator Street, was making such a racket that the congregation voted to move to a new site. Land was purchased and a new edifice built on Ridge Boulevard between 73rd and 74th Streets. The cornerstone was laid on All Saints Day in 1908 and the church opened for regular services the following September. The building which was vacated was not allowed to remain so for long. The congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, organized in 1906,


More usually, as Grace Glen reports, home, ladies gossip, tea in

people entertained at giving dinners or evening parties. In the afternoon groups of met on their verandahs or in their gardens to embroider and and sample the hostess' special cake and cookies and sip cups of a genteel fashion. Croquet was the favorite outdoor game." 1/

The dark clouds gathering over Europe were still far away and they posed no threat to the sunshine of the period. In Bay Ridge many of the names of estate owners were still familiar. The John McKay home was on Bay Ridge Avenue and Shore Road. Continuing along the Shore Road, on 76th Street was the G. Bergen homestead. Next to him were three Bennett estates; J. Remsen Bennett at 77th Street, his son Adolphus on 78th

Street, and on 79th Street the home of William Bennett. (This family, father and sons, had served as superintendents to the Fort Hamilton Sunday School


for over 50 years.) At the top of the rise beyond 79th Street was the Jacques Van Brunt home and next to it the Crescent Club. The Charles Bennett house stood at 87th Street, with the Poulsen house on 88th. At the corner of 3rd Avenue and Shore Road stood the large Gelsten house. At Christ Church there was the problem of the trolley noise as it climbed the incline and headed toward the 5th Avenue "El." By 1907 the incline, which started at Senator Street, was making such a racket that the congregation voted to move to a new site. Land was purchased and a new edifice built on Ridge Boulevard between 73rd and 74th Streets. The cornerstone was laid on All Saints Day in 1908 and the church opened for regular services the following September. The building which was vacated was not allowed to remain so for long. The congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, organized in 1906,


purchased the building and moved it to 4th Avenue and 75th Street. They held their first service in it on Easter Sunday,1910. In 1913 a joint picnic was held on the Bliss estate between the Bay Ridge Presbyterian Church and the Bay Ridge Dutch Reformed Church. Many meetings later, in 1918, the two churches merged to form the Union Church of Bay Ridge. The Reformed Church building became the house of worship and the Presbyterian building in the next block became the Parish House and Sunday School. Progress continued. Streets were cut through, buildings went up, paving and lighting of streets began. A sewer system was in the process of being installed, gas was being used, and the four room schoolhouse had expanded to eight despite great consternation among the school officials who saw no necessity for so large a building. As G. Berger noted in Henry Stiles' monumental work on Kings County, "Through the force of politics many new roads have been ruthlessly opened as avenues, with mathematical accuracy, cross the beautiful old lanes and highways of the town, and lots for residences have been staked out of late on many ancient farms." Another author recorded: "Streets now cross each other with mathematical nicety, all over it's old time territory, farms have been cut up into city lines and every season new communities are being brought together." In 1902 a reporter announced that "the government reservation is to be transformed into a fine park through which will pass a driveway connecting Bay Ridge with Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Coney Island." Plans for this driveway had been drawn in 1895 by the prestigious firm of Frederick Law Olmstead, the creator of Central Park and Prospect Park. In 1907 the Fort Hamilton Elementary School building, P.S. 104, was built on 92nd Street between 5th Avenue



and Gelston Avenue (formerly Atlantic Avenue between Stewart and Celston). This land had been granted in 1881 and the old building at one time had housed annexes of Erasmus Hall High School and Bay Ridge High School. This last was organized as an annex of Erasmus itself and in 1915 moved to the building it occupies today. In addition Katherine Pool recalls that a Miss Richey operated a private school on the hill at Senator Street. As Europe went to war the Coast Guard watched for German U Boats in N.Y. harbor. Fort Hamilton housed the National Guard Artillery and was headquarters for the 18th Infantry Regiment, part of the u.S. First Division. Neighborhood houses served as canteens and "hostess houses" for the soldiers, "to ease the tensions of war and give soldiers a chance to relax." Along the shore from 69th Street to 86th Street, between the drive and the breakwater, were row upon row of grey barracks." Among the barracks were gathering places for entertainment such as the Knights of Columbus hall and buildings for administrative operations. All of these were put up for auction in 1922 and removed from the landscape. /I


