Photo of the Week: Ferry Terminal

[Houston Street Ferry Terminal, Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, N.Y.], 1922, V1991.106.2, Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1991.106; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Houston Street Ferry Terminal, Grand Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, N.Y.], 1922, V1991.106.2, Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, V1991.106; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts the shuttered Houston Street Ferry Terminal, a ferry that connected Manhattan (Houston Street) and Williamsburg (Grand Street) via the East River, in 1922.

In 1810, Richard Woodhull purchased 13 acres of land (later named Williamsburg) that included the ferry landing, with the intention to create a suburb of New York City. In the 19th century, Williamsburg was a large and very diverse neighborhood. Its resorts and private clubs drew wealthy visitors from New York City and beyond. Other parts of Williamsburg were home to many diverse industries (including dozens of beer breweries).  And Williamsburg was also a thriving working-class neighborhood, home to Irish, German, Austrian, and African American communities By the early 20th century (1900-1920) Williamsburg’s population had doubled, and new generations of immigrants, many from Eastern Europe,  settled in the area.

The Houston Street Ferry, one of several in Williamsburg, operated from 1840 until 1918. Once an essential means of moving people across the river, many ferry lines declined and were shuttered after the completion of the East River bridges  and the extension of the subway to Brooklyn in 1908. The land on which the ferry terminal remained abandoned for many years. The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation acquired the land in 1997, and Grand Street Park opened in 1998. To learn more about this fascinating history, check out the Grand Street Ferry history page at NYC parks website. To learn more about Williamsburg history, check out Williamsburg by Victor Lederer, available at the Othmer Library.

This photograph comes from the Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks collection. The collection contains over 4,000 black-and-white photographs of early 20th century Brooklyn taken by amateur photographer, Eugene L. Armbruster. A limited number of photographs are available online here. Thanks to a generous grant from Gerry Charitable Trust, Brooklyn Historical Society will be digitizing and making available the scrapbooks from this collection. Stay tuned for more information on this exciting project.

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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