Greenpoint Savings Bank, Manhattan Avenue and Calyer St.


KNOWN as the “garden spot of Brooklyn”, an eponym bestowed by theBrooklyn Eagle many years ago, Greenpoint is Brooklyn’s northernmost neighborhood, separated from Long Island City by Newtown Creek. It is the place where the country’s first ironsided warship, the Monitor, was built, the land of Mae West’s birth, and the place where your webmaster once rented an apartment for two weeks.

Let’s take a look at this Polish-Hispanic enclave from north to south.

The big building at Manhattan Avenue and Commercial Street is the former Chelsea Fiber Mills Building, now the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center. GMDC rehabilitates vacant maunfacturing buildings for use by small companies.

Tank on Commercial Street west of Franklin Street, that just might have been the original model for the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden, perhaps?

Don’t know what Harte & Company actually does but I enjoy its national headquarters at Franklin and Commercial, especially that wraparound window, made up with multiple glass panels.

The other side of Franklin and Commercial Streets features a somewhat desolate playground, oddly placed in this über-indüstrial area. Commercial Street itself faces a terrific view of mid-Manhattan, which, as usual in Brooklyn waterfront areas, is off limits to most, behind barbed wire.

The King of All Buildings can be seen spectacularly from Greenpoint, as well as from southern Queens communities just to the north. Directly in front of the ESB is 3 Park Avenue, a building turned at a diagonal to the street grid, completed in 1976. I’ve visited offices on the 38th floor which provide spectacular all-around views.

This swing bridge, constructed in the 1800s, connected Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint with Vernon Avenue in Long Island City over Newtown Creek. It was replaced in 1954 by the massive Pulaski Bridge a block to the east.

Street art at the northern end of Manhattan Avenue oppoite the Manufacturing and Design Center.

Two buildings, Franklin and Eagle Streets. Franklin Street was the original road from Greenpoint to Long Island City, opening in 1839 as a toll road. It was built by industrialist, shipbuilder, and real estate speculator Neziah Bliss.

Eberhard Faber, the scion of a Bavarian pencil producing family, arrived in the USA from Germany in 1848, and after his first USA pencil factory on Manhattan’s east side burned down in 1861, he relocated to Greenpoint in 1872. His son Eberhard II (he had changed his name from John) took over the company, which remained in Greenpoint until 1956 when it decamped to Wilkes-Barre, PA. Faber is recalled by a large sign facing the East River painted on its original 1872 building at 37 Greenpoint Avenue at West Street, and by the huge yellow terra cotta pencils on its old Art Deco building next door at Franklin. The pencil factory itself, on Franklin Street near Java, is recognizable by a distinctive yellow star-in-diamond symbol.

Pierce Steam Laundry, off West Street; “Syrup of Figs” sign on Greenpoint near Franklin. “Syrup of figs” was not a dessert as I had originally imagined but rather, a laxative mixture, rather similar to Fletcher’s Castoria. As a matter of fact, syrup of figs is still used as a laxative.

Brooklyn has a Manhattan Avenue, but can you imagine Manhattan with a Brooklyn Avenue? I didn’t think so. The northern end of Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint’s spine, has many Forgotten relics. I found the hotel with mattresses piled in the windows intriguing, as well as the building which, except for the four small windows, has not one opening that is the same.

Don’t know the history of J. Joseph and sons, but they have quite the little empire on Manhattan Ave., with a full block worth of shops, and an ancient neon sign.

Might the Norwood, at 960 Manhattan, have been a hotel originally? The abandoned JK Restaurant Supplies, next door, is an example of the dual nature of Greenpoint, with some pockets stubbornly resisting a comeback. Everything is broken, as Dylan says.

I arrived in Greenpoint in 1982, on the news that it was on the verge of a comeback. It took about 20 years for the comeback, if you can call it that, to happen, spurred from nearby Williamsburg, where trendies from the East Village had arrived and spilled northward, to a degree. The reality was that Greenpoint was never necessarily in need of a comeback. It’s been a remarkably stable area of Polish and Hispanic emigres for most of the 20th Century and on into the 21st.

My apartment, however, on Green Street, was in need of a comeback. There was a bathtub in the kitchen and a single electrical outlet to suffice for two and a half rooms. I got out of the lease and obtained an apartment in Bay Ridge, where I remained for the next 8 years before being ousted because the super needed the room “for his daughter.” What their real purpose was, was to renovate the place and invite me back in at a much higher rent, which I refused. But back to Manhattan Avenue.

