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City Hall on Fire

By Tess Colwell

Posted on December 12, 2018

v1981.15[Brooklyn City Hall Tower Fire], 1895, V1981.15.132; Ralph Irving Lloyd lantern slides, 1981.15, Brooklyn Historical Society.

For the next several weeks, we are revisiting some of our favorite photos of the week. We hope you enjoy looking back with us as we prepare new posts for the New Year.

This photo of the week depicts a roof level view of the 1895 fire at Brooklyn City Hall (today’s Borough Hall).  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 thisgallery. 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. [email protected]

Source: Brooklyn Borough Hall, New York State Unified Court System, retrieved from:

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