As a direct result of women working during the war emergency the Bay Ridge Day Nursery was opened in 1917 at 969¥2 4th Avenue. In 1927 part of the Knights of Columbus hall at 5114-4th Avenue was leased, and finally in 1934 a building was built at 322-44th Street which is still in use today. In 1915 the Bay Ridge Medical Society held its first meeting at the Old Firemen's Hall on Bay Ridge Avenue. The society was incorporated and received its charter in 1923, making it the first Medical Society, after the County Society, to be incorporated by a special act of the Legislature. Bay Ridge contributed to the war effort both at home


and abroad. The names of those who gave their lives in Europe are listed on tablets in houses of worship and Veterans' Posts throughout the neighborhood. The Dover Patrol monument erected in Cannon Park in

1931 is dedicated to the efforts of the U.S. Navy in the

"G reat W"ar. Despite the war the subway commenced its service in January 1916. It cut the running time from Bay Ridge to

Chambers Street down to approximately 20 minutes. The Eagle reported that the completion" ... had already given rise to a marked increase in real estate .... in the outlying districts affected." The schedule for opening day included a 97

ride to 86th Street and back to Bay Ridge High School where City dignitaries would view a series of tableaux entitled "Bay Ridge, Past, Present and Future." There are residents of the area today who remember the occasion as school children of the time. Among the entertainers on the bill was Eddie Foy, the noted vaudevillian who was playing at the Bay Ridge Theatre. Extending the subway to 86th Street had not always been among the city's plans. When in 1911, a committee of citizens had requested such an extension, thenCommissioner Delaney wondered if there were enough riders to pay the fare to the sticks! Bay Ridge grew at a furious pace in the 20's. In 1922 there were 173 apartment houses housing 2,451 families; by 1923 there were 826 such buildings, holding 5,466 families. The boom was on with smaller houses as well. In 1922 there were 1,108 one-family houses; in 1923 that number was


up to 1,325. In 1922 there were 2,008 two-family houses; by 1923 it was up to 2,124. Contemporaries reported: "Block after block of three-story store and apartment buildings are going up along 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Avenues, all the way from 51 si Street. The borough is growing so rapidly that real estate brokers (of Bay Ridge) complained that the demand for multi-family dwellings does not nearly meet supply." As the result of the subway" ... whole streets sprang up in a few months' time." The subway offered transfers to the different trolley lines out to the Fort. One real estate dealer remembers hiring jockeys to meet people at the train and take them to salable property quickly. The biggest growth was in apartment houses which went up everywhere. The old David C. Bennett homestead which had stood on the corner of 79th Street and 14th Avenue since 1839 was destroyed in 1926 to make way for the "Embassy Apartments." Not only the house, but the lawn and lovely garden were also covered. The Schlegel home and Mr. Cocheau's Ridge Club were sacrificed for Flagg Court. The Robert Thomas place was replaced by 7101 Ridge Boulevard while 7400 Ridge Boulevard replaced the Jacobus estate and the famous Twelve Apostles. These 12 trees had stood for years unmolested, a


delight and wonder to their owners and passers-by but they too bowed before the sweep of progress. With their eye for mathematical accuracy in cutting through 75th Street the planners cut 13 rooms off the Townsend house so that what had been the main entrance hall became the side of the house. This situation lasted only a short while however, for in 1927 the en tire stately building was destroyed. The pillared colonial mansion of Charles White was torn down in the early 1930's to make way for Narrows Avenue, and even the Revolutionary War Bennett house fell to the wrecker's ball, to be replaced by an apartment building. Population growth for the area was nothing less than phenomenal. Between 1910 and 1924 the population of Bay Ridge increased 1000/0, the value of building improvements for taxes by 351O/o! In 1923 there were 12,946 new buildings and 14,037 under construction to meet demands. In 1921 between 7th Avenue and Fort Hamilton Avenue, 66th to 68th Streets, there was one frame dwelling, the rest was empty. Brick buildings had sprung up, however, on Fort Hamilton between Bay Ridge Avenue and 72nd Street. 10th Avenue between 68th Street and 72nd Street was virtually filled with brick residences, encroaching on the tennis courts which were located on 10th Avenue between Bay Ridge Avenue and 70th Street. Below this, between Bay Ridge Avenue and 72nd Street, 11th to 13th Avenues, was property belonging to the heirs of Robert Lefferts containing two frame dwellings. By 1924 the story was very different. From Fort Hamilton down to 3rd Avenue was heavily populated with brick residences, one after the other, all attached. Below 3rd Avenue were primarily frame and stone buildings. Although many of the estates were


