Photo of the Week: Harry Kalmus Photographs

[Untitled.], ca. 1950, v1991.11.17.4; Harry Kalmus papers and photographs, ARC.046; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Untitled.], ca. 1950, v1991.11.17.4; Harry Kalmus papers and photographs, ARC.046; Brooklyn Historical Society.

I rarely see an ice cream truck around Brooklyn that isn’t Mr. Softee, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across this photograph from the Harry Kalmus collection. In this photo of the week, children are getting ice cream from a Good Humor truck, sometime around 1950. I love the moment in this photograph—all the children lined up along the curb with ice cream in hand, and one child carefully deciding from the list of options pictured on the truck.

This photograph comes from the Harry Kalmus photographs collection that features over 13,000 photographs taken by Kalmus from 1938-1987. Kalmus was a long time Brooklynite and professional photographer, documenting primarily weddings and bar mitzvahs in Brooklyn. Most of Kalmus’s photographs are not digitized, but if you visit the Othmer Library, you can see our online catalogue that showcases thousands of his photographs.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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Photo of the Week: The Cyclone

Cyclone No. 2, 2005, 2005, 2008.035.2; Ron Meisel photographs, 2008.035; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Cyclone No. 2, 2005, 2005, 2008.035.2; Ron Meisel photographs, 2008.035; Brooklyn Historical Society.

It’s hard to believe summer is beginning to wind down—where did it go? When I look at this photograph, it speaks to my current state of wanting to get in as much summer fun as I can before fall rolls in. With that in mind, the photo of the week is a panoramic photograph of the Cyclone in Coney Island taken by Ron Meisel in 2005.

The Cyclone is one of Brooklyn’s most notable landmarks. It was built in 1927 by Harry C. Baker and Vernon Keenan. Before the Cyclone was built, the site was formerly the location for the first roller coaster in the United States, the Switchback Railway, built in 1884. Coney Island was in its heyday around the turn of the century, when it was the most popular amusement park in the world. The Cyclone is the last remaining attractions from that period and in 1991, it was listed on the New York Register of Historic Places.

This photograph of the Cyclone comes from Ron Meisel photographs. It is a panoramic photograph taken with a Hasselblad Xpan camera. Meisel is a Brooklyn based photographer represented by the Phyllis Stigliano Gallery in Park Slope. Check out this page for future exhibitions of his work.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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Photo of the Week: Baby Prince

Baby Prince, circa 1880, v1974.7.126; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191 ; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Baby Prince, circa 1880, v1974.7.126; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191 ; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts “Baby Prince” and an unidentified woman going on a stroll through the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn sometime around 1880. This photograph, along with many other photographs from the Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, is particularly charming and noteworthy because it truly gives us a glimpse into an earlier, less developed time in Brooklyn. This is one of my favorite photographs from the collection because it doesn’t feel overly posed and formal—just a passing moment in the day of the photographer.

Adrian Vanderveer Martense (1852-1898) was an amateur photographer and also a descendent of the early Dutch settlers in Brooklyn. The Martense family resided in Flatbush which was one of the original six towns of Brooklyn. The Martense family remained in their home for many generations until 1889, when Flatbush began transitioning from a farming community into a suburb. There is no clear reason why this change occurred but there is speculation that the introduction of the streetcar and the purchase of land for parks and other green spaces played a part in this transition.

The Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection contains lantern slides and photographs taken by Martense from 1872 to 1889. The subject of his photography was primarily Flatbush, but his photographs also include friends and neighbors in Flatbush, like in this photograph. To view more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

 

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Photo of the Week: 1977 Blackout

[Children playing in fire hydrant spray], 1977, v2007.042.32; 1977 Blackout Slide collection, 2007.042; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Children playing in fire hydrant spray], 1977, v2007.042.32; 1977 Blackout Slide collection, 2007.042; Brooklyn Historical Society.

With recent temperatures in the nineties and a heat advisory issued last week for New York City, it’s a good time to be thankful for air conditioning and city pools. The photo of the week takes us back to the summer of 1977 in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. On July 13-14, 1977, New York experienced an electricity blackout which led to looting and arson throughout the city. Bushwick had some of the worst damage because of the high incidence of arson along a thirty block stretch of Broadway. The events in Bushwick are also notable because they continued into July 14, whereas most of the neighborhoods were calm by the end of July 13.

