Photo of the Week: Brooklyn Sewers

[Boy standing on dirt mound, Flatbush sewer site], circa 1880, V1974.7.63; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection,                                  ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Boy standing on dirt mound, Flatbush sewer site], circa 1880, V1974.7.63; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts a young boy standing on a dirt mound at a Flatbush sewer site, sometime around 1880. In the mid-19th century, there were no underground sewage systems in Brooklyn. The city was facing a rapidly increasing population and the outbreak of infectious diseases. To address the sewage and waste problems, the Board of Sewer Commissioners was established in 1857. By the last quarter of the 19th century, construction of the underground sewage system began and continued into the 20th century. I love that this photograph is a tiny glimpse into this noteworthy period of Brooklyn history.

To learn more about the history of Brooklyn sewers, check out Brooklyn Historical Society’s new exhibit titled “Brooklyn Sewers: What’s up down there?”  The exhibit explores the Brooklyn Sewer system through the historical lens of the Flatbush, Bushwick, Coney Island, and Fort Greene neighborhoods of Brooklyn. The exhibit was curated by Brooklyn teens through BHS’s after-school museum studies program, Exhibition Lab. The exhibit is on display until May 29, 2016. Don’t miss it!

The photo of the week is from the Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection. Adrian Vanderveer Martense (1852-1898) was an amateur photographer and longtime resident of the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Flatbush became a subject for his photography. Martense documented houses, streets, and his friends and neighbors in Flatbush, as well as momentous events such as the Blizzard of 1888.To see 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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