broken up, developers below Ridge Boulevard had built large houses and left lots around them. Many of the homes there today have shade trees in their yards

which were once part of whole groves. Between 72nd, 73rd Streets, 6th and 7th Avenues, was the Bay Ridge Roofing Works and, next door to it, Entenmans Sash, Door and Blind Works. On 86th Street below 3rd Avenue there were row houses of brick and a few stores with stucco and frame buildings between Ridge and Colonial. Between 3rd and 5th Avenues there were only two brick buildings plus a frame office on the corner of 4th Avenue and a frame house on the corner of 5th. The Police Precinct house was on the northeast corner but was known as the 171st Precinct at that time. On the East side of 4th Avenue and 92nd Street was a bowling alley, and at the juncture with 7th Avenue was


Bay Ridge Hospital. The building by that name now on Ovington Avenue was then called the Bay Ridge Sanitarium. In 1924 Sheffield Farms Co. and the Kings County Lighting Co. were located on 65th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. On 74th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues was the Blytheborne Water Company

Pumping Station. Blytheborne like Dyker Heights was a local area name. 79th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues had only one building, the fire house of Engine Company 284 and Hook & Ladder 149. Between 67th Street and Bay Ridge Avenue off 12th Avenue was the Kallman Scandinavian Orphanage, whose building was cut in half for 68th Street. The home then moved to 86th Street and Ridge Boulevard, where Adelphi Academy is today. Perhaps to make up for the loss of the picturesque willows and to attract tenants, the apartment builders on 4th Avenue gave their buildings names like Marlborough-Blenheim, Fourth Avenue Court, The Cha telaine, Pilgrim, the Colonial and, the Royal Poinciana.


During the boom the congregation of Good Shepherd grew from 252 in 1906 to 2,018 in 1928. Union Church was up to 1,383 members in 1929. Our Lady of Angels increased from 250 to 5,000 by 1929. To keep up with the growing demand many of the old churches expanded and new ones were built. Union Church in 1925 enlarged its church building to provide an auditorium three times the size of the original unit, and in 1931 on the site of the Bay Ridge Presbyterian Church erected a modern building for educational and parish activities." /I


Our Lady of Angels completed the construction of a school on 4th Avenue to meet the needs of the children of the growing parish. So great were the numbers of Catholics moving into the area that two new parishes were created, St. Anselm's and St. Ephrem's. A Mass

was celebrated in an old mansion which stood on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 75th St., in January 1921. By September of the next year St. Ephrem's had opened its first school. The Depression and World War II


prevented the parish from completing the church building so it wasn't until 1953 that the first Mass in

the new church was celebrated. Along with the church were also constructed a rectory, convent and an addition to the school. The history of St. Anselm's parish has been much the same. It was first established by Archbishop Molloy in 1922. Open land plus an old house between 82nd and 83rd Streets on 4th Avenue were purchased, with the first Mass being said in June 1922 in a private house which was used for 13 months thereafter. The new church was dedicated in July 1923 which later became the school auditorium. As with St. Ephrem's the Depression and the ensuing World War resulted in a delay of improvements so that the current church was not completed until 1954. Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1922 purchased Knights of Columbus Hall which had been used for troops and moved it to the corner of 61st St. and Avenue as a Parish Club. Later on they purchased


the the 6th the

Sheridan Knights of Columbus Hall on 58th Street and used that club for parish activities. Growth in the population of the local schools also reflected the growing general population. Two new schools had been built, P.S. 170 on 6th Avenue and 72nd Street just prior to the decade of the 1920's, and P.S. 185 on Ridge Boulevard and 86th Street in 1922. P.S. 102 had grown to 1,574 pupils and P.S. 104 to 1,016. Other changes had taken place as well. Victory Memorial Hospital, chartered in 1904, officially opened its new 4 story building in 1927. It was dedicated to the men who had died in World War I. Further out a concrete sea wall and land fill had been completed