The photo of the week depicts children playing in the spray of a fire hydrant in Bushwick following the blackout of 1977. In the background, you can see some damage to homes from the fires. This photograph comes from the 1977 Blackout Slide collection which includes photographic slides of Bushwick taken by two photographers following the 1977 blackout. The images predominately depict structures that were damaged during the looting and fires from the blackout. To see more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery. You can learn more about the event and the collection here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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East New York Then, Now, and in the Future

BHS hosted a panel discussion entitled “A Biography of East New York” on Tuesday, July 14, about how this Brooklyn neighborhood got to where it is today and where it is headed in the future.

Moderated by Jarrett Murphy, the executive editor and publisher of City Limits, our panelists included Brandon Gibson, founder and CEO of Light Rock Holdings LLC, a real estate company that focuses on acquiring residential properties through NYC, Michelle Neugebauer, Executive Director of the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC), Winston Von Engel, Director of the Brooklyn Office of the Department of City Planning, and Patricia Worthy, a long-time resident and community activist for East Brooklyn Congregations (EBC).

Jarrett Murphy, Editor-in-Chief at City Limits, introduces panelists.

Jarrett Murphy, Editor-in-Chief at City Limits, introduces panelists.

East New York was founded in 1825 by the idealistic John Pitkin as a city to rival New York City, but it never grew beyond its primarily residential roots and, like all of the outer boroughs, remained a commuter neighborhood for Manhattan. Today, less than 5% of all New Yorkers have visited the area, but the neighborhood continues to garner more attention, particularly with Mayor de Blasio’s hopes to make this community a center of his affordable housing initiative, which aims to develop 200,000 housing units in NYC.

The discussion began with some historical context from Jarrett Murphy, who explained that East New York was once a working class community largely populated by Eastern and Central European immigrants. The neighborhood’s demographics began changing in the 1940s when the city took down the elevated train line, placing it underground, and many white families left for the suburbs. In the following post-war decades, East New York suffered from an era of bank redlining, a lack of city services, and the crack epidemic that devastated many NYC neighborhoods.

Mr. Gibson, a born and raised East New York resident, depicted the improvements seen over the past few decades resulting from strong community members “who took ownership of the neighborhood.” During this time, residents advocated for better schools, improved police presence, and more home ownership, among other things.

Panelists listen in as Patricia Worthy, a long-time resident and community advocate, speaks about affordable housing.

Panelists listen in as Patricia Worthy, a long-time resident and community advocate, speaks about affordable housing.

 

Gibson and Worthy are strong advocates for enabling East New Yorkers to own their own homes and build their own wealth to strengthen the community. They expressed skeptical opinions on whether Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan for the neighborhood can do this for its residents.  “Affordable for who?,” Worthy asked. “It’s not affordable for everybody – to me it’s not feasible. And I don’t hear much about senior housing.”

Neugbauer suggested that “there needs to be a robust package of tax incentives and housing preservation policies to maintain the low and moderate income home owners that exist in the community now. In 10 years what will the ethnic and racial make-up of the neighborhood be if we don’t put in place housing preservation policies?”

Mr. Von Engel said the de Blasio administration’s proposed plan will create 7,000 units of housing in East New York, increasing the population by about 21,000 residents.

The evening ended with audience questions about East New York facing the gentrification that its neighboring communities have seen. Neugebauer said she believes that “if East New York is going to survive the wave of gentrification coming from Bushwick, we are going to have to lock in thousands of deeply affordable apartments.” She outlined a plan that included  preservation of affordable living in the area, and advocated for local, small businesses so that retail prices remain affordable for residents.

For more resources about development in East New York, browse NYC Department of Planning’s website, and for information about the community’s past, visit the Tapeshare website.

This event was part of a series with Jarrett Murphy looking at the history and future of Brooklyn neighborhoods. Next up: a conversation about post-9/11 surveillance in Bay Ridge on Tuesday, October 20th. Reserve your spot here.

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