Map of the Month–February 2015

The missing link, 1939. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The missing link, 1939. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

February’s Map of the Month, “The Missing Link” is more properly described as a broadside, for the map was published in October 1939 by the Brooklyn-Battery Bridge Coalition to support an appeal of the veto of the bridge’s construction by then U.S. Secretary of War, Henry Woodring.

The Brooklyn-Battery Bridge? Yes, a bridge connecting Red Hook to the Battery proposed by Robert Moses. Here is the short version: in 1938, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, low on resources for financing after years of the Depression and the construction of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, was looking for a way to build a tunnel from Brooklyn to the Battery. The Triborough Bridge Authority under Robert Moses, on the other hand, was relatively flush with the successful opening and operation of the Triborough Bridge. LaGuardia pitched the project to Moses who agreed to undertake it, on condition the Tunnel Authority be brought under his control. After this transfer of authority, Moses announced a proposal to construct a bridge rather than a tunnel, even though the Board of Estimate had already approved the construction of a tunnel.

Many approved of the plan, including Mayor LaGuardia, and it looked inevitable once it had been cleared by City and State boards and agencies. But the plan also provoked strong and immediate opposition from community groups and local politicians on both sides of the East River, but particularly those situated near Wall Street and the Battery where a tremendous off-ramp would cut off the southern tip of Manhattan from sunlight and views of the harbor. The plan also imperiled Castle Clinton and the very popular New York Aquarium (designed by McKim, Mead and White).

Opponents appealed to Eleanor Roosevelt who wrote in support of their position in her April 5, 1939 “My Day” newspaper column. Finally in July, Secretary of War Woodring, who was serving under Franklin Roosevelt, vetoed the proposed bridge as a hazard to national defense as it would hinder access to the Atlantic from the Navy Yard should it be bombed or destroyed.

Woodring’s veto did not end the matter for supporters (indeed-what about the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges?) and this broadside is evidence for the vigor with which they pleaded their case. The range of Brooklyn business and civic leaders amassed to reverse the veto is impressive, and they used their business savvy to push their agenda in the press–note this map is reprinted from the Daily News and on its verso 2 editorials are reprinted from the News and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle–as well as directly to the public. (For Moses buffs, the rebuttal submitted by Moses and presented to Roosevelt by LaGuardia, Brooklyn-Battery Bridge appeal from the decision of Secretary of War Woodring denying a permit for the construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Bridge, is an astonishing document in its display of a blend of dismissal and expertise.)

The missing link, 1939, detail from verso. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The missing link, 1939, verso. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The appeal was not successful, and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was finally completed, after many delays, in 1950. Robert Caro, in The Power Broker, characterizes this as a first defeat for Robert Moses. The story does not end there either for Moses: as the Parks Commissioner he declared the Aquarium structurally unsound in 1941, ahead of the tunnel construction, and it was closed.  A new Aquarium opened in 1957, in Coney Island. One of the opponents of the Bridge project, Alfred Bard, and other civil reformers worked to have Castle Clinton declared a national landmark in 1947, saving the structure that still stands in the Battery today.

Interested in seeing more maps? You can view the BHS map collection anytime during the library’s open hours, Wed.-Sat., from 1-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary to view most maps.

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Hidden Collections, Library & Archives | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Photo of the Week: Blizzard?

[People in the street after the blizzard, Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue], March 15, 1888, V1974.7.77; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191, Brooklyn Historical Society.

[People in the street after the blizzard, Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue], March 15, 1888, V1974.7.77; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191, Brooklyn Historical Society.

Brooklyn is covered in snow this week! Pictured above is from the Blizzard of 1888, which hit New York City by surprise in March, with over 21 inches of snow. The New York Times reported on Tuesday, March 13, 1888, “It had a power of slinging the snow into doorways and packing it up against the doors; of sifting it through window frames of piling it up in high drifts at street corners, of twirling it into hard mounds around elevated station, such as most New-Yorkers had never seen before. For the first time in their lives they knew what a Western blizzard was.”

This weather is a perfect opportunity to highlight the Adrian Vanderveer Martense Collection. Amateur photographer Adrian Vanderveer Martense documented the scene above on Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue after the 1888 blizzard. Martense was a member of the Brooklyn Academy of Photography (which became the Brooklyn Camera Club in 1896) and photographed scenes and people in his Flatbush neighborhood. To view more of Martense’s photographs, including more from the Blizzard of 1888, check out this gallery. We also have a full profile of this collection via this post.

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. photos@brooklynhistory.org

Source: Christiano, G.J., “The Blizzard of 1888; the Impact of this Devastating Storm on New York Transit.” Accessed here: http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/The_Blizzard_of_1888%3B_the_Impact_of_this_Devastating_Storm_on_New_York_Transit

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Library & Archives | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Week: Basketball in Brooklyn

[Emmanuel House Basketball Team], ca. 1910, V1981.284.26; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, 1981.284, Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Emmanuel House Basketball Team], ca. 1910, V1981.284.26; Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, 1981.284, Brooklyn Historical Society.

It’s basketball season in Brooklyn! I recently saw my first Brooklyn Nets basketball game and was reminded how much fun watching and playing basketball can be, especially when the weather makes me want to hibernate inside. Basketball has a long history in Brooklyn. In the photo above, young men from the Emmanuel House basketball team are pictured in 1910. The Emmanuel House was located in the Clinton Hill neighborhood and served the community as a civic center and place of outreach. Run by the Young Men’s League of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, the Emmanuel House offered Sunday school and recreational activities to children of the church and neighborhood. The Emmanuel House is no longer standing, as it was demolished in the mid-20th century during an expansion of the Pratt Institute campus. To view more images from the Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, check out our gallery 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. photos@brooklynhistory.org

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Library & Archives | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Photo of the Week: Polar Bears in Brooklyn

[Polar Bear Club member at Coney Island], ca. 1978, V2008.013.3;  Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs, 2008.013, Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Polar Bear Club member at Coney Island], ca. 1978, V2008.013.3; Lucille Fornasieri Gold photographs, 2008.013, Brooklyn Historical Society.

When most people think of winter in Brooklyn, swimming at Coney Island isn’t the first thing to come to mind. Brooklyn Photographer Lucille Fornasieri Gold captured this man—a member of the Polar Bear Club—doing just that during the winter of 1978. The Polar Bear Club was founded in 1903 by Bernarr Macfadden. Macfadden was an early pioneer of “physical culture”—bodybuilding, exercise, nutrition, and other theories of health and wellness. According to the Coney Island Polar Bear Club website, it was the belief that “a dip in the ocean during the winter can be a boon to one’s stamina, virility and immunity.” Every New Year’s Day, there is an annual polar bear plunge at Coney Island, encouraging all to participate. View Time Out New York’s photo gallery from the 2015 event here. For more information on the Polar Bear Club, or to join in the fun, visit their website here.

You have until January 25th to check out Gold’s work in the She Said, She Said exhibit at Brooklyn Historical Society. Don’t miss it! In the meantime, see more of her photographs online 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. photos@brooklynhistory.org

Source: Polar Bear Club, USA, retrieved from: http://www.polarbearclub.org/polarbears/history.htm

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Exhibitions, Library & Archives | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Week: Bitterly Cold

[Windmill in snow-covered field], ca. 1875, v1974.7.4; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Windmill in snow-covered field], ca. 1875, v1974.7.4; Adrian Vanderveer Martense collection, ARC.191; Brooklyn Historical Society.

It’s cold out there, Brooklyn.  I think this photograph illustrates the minimal amount of snow we have but how small and cold one can feel facing the windchill today.  This photograph was taken by Adrian Vanderveer Martense, an amateur photographer and member of the Brooklyn Camera Club, somewhere on the Vanderveer farm Flatbush.  The windmill also played a key role during the 1863 Draft Riots in New York.  You can read more about it on our An American Family Grows in Brooklyn online exhibition.  See more of Martense’s photographs here, including the Blizzard of 1888.

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. photos@brooklynhistory.org

Posted in Brooklyn Past & Present, Library & Archives | Tagged , , | Leave a comment