between 1921 and 1924. Shore Road continued to dip and curve but instead of water below it there was the land upon which are today's ball fields, playgrounds and park houses. Try to imagine all that land as water and you will have some idea of how different the shore line was before the landfill operations. "The people had changed, too. It was no longer possible to know all one's neighbors, nor did one always want to. The vegetable wagons were disappearing, Bay Ridge was getting citified." By 1924 the process had been about completed. The boom of the early 20's could be matched only by the bust of the Depression which began on Black Friday, June 28, 1929 with the infamous stock market crash. The rush of expansion came to an end. Businesses went bankrupt and money was unavailable. Each parish sought to help those who needed it most. The Trinity Lutheran Church began mission activities in a house on 94th Street near Ridge Boulevard. A feeling of commitment, an important part of the lives of the older inhabitants, became also a part of the lives of those who had arrived during the expansion years. Bay Ridge found itself one of the most civically active, unified areas of the City of New York. In 1931, seeking more room for golf-a sport growing in popularity-the Crescent Club gave up the" country house" in Bay Ridge and moved to Huntington, Long Island. The City purchased the building and the property behind it where the famous team players had played. Fort Hamilton High School was completed in 1941. By 1950 enrollment was up to 3,000 with a faculty of 140. One of the main features of the school was its extensive cafeteria which could hold 1400 people, then the largest cafeteria in Brooklyn. Another change with far reaching effects for Bay Ridge was the completion of the Belt Parkway on June 24, 1940. Land fill and the sea wall had been completed


by 1926 with plans to make a recreation area out of the land. In the 30's it became a highway connected to the "El" on 3rd Avenue where part of the train system had been left up expressly for the purpose. The Depression brought us an "Americanization Parade" in which more than 10,000 members of patriotic, veteran and fraternal orders marched as an anti-Communist demonstration. In 1933 the ItalianAmerican Club of Fort Hamilton was formed, now known as the Hamilton Harbor Association. The same year the Brooklyn Spectator, which had started its illustrious career earlier that year, reported: "Bay Ridge appeared today in line for millions in Federal funds to complete the development and improvement of Shore Road and to renew work on the Bay Ridge-Staten Island tunnel. Funds were suggested to build terraces, recreation parks, tennis courts and bridle paths along Shore Road." This Bay Ridge-Staten Island tunnel was the subject of much serious discussion in its day. The idea had started under Mayor John Hylan of New York and shafts had already been dug in 1921 on Staten Island and in Bay Ridge. One shaft still exists today between Shore Road and the Belt Parkway at the foot of 68th Street. However, no bids were received on the project so the idea was scrapped. After Hylan left office the idea known as "Hylans Folly" gradually faded away until picked up again in the 1950's, as a result of the crisis over the proposed approaches to the Narrows Bridge. Even in the 30's an article in the Spectator relates: "Protests are being forwarded today ... voicing the protests of the Bay Ridge Civic Council against the Prall Bill ... which would give the Interboro Bridge Corporation the right to lay plans for the building of a suspension bridge over the Narrows from Bay Ridge to Staten Island." A veto came from the War Department in 1936, which felt that the bridge would bottle up the fleet and present a dangerous situa tion if war occurred.


In 1943, the population of Bay Ridge stood at 122,663, larger than the population of Camden, New Jersey. Of that number 30,011 were described as foreign born whites and included large numbers of Scandinavians and Italians. The number of families had risen to 35,282 with the large majority being tenants. (Most of the housing in the area was two families or more). The Market Analysis shows top rents were $150 while 10 years earlier 6 room apartments with heat and hot water had only been $35 and $40. Most residents paid between $30 and $74 per month with the average family expenditures for 1943 being $3,380. Again in World War II, Fort Hamilton played an important role. The huge New York Port of Embarkation extended from 39th Street to 65th Street with Fort Hamilton as the" staging area" of the Port. More than 3,000,000 troops sailed from this port, much of the work of processing soldiers being handled by the Fort. Its great storage enclosures that extend into Bay Ridge, and the "vast network" of rail lines were a bustle of activity. During the war more than 60,000 persons were employed here, many of them from the Bay Ridge area. Fort Hamilton today still employs many neighborhood people and is an important link for all the community to its past. V.E. and V.J. Days were celebrated as heartily here as anywhere else in the nation. Churches had erected tablets to those who gave their lives and those who served in the armed forces. Throughout the war years the churches held services for those in uniform who had died. With the termination of hostilities came the relief which usually accompanies the end of a war. Numerous were the welcome home parties for returning veterans. Residents returned to activities like the polo matches at Fort Hamilton which drew


large and vocal crowds. The game had been played in the past before and after World War I. At that time matches were held on Sunday afternoon between different regiments or sections of the base, and alternately played at Fort Hamilton and Fort Jay on Governors Island. Boxing, wrestling matches and amateur nights were also held at the Fort as well as in neighborhood theaters. The days of such pastimes were numbered, however. The Fort suffered a drastic reduction in personnel after the war, from 5,038 in 1945 to only 898 by 1947. The Spanish-American War had catapulted the U.S. into the role of a world power. The first world war had given the U.S. new international responsibilities. The second world war made the U.S. the most powerful nation of the free world with all of the concommitant, awesome responsibilities. With the coming of the second half of the 20th century Bay Ridge reflected the new world.



