Judging from the collective grumblings of fellow New Yorkers, we’ve had it with winter. March has indeed shown very lion-like characteristics and so far April has been nothing but a copycat. Enough. I’m just waiting for that one spring day that will have every New Yorker and tourist alike flocking to the parks, hanging out on stoops, in backyards or patios (if you’re one of the lucky ones), or sipping a cool beverage in one of the garden patios provided by some of the bars, cafes, or restaurants in the city. One way I’ve been escaping the lingering chill is by living vicariously/virtually through some of the lovely photographs in the Photography Collection here at Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS).
Though we still have a lot work ahead of us, the archives team working on the project “Uncovering the Secrets of Brooklyn’s 19th Century Past: Creation to Consolidation,” (funded by CLIR and The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation) has made some great progress. With having recently moved onto surveying the Photography Collection, the team has come across some fantastic collections. Though we each have our own favorites, I’ve been charmed by some of the photographs depicting Brooklynites enjoying spring and summertime. The happiness or contentment expressed in people’s faces while they are enjoying a spring or summer day transcends time and is infectious.
Adrian Vanderveer Martense (1852-1898) was an amateur photographer from Flatbush who took many wonderful photographs of houses and street scenes in Flatbush, his neighbors, and lots of photographs of other areas of Brooklyn.
The Knickerbocker Field Club was a tennis club organized in 1889 and located in Flatbush (East 18th Street near Church Avenue). The club still exists today.
Here’s a glimpse of a not-so-distant time when horseback riding and bicycling were respected forms of transportation…and a time when the entrance to Prospect Park (Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Arch) was accessible without taking your life into your hands.
Martense’s young neighbor, Eddie Tepper, was a cycling enthusiast.
A lush spring or summer day in Prospect Park enjoyed by four friends and captured by Martense for us to relive.
The Crescent Athletic Club was one of the most popular clubs in New York City during its heyday. Although it was founded as a football club (and by football, I mean The Beautiful Game, not the American version) in 1884, the Crescent Athletic Club of Brooklyn wasn’t incorporated until 1888. By then, it had expanded its focus to include many other sports, games, and activities. In 1902, it could boast that it had over 1,500 members. It also had two clubhouses: the City House, located in Brooklyn Heights and now the home to Saint Ann’s School (just across Pierrepont St. from BHS), and the Country Club House, located in Bay Ridge, that included a club house, a boat house, and a golf course. They also hosted clam bakes, held outdoor concerts, and screened films during the summer. While BHS has several collections relating to the Crescent Athletic Club (see: ARC.178, Crescent Athletic Club yearbooks and bulletins; 2004.005, Crescent Athletic Club football team photographs), it’s the Frances Jenks collection of photograph albums documenting Crescent Athletic Club activities that I’m currently enamoured with (see: V1986.063 and V1986.064).
Here’s a photograph of the boat house in Bay Ridge during a nice summer day.
Perhaps a diving competition?
On the beach (Gravesend Bay) with the crew.
This photograph reminds us how much boats used to be an every day part of life in the city.
And finally, dudes! You know these guys would be fun to get a beer with.
So when that one spring day comes, I’ll be joining you all, past and present, in celebrating the true start of spring, exhaling a deep collective breath of contentment, and frolicking like lambs in the Long Meadow.