Photo of the Week: Transformation & Discovery

Cortelyou Road and Flatbush Avenue, 1916, v1973.2.106; Brooklyn oversize 19th century collection, v1973.002; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Cortelyou Road and Flatbush Avenue, 1916, v1973.2.106; Brooklyn oversize 19th century collection, v1973.002; Brooklyn Historical Society.

As we should expect of our climate these days, the weather has been all over the place.  While I’m not one to complain about warm weather, sunny skies, and a gentle breeze, I have to admit I’m eager to don a cozy sweater, perhaps some light gloves, and to reacquaint myself with my tights collection.  I’ve always looked forward to Fall for the fashion magazines, new school supplies, any sort of change.  It seems to be a time to reboot after an enjoyable summer and explore new things –instigated by a new school year and another set of curriculum goals.

The photograph above strikes me as a confluence of summer and discovery.  The tree on the right side of the photograph seems to have the steps of a tree house where the owner probably spent many an afternoon lazing about in it observing the world from that perch.  It could still be a lazy summer day or have the first whiff of cooler weather.  Nevertheless, let me be sure to point out that this is the corner of Cortelyou Road and Flatbush Avenue in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn.  We’ve all heard of Flatbush – crazy drivers, lots of stores, double parking, people everywhere.  Even my Great Aunt in Ohio heard of Flatbush and told me to avoid it.

Dutch settlers began purchasing tracts of land in the area now known as Flatbush from the Lenape Indians by the end of the 1630s. In 1652, Peter Stuyvesant granted inhabitants a patent, and the town of Vlacke Bos or Midwout (later Anglicized to Flatbush), was established, becoming one of the six original towns in what would later becoming the borough of Brooklyn (the other five are Flatlands, Bushwick, Brooklyn, New Utrecht, and Gravesend).  In 1683, the six towns became part of Kings County, established by the British after taking over New Netherlands from the Dutch. In 1898, Brooklyn consolidated as a borough within New York City.  For most of that time, Flatbush was a prosperous farming area. Over the twentieth century, it transformed into one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Interested in more Flatbush facts?  Check out our many archival collections on the topic and our online exhibit An American Family Grows in Brooklyn.

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.

About Julie May

I am the Managing Director of Library & Archives at Brooklyn Historical Society.
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