Chapter VII 1950-1976

Consolidation, Improvement & Tomorrow URING the last half of the 20th century plans and projects aborted by the war and the depresl!!!!!!!!!!!~~sion finally bore fruit. Once again growth was spurred by a return to peace, although international tensions rooted in the fear of Communism were felt here as well. Immigration, decreasing during the past two decades, revived. Although many newcomers were still from Northern Europe there was a change in the national origin of immigrants. Established residents of older stock, having suffered through a depression and a war, were drawn to membership in the civic, social, political and professional organizations which grew up. Today Bay Ridge has a wide spectrum of such organizations which offer every citizen an opportunity to involve himself in the life of the community. Many civic improvements had been undertaken during the 30's and 40's as part of the New Deal. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, under Buttermilk Channel, was opened in May 1950, ten years after the ground breaking services at which President Franklin D. Roosevelt turned the first spade of dirt. Also opened in 1950 was the new 18 story Veterans Administration Hospital outside of Fort Hamilton. Some "improvements" started battles. The Owls Head Park Pollution Control Plant was proposed in 1940 and the response was vigorous and swift. Community groups protested foul smells and polluted pools which it was feared might emanate from the plant. Despite objections the plant was opened, separated from Owls Head Park by the highway, in April 1952 and soon took second place to the long and acrimonious controversy revolving around the Narrows Bridge.


technology changed military strategy. In 1949 the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority was granted a Federal permit to construct the bridge after public hearings before a joint military board. Community opposition was loud and anguished. A "Save Bay Ridge Committee" was formed at a meeting of the Bay Ridge Community Council, an organization comprising 82 local groups, which fought long and hard to defeat the bridge proposal and especially its proposed approaches. The proposed bridge approach would run along 7th Avenue and require the uprooting of 2,500 families. The real estate community reacted strongly, pointing out the loss in housing, people and the probable decrease in real estate values around the approaches. Those interested in maintaining the aesthetic quality of Bay Ridge saw the project as destroying the neighborhood. In Albany a bill was twice pushed through the State Legislature to change the approach route to Shore Road where there was more land and where the Belt Parkway was already in existence. This bill was killed by veto on both tries. Despite the work of local leaders and clergy-especially Msgr. Edward Sweeny of St. Ephrem's, whose parish would be sliced in two by the proposal-ground was broken in April 1959 and the longest suspension bridge in the world today was on its way to becoming a reality. It was opened to traffic (on the upper deck only) in 1964. Not only were many homes sacrificed to its construction, but Fort Lafayette was also a casualty, becoming the base of the Brooklyn tower. The bridge connects with the Gowanus Expressway and is now an integral part of the interstate highway system connecting New England to the rest of America. Its total length is 13,700 feet, 6,690 of which is suspended structure. Its towers rise 690 feet above mean high water level, and total length of suspended wire is 146,000 miles.





But the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is more than statistics. Its gracefully arching span is the subject of many photographs now. The entire southern end of Brooklyn can be viewed while travelling over its span-millions of lights twinkling at night, with those


of the avenues and the Belt Parkway snaking their way north and east. The spires of Manhattan are visible during the day, glinting in the sun off to the north. Jacques Cortelyou certainly wouldn't recognize the place but he couldn't help being impressed. The Bridge has become a part of Bay Ridge and a symbol of the area, despite the long and angry debate, of which the people of Bay Ridge today are proud. The opening of the Bridge spelled doom for the Brooklyn-Staten Island Ferry. The service between 69th St. Pier and St. George had been started in 1912 by Captain Clifford Hawkins, Supervising Engineer of the New York City Ferries. Captain Hawkins lived in Bay Ridge but worked in St. George and since subway service had not reached Bay Ridge in 1912, it took him three hours to get to work. To shorten the trip he bought some boats from the Long Island Railroad and sought permission to operate them. Unable to get through bureaucratic red tape, he started the service without it, calling the company the Brooklyn-Richmond Ferry Co. The City acquired the service in 1954 and though municipally owned, it was privately operated by the 69th St. Brooklyn Ferry Company. All seven boats of the line ceased operations the weekend after the opening of the bridge, ending a service which had a long and illustrious history dating back to the earliest settlements. Throngs crowded each boat as they churned through the water for the last time. People of all ages pried loose some rememberance of the ferries as a souvenir. With the cessation of the ferry the 69th Street Pier fell into disrepair and quickly became a danger as well as an eyesore in the community. Again civic leaders struggled with bureaucracy. Finally the pier's reno-