I’m fascinated by stopped clocks on the street; most exterior clocks are no longer maintained.

I believe Halpern-Perlow was a men’s clothing store.

When you’ve got a good sign, you don’t need to ever replace it. The old school phone number, probably EVergreen, is still there too.

I’m fascinated by the detail on the old Meserole Theater, now an Eckerd durgstore. It was built in the 1920s where the old Meserole family farm had stood. Might that be why there are cattle skulls as part of the decor?

Some of the interior detail of the Meserole has been preserved on the drugstore ceiling. Photo: Chris Sattler

Greenpoint Savings Bank, on Manhattan and Calyer. It was built in 1908 by Helmle and Huberty. The bank itself was established in 1869. RIGHT: ad for R&G Corsets above another partially obscured ancient ad.

BELOW: Dunne’s Polemost Liquors, shot from a bus window. This name strikes me as incredibly corny, given that this is a Polish neighborhood, but that’s Greenpoint.

If Manhattan Avenue forms Greenpoint’s Y axis, Greenpoint Avenue makes the X. It was laid out in 1852 as a means of bringing Manhattanites to the new Calvary Cemetery in Maspeth. It has been previously called L, and then Lincoln, Street. If you follow it eastward, it reaches Sunnyside, Queens, changes its name to Roosevelt Avenue, and plunges into Woodside, Corona and ultimately, Flushing.

Walsh’s Shoe Factory and the gorgeous 1895 Mechanics and Traders Bank Building at Franklin Street, now the offices of the Polish newspaper Novy Dziennik (“New Day”) are near the avenue’s western end.

Photo: bridgeandtunnelclub

f you have a wedding or a Confirmation to get to at the Polonnaise catering hall, you have to make your way down Greenpoint Avenue past the old stables and the poultry slaughtering joint.

It looks like Frank Gehry dropped in on this Greenpoint Ave doorway east of Manhattan Avenue. Old-school Greenpoint reasserts itself a few doors down.

Terra cotta griffin detail, building on Greenpoint Avenue near McGuinness Boulevard

The rusting industrial area on West Street, the western end of Greenpoint, has been the location for dozens of motion picture scenes where a desolated area is in the script. In Romeo Is Bleeding, Lena Olin attempts to garrote Gary Oldman, who crashes his car here to avoid getting killed. Lena squeezes out of the smashed windshield and hobbles down West Street in her underwear, which she appears in for most of the movie. Oakum is manufactured for plumbers and used for packing around steel pipe fittings or caulking lead joints.

A water tower on Noble near West Street is inscribed with the Polish flag on one side and “Save the Palestine” on the other.

Parts of West Street are lined with what I have never seen in other parts of NYC: sidewalks made up of cut wooden blocks.

Landmarked Milton St., a block south of Greenpoint Avenue, is among the area’s finest residential areas. The street is marked by two tall spires, belonging to St. John’s Lutheran Church (1892), a remnant of Greenpoint’s now-departed German population, and the red brick-white limestone 240-foot tall St. Anthony of Padua, a Catholic church built in 1875.

Walking on Guernsey north of Calyer (noting the distinctive 2-story brick building on the corner) produces one of Greenpoint’s most pleasant surprises: a bend in the road turns into Oak Street. On the left is a house where a friend lived in the 1980s; he had the top floor bay window, from which we could see the picturesque scene. A back window afforded a view of the King of All Buildings. Partially shown on the right is a building once known as Greenpoint Home for the Aged, set considerably back from the street. It was built in 1887.

Greenpoint is the birthplace of Brooklyn’s longest street, Bedford Avenue, which begins at Manhattan Avenue a little north of Nassau and runs southwest, southeast and south through Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Flatbush, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay to Emmons Avenue. In Williamsburg, Bedford Avenue was called 4th Street until about 1890.

Monsignor McGolrick Park, bounded by Russell and Monitor Streets and Nassau and Driggs Avenues, was originally named Winthrop Park and renamed in 1941 for a beloved pastor of nearby St. Cecilia’s Church, Msgr. Edward McGolrick. The park contains a triumphant crescent-shaped shelter pavilion designed in 1910 by famed architectural firm Helmle and Huberty.

