Photo of the Week: City Hall on Fire

[Brooklyn City Hall Tower Fire], 1895, V1981.15.132; Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides, 1981.15, Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Brooklyn City Hall Tower Fire], 1895, V1981.15.132; Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides, 1981.15, Brooklyn Historical Society.

This week marks the 120th anniversary of the 1895 fire at Brooklyn City Hall (today’s Borough Hall). This photograph displays a roof level view of the 1895 City Hall cupola burning.  If you look closely, you can see fire ladders propped against the building and firefighters on the roof using hoses to extinguish the fire. The fire started because of a lighted gas jet in a third floor closet. The fire left significant damage, destroying the clock and bell tower, as well as most of the top floor.

This photograph was taken by Dr. Ralph Irving Lloyd (1875-1969), a Brooklyn ophthalmologist and an avid amateur photographer. Throughout his life, Lloyd documented primarily historic 17th, 18th, and 19th century houses located in the New York City metropolitan area. The collection of his photographs includes roughly 400 lantern slides like the one pictured above.

The lantern slide, popularized in the late 19th century, displayed a positive image on a glass plate. This could then be displayed for an audience to experience. This was significant because for the first time, photography became a shared medium, visible by a broad audience. Production of lantern slides ended over 40 years ago, so it’s a rare and unique experience to see one for yourself! To view more of Lloyd’s photographs, check out this gallery. To learn more about the history of lantern slides, check out this article.

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: Brooklyn Borough Hall, New York State Unified Court System, retrieved from: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad2/thecourthouse_brooklynboroughhall.shtml

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Photo of the Week: Sledding

[Brooklyn Photographs: Prospect Park], 1978, V1990.2.183; Donald L. Nowlan Brooklyn collection, 1990.2, Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Brooklyn Photographs: Prospect Park], 1978, V1990.2.183; Donald L. Nowlan Brooklyn collection, 1990.2, Brooklyn Historical Society.

How are you surviving this never-ending winter? With temperatures dipping into the single digits and sporadic snow and sleet showers, it feels like there’s no end in sight. The upside is there’s no better time for sledding!

The Photo of the Week features a sledding scene in Prospect Park on New Year’s Day in 1978. This photograph was taken by Donald L. Nowlan, a long-time Brooklyn resident, who grew up in Park Slope and lived at 470 3rd Street. Many of the photographs in this collection document Nowlan’s high school and college years in Brooklyn,  spanning from 1960-1979. Photographs include scenes from Coney Island, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park, and a Reenactment of the Battle of Brooklyn in Prospect Park (circa 1979). To see more of Nowlan’s photographs, check out this gallery. If you’re interested in sledding in Prospect Park, NYC Parks recommends a hill near the Tennis House at Prospect Park West and 9th Street. Check out more Brooklyn sledding spots here.

Also worth noting is the color in this photographic print. In early color photographs, you’ll see similar red or yellow tones. That’s because color photographs are unstable by nature and each color (yellow, magenta, cyan) fades at a different rate. While fading in color photographs are unavoidable to some degree, it is possible to slow the process with proper care. Kodak recommends storing your old color photographs in a cool, dry, uncontaminated storage place, preferably at these specs:  in the dark at 24°C (75°F) or lower and at 30- to 50-percent relative humidity.

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

 

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Fred Snitzer collection of Kings County postal ephemera now open to the public

Steeplechase Park postcard, circa 1960

Steeplechase Park postcard, circa 1960. Fred Snitzer collection of Kings County postal ephemera, 2013.003, Box 4, Folder 6; Brooklyn Historical Society.

In 2013, Brooklyn Historical Society acquired a massive collection of postal ephemera (postcards, envelopes, and related items) which belonged to Fred Snitzer. Snitzer was born around 1929 to Jewish immigrant parents, and was a life-long resident of Brooklyn. He was an investment counselor by trade, but had many other passions, including playing chess (he was an expert rated player), travelling the world, and collecting all things related to the postal system in Brooklyn. When I say “all things,” I truly mean it. The collection spans 44 boxes (totaling 22 linear feet), and includes postcards (depicting every aspect of Brooklyn from the late 19th century through the 1960s), envelopes and letters which were sent through the Brooklyn postal system (the earliest dating back to 1814), business and trade advertisements, and other miscellaneous materials (including a 1717 deed for property which belonged to the Van Brunt family in New Utrecht). The collection also includes reference materials which were used to identify and collect mail which was sent through the Kings County postal system (such as Donald S. Patton’s The Local Posts in Brooklyn, N.Y., 1844-1882, and John M. Price’s Street Car R.P.O. Service in Brooklyn and New York City). The collection most likely represents the single largest collection of Kings County postal ephemera, and wonderfully complements our robust collection of Brooklyn postcards.

Snitzer collection - before and after

Left: Binders which originally housed the Snitzer collection; Right: the collection has been rehoused in archival folders and boxes. The original order of the collection has been retained.

Originally stored in over two hundred 3-ring binders, the collection has been transferred to archival folders and boxes for preservation purposes. Despite this rehousing, we have maintained Snitzer’s original order of arrangement, which was meticulous and included cross-references between the many categories he developed over the years.

The collection is of interest to those studying the postal system of 19th and 20th century Kings County. Additionally, the collection is a tremendous visual resource; while it contains images of Brooklyn’s many iconic landmarks (such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Prospect Park, and Coney Island), it also documents Brooklyn’s businesses, schools, churches, municipal buildings, theaters, and subway stations.

You can view a guide to the collection at: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/bhs/arms_2013_003_snitzer_postal/index.html

The collection is open to researchers by appointment in the Othmer Library at BHS. For information on visiting the library and making an appointment, please see: http://www.brooklynhistory.org/library/visit.html

 

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Photo of the Week: Sweethearts

”Sweethearts,” Tobyhanna 09,’ 1909, v1981.283.3.53; Burton family papers and photographs, 1981.283, Brooklyn Historical Society.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this week’s photograph is a portrait of “sweethearts” dated 1909 from the Burton family collection. The collection contains over 189 photographs, of the Burton family and others. The couple above is unidentified but possibly related to the family. It’s unclear what Tobyhanna indicates, but it likely references Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. It’s all speculation who and where this photograph was taken—these “sweethearts” remain a mystery!

This charming photograph, and many of the photographic items in this collection, is part of two personal albums. By 1909 when this photograph was taken, the Brownie camera had been introduced and popularized the photographic “snapshot.” The Brownie camera was inexpensive and handheld, which for the first time allowed everyone (not just professional photographers or commercial studios) the opportunity to photograph everything from special occasions and trips to everyday life. The Brownie camera made photographs like this more commonplace. To see more photographs from the Burton collection, check out this gallery.  To learn more about the history of the Kodak Brownie camera, check out this page.

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

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Photo of the Week: Your Local Subway Station

[Beverley Road Station BMT.], 12/31/1958, V1974.4.1414; John D. Morrell photographs, 1974.4, Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Beverley Road Station BMT.], 12/31/1958, V1974.4.1414; John D. Morrell photographs, 1974.4, Brooklyn Historical Society.

The New York Times reported recently that subway fares are increasing again in March. Pictured above is my local subway stop, the Beverley Road Station, in 1958. Back then, a singe ride fare would cost a mere $0.15, compared to $2.75 with the most recent increase. The Brighton Line (Q train) which serves Ditmas Park and Flatbush follows the old Brooklyn, Flatbush & Coney Island Railroad. It was later purchased by Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) and was originally intended to be built as an elevated railway. It was Ditmas Park developer Lewis Pounds’s idea that the BRT run in an open cut through Flatbush. This layout, and hiding the trains from view, helped develop the neighborhood into the residential district that it is today. To learn more about the history of Flatbush, be sure to check out the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Flatbush Neighborhood History Guide available at our book store.

Former Long Island Historical Society (now Brooklyn Historical Society) assistant librarian John D. Morrell donated this photograph, along with over 2,000 others, to the institution’s photography collection. His photographs focused primarily on buildings and street scenes all over Brooklyn, particularly in the years 1958-1963. To see more of Morrell’s photographs, 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

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