vation was timed for the Bicentennial Pier Festival in June! Hopefully, Denyse Wharf will also be salvaged even tually.

Although church congregations are not growing in Bay Ridge, the diversity of religious expression certainly is. The 1950's saw the completion of new buildings for Trinity Lutheran (the parent church


celebrates its 90th anniversary this year) at 91st Street and 3rd Avenue; Pilgrim Covenant at 77th Street and 4th Avenue; a new St. Anselm's and a completed St. Ephrem's; St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church on 81st Street and Ridge Boulevard and the Bay Ridge Jewish Center with a school, meeting hall, library and

Rabbi's quarters at 81st Street and 4th Avenue. In 1959 property was acquired for the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church which was consecrated on June 24, 1973. There was a building boom in public structures too!


We gained the McKinley Park Library, the Dyker Library, a new firehouse for Engine Co. 241 and Ladder Co. 109, and after demolition of the old 68th Precinct house on 86th Street and 5th Avenue, a municipal parking garage.


The New York Market Analysis and the New York City Planning Commission Handbook for 1973, records growth of the neighborhood over a 30 year period. Population Native White Foreign Born White Black Other Non-White Median Expenditure & Income Housing Units Families

1943 122,663 92,481 30,011 116 55 $2,909* 35,282

1953 127,801 127,585 121 95 $4,028 39,839 39,252



$6,000** 47,376 44,399

1973 125,589 124,176 222 891 $10,468 48,555 47,762

*Median expenditure-no income data provided **No medium provided. Majority of population earning between $3,000-$9,000.

Despite inevitable changes brought by time, Bay Ridge remains one of the finest sections of New York in a number of ways. Among the police precincts of the city the 68th, of which Bay Ridge is a part, ranks (out of 71 precincts)-57th in homicides; 65th in robberies; and 55th in burglaries. This works out to .04 per 1,000 in homicides; 1.95 per 1,000 in robberies; and 10.19 per 1,000 in burglaries. Not only is Bay Ridge one of the best communities, it is also one of the safest-the rising crime rate notwithstanding. 120

Those interested in physical recreation have many opportunities to play. Dyker Beach Park offers fields for baseball, football and lacrosse; Dyker Golf Course is one of the best in the city, and the land fill between the Bridge down to the 69th Street pier is filled with facilities for tennis, handball, squash, basketball and other field games (even if there isn't always a net around the rim or a goal post for soccer or football). Bay Ridge's unique location on the Bay gave residents a grandstand seat at one of the most exciting events ever to take place in New York's history, 1964's Opera tion Sail. Twenty four sailing ships-large, stately ships of a bygone era-from twelve countries sailed majestically up the bay to anchor in New York harbor.


On July 4, 1976, we'll see more than 225 craft from 35 nations: 14 square-riggers, including the u.S. Eagle which took part in the last Operation Sail, will go up the harbor. Modern naval vessels will participate in an international naval review sponsored by the u.S. Navy. Not since the English fleet dropped anchor in the Lower Bay back in 1776 have so many ships of this nature been anchored here. Bay Ridge remains, despite physical changes, a concerned and congenial community. Its people are bound together by congregations and organizations in much the same manner as the church and the soil bound together the early settlers. Change cannot be denied, or ignored, but continuing emphasis on the importance of home, congregation, and history keeps its historical integrity intact. The crusty courage of the burgomasters continues to dwell here. Whatever the future may bring of hardship or change, the challenge will be met.


BAY RIDGE VOLUNTEERS Bruno Kasler John Norton Ray McKaba James Hass Barbara Wehner Arlene Johnson Donald Klungland Peter Purpura Al Lutfey Marjorie Burke Mrs. John McGivney Penny Hutchinson Charles Stamler John Artes Wade Goria Nancy Gallagher Eileen Molloy Helen Sullivan Betty Johnson Fred Halvardsen John McGuire Edith Carraba





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