The John Ericsson (Monitor and Merrimac) Monument by sculptor Antonio de Filippo was dedicated in 1938. Engineer Ericsson built the Monitor, the USA’s first ironclad warship, at Greenpoint’s Continental Iron Works in 1861, and engaged the Confederate States’Merrimac at Hampton Roads in 1862. Less than a decade after the battle, William Street was renamed for the famed vessel.

PS 110, 124 Monitor Street, built 1895

St. Stanislaus Kostka, Driggs Avenue & Humboldt Street. Former Polish president Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II have each visited.

St. Cecilia, just below the southern Greenpoint border at Herbert Street and North Henry Street, is recognizable for miles by its illuminated green dome.

More Greenpoint:

Greenpoint’s Enchanted Villages
McCarren Park Pool
Bridge and Tunnel Club in Greenpoint

Sources: Big Onion Guide to Brooklyn, Seth Kamil and Eric Wakin, NYU Press 2005
BUY this book at Amazon.COM

Your webmaster shot these images in August and December 2004 and wrote the page on April 30-May 1st, 2005.


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26 Responses to GREENPOINT, Brooklyn

  1. john malmfelt says:

    Many Brooklyn memories conjured up by these photos. Although I was born in Brooklyn Hospital, I lived in Queens near the Brooklyn/Queens border. Traveled by “el” and by subway to my grade sachool -Blessed Sacrament in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn and then to Brooklyn Prep in the Crown Heights section (Nostrand Ave. and Carroll St.) As to Greenpoint- my grandparents lived in a tiny red brick row house on Monitor Street opposite Monsignor McGolrick Park and a “stone’s throw” from the John Ericsson Monitor Monument. Many Sunday afternoons were spent with my cousins in the park and somedays in a movie with a bright yellow facade that I recall was at the corner of Driggs Ave and Russel St. opposite the park. However, I can’t remember the movie’s name . My dad attended PS 110 and as a young man,sang in St. Cecilia’s choir. Greenpoint at that time (19 20s-1950s), had large Irish as well as Polish enclaves .Thanks for the memories and for keeping the old Greenpoint alive !

  2. paul beissel says:

    It’s Josephs not singular! I am 64 and lived in Greenpoint since 1965 but knew it since 1955…and
    my family goes back to 1900.

    As far as I know (and Josephs great grand son who is 40) told me that the first Josephs established
    the store in 1894….It was the Macy’s of Greenpoint for many yrs…

    The fourth generation Josephs still runs a skeleton of the store and is 75….The son would love
    to sell and build a 7 store half block hipster condo.

  3. Gloria says:

    Great post, great photos. I lived on Manhattan Avenue and then India Street when I was younger. I’m now in CT and I miss Greenpt. so much. You brought back great memories… Thanks!

  4. Rudy says:

    …you being an early 1980’s immigrant to Greenpoint, it is laudable you have put together this “historical”/archival/trivia collection of photos and a job well done for the most part, but your basic knowledge of the area and its ethnic history is lacking and obviously not well researched and at times inaccurate..historically back through the decades of the 20th century, Greenpoint was NEVER predominantly a neighborhood of Polish decent inhabitants or Polish was a mixed population w/ a majority of Irish ethnic descent , a mixing of some Polish, some Italian , and from the 1920’s though the depression era 30’s even a concentration of some Scottish Catholic immigrants, further back in early 20th/ late 19th cent were German immigrants as well..the “hispanic” refernce you make. well it was strictly familes from Pueto Rico for a long time and concentrated in certain scattered pockets, the way things developed in those days, with a huge Puerto Rican community in the south side of Williamsburg , now overrun by the “hipster invasion”..(some of which was VERY positive esp in the mid- late 80’s, the early struggling artists converting abandoned commercial buildings into flourishing communities and bringing a great flair of new activity.. ..when you arrived in 1982, the concentration of Polish speaking immigrants you encountered had occurred in the early to mid-1970’s, when U.S. immigration quotas were relaxed and increased for immigration from Poland and that occurred at a rapid rate in those years in the 70’s and the neighborhood took on it’s “little Poland” aspect..and was a welcome phenomenon and transformation, but there was some assimilation issues on the streets with the youth in the late 60’s into the early 70’s…. i was there… there was always a scattering of pockets of longer generational Polish families that spoke polish in the family through the generations.. the largest catholic parish on Manhattan Ave, St. Anthony’s , an architectural fixture since its building in 1875, til present day, as you note well, & its elementary school on Leonard St., was overwhelmingly Irish descent in its congregation right through into the 1980’s..the Polish catholic congregation was concentrated in the Polish language speaking St. Stanislaus at Driggs Ave and Humboldt st., and its elementary school on Newel St.. you are not alone by any means in making this basic historical error, even the N.Y. Times real estate section has started describing Greenpoint as”always” predominantly Polish in ethnicity..wrong….this jumped put at me when you describe w/ humor the name of “Dunne’s Liquor Store” as being “incredibly corny”, ..this description REEKS of a lack of knowledge or a real interested pursuit of accurate history.. i was born in Greenpoint at the now gone , small St Catherine’s Hospital where all the working class families went in the 1950’s, i am 1st generation SCOTTISH american, my father coming there as a young child in the mid 1920’s, with an influx of poor working class Scottish catholics along with the Irish in those days.. in early 1950’s thru 60’s grew up there, went to school there lived there until 2001…WORKED along with some buddies at that liquor store in the early 1970’s when a college kid ( the stories that occured there could be a blue collar MEMOIR!) was “Dunne’s Liquor Store” ‘ for decades, owned by a somewhat notorious Irish family of the hood, ,..there were family political connections back to the end of Prohibition days, .. Gerry Dunne was the owner in my day, who was widely known including for some , well you might say, “colorful” reasons..haha..i worked for him and got to know him very well, and he had grown up and knew my parents in the 30’s-the 40’s WW2 days, was a VERY successful retail liquor business, with loyal customers coming from outside the neighborhood all along, particularly Italian descent from the Italian sections on the Northside of Williamsburg and the Italian enclave along Graham ave on the other side of McCarren Park and the BQE split.. ..reason for that was connected to Gerry Dunne’s eh, well, side- business activities….he sat in back of that store thru the late 1970’s and finally sold the biz to a chain operation called Foremost w/ the stipulation of keeping the Dunne name and i do believe a continued business investment interest… as the hood became more and more Polish dominant and Polish speaking, do believe it was sold to Polish owners , name becoming “Polemost,” but , again, smart in keeping the old and somewhat known Irish name, Dunne’s..i am indeed surprised that the name is still in use, but it is in no way just a” corny” misplaced name..much of your work here is excellent and i learned some things myself about many of the still “there” historical factoids..i live in a very far away place now and at times in a state of memory- tweaking melancholy search up websites on the PERNT as we called it, and found yours with its great fotos…..thank you for that.., “Rudy” Robertson

    • Don Dwyer says:

      Your post was so interesting. My father ,William Dwyer ,grew up on Leonard St and went
      to school and church at St Anthony’s in the1930’s. He lived there , except for WW2, until about 1956. I was born there in 1953.. We moved in 1956 to Long Island.. AT age 60 I live in Buffalo NY .. My dad is gone. My father always described Leonard Street and the area as Polish. Of course we are Irish and I am surprised to hear the area was Irish.

    • Hank says:

      Hey Rudy, Loved your comments. I used to live at N.13th St. and Kent Ave. You and myself and Norman Funicello used to hang out together all over N. Brooklyn. I’ve been wondering how to reach you. Send me an email-

    • Richard Oliveri says:

      Great Rebuttal Rudy. I was born and raised on Franklin between Huron and India.1955 through1989.

  5. Ben says:

    The ”Syrup of Figs” sign was painted for the filming of “Donnie Brasco”, it’s a fake!

  6. Ken says:

    Wow, thanks for posting the photos of Greenpoint. I was born and raised on India st. off west. I grew up playing on the docks along West st. and remember that ships bringing in lumber for shipment. We used to ‘borrow’ lumber to make club houses in the rear yards along India and Java. I attended St. Alphonsus church and school there also. I left in the early 70’s and returned some years later after my career with the military only to find out some of the families I had known as a child were still there. I recalled playing ‘stoop’ ball, Johnny on the pony and a game we called skully with bottle caps and a chalk board drawn on the streets. I recalled almost all of the photos you posted on this site. Thank you for doing so. Brought back many good memories of a time gone by and let this soldier forget if only for awhile the horrors of war.

    • Richard Oliveri says:

      Ken, when did you go to St. Al’s. I went from 1961 -1968. Lived on Franklin between Huron and India

  7. Howard H says:

    Harte & company had 2 locations one in Green Point the other located in Mountaintop, PA Harte & Co was a manufacturer of vinyl products. My father business Wearever Shower Curtain Corp. bought form Harte & Co vinyl material for the manufacture of shower curtains that were heat sealed. Harte also manufactured vinyl car mats among there menu of products. Their showroom was on E 34th Street. My fathers company went out of business around 1987, and have no idea when Harte finally went out or sold out. Should you require and further info please feel free to write I generally check my emails approx 3 to 4 times daily. Regards, Howard H

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  9. KEN says:


  10. Ken Foulks says:

    Interesting to see old buildings and familiar names. My great-great grandfather, William D. Foulks was a partner in the shipbuilding firm of Lawrence and Foulks, located in the Greenpoint section of the City. Also, he was a director and vice-president of the Greenpoint Savings and Loan Bank. Any additional information you could provide would be appreciated.

  11. Lynn Heidelberger says:

    My family settled in Greenpoint in the middle of the 19th. century and operated a large meat packing plant which took up an entire city block. They owned the Astral apartments for about 50 years and I remember visiting their office when I was a child. It is an amazing building and worthy of your attention. The story of its construction and early purpose is very interesting. I would like to visit it some day again.

  12. BOBBY BURKE SR. says:


  13. S.B. Freeman says:

    Thanks for the fascinating information on Greenpoint and the rest of Brooklyn. As a Brooklynite transplanted to California at a tender age, I especially appreciated the walk down Manhattan Ave. as that was the street my grandmother grew up on. I’d love to know the history of 784 Manhattan Ave. between 1897 and 1910 when she lived there. The current 784 was built in 1928. Any idea where I might find a photo of the building before then?

  14. Judy Farrell nee: Skiladz says:

    I was born and raised in greenpoint. Lived on dupont street as a kid, then on manhattan ave. as an adult. Went to PS. 31 and 126. Loved “Dem bums”. To this day will not root for the yankees. Best childhood memories ever.

  15. Frank rohan says:

    Grew up on java and West also als bar was down stairs went to st also from 64 to 68 the place isn’t the same any more played slap ball punch ball stick ball on West street.

  16. Carl Sicinski says:

    I was born at St Catherines Hospital in 1945, and lived in Greenpoint until I got married in 1967.
    Lived in a “Parlor Floor and Basement” apartment at 10 Broom St until the age of nine, when my parents bought and renovated an old farmhouse at 683 Leonard St. Looking through some of your articles, and even this one, there is a picture of 177 Greenpoint Ave,and in another article, a comment stated that it was a Taximeter repair Store. That is not entirely so. The Taxi Meter business (they installed and repaired the taxi meters and also certified them , plus was a source for purchase and installation of any automotive gauges available at that time), was located on the southwest corner of Eckford St and Greenpoint Ave, with Jo and Al’s diner located on the southeast corner, and 177 Greenpoint ave located directly across from the end of Eckford St. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, myself and friends rented 177 and used it as a clubhouse. We paid $25. per month rent to Jo Swiderski from the diner across the street. Also, Oakland St (now McGuinness Blvd) was paved with cobblestone (Belgian blocks) and when it was widened, half of the streets housing on the east side was eminent domaines by the city and demolished for this road, with the backyards of houses on newell st now bordering on McGuinness. I also worked at Greenpoint Bowl from day one until I married and moved to Woodside Queens. Thanks for doing all these great stories as this history should not be forgotten.

  17. MAUREEN HUNT says:

    Polemost Liquors was previously called Foremost Liquors. The new owners replaced the F and the R with a P and an L

  18. N h says:

    I grew up in greenpoint on manhattan ave my birth cert has me when born at s 5th street williamsburgh then patents went on to Huron st 205 Huron st now a condo.rhen finally 1134 manhattan ave renovated but bldg still stands .I reside in pgh pa but visit as much as possible siblings stop live in area lots family in greenpoint.greenpoint has changed big-time from 1134manhattan ave i as a kid can see from wtc to Citicorp bldg now a bldg 16 floors high has taken that view away i attended ps31 when it was on DuPont st then moved to meserole st by the 94th pct the john Erickson Jr high 126 then eastern district high .o can’t believe kniahes were back in day 50 cents now a can of soda and a knish is 7.50 ridiculous. I cant believe new bldgs go up and thugs graffiti written on some nice bldgs its an awful disgrace the gov and mayor should give stiff fines to the graffiti thugs well I can visit my old neighborhood but I will never live among crowds and overly priced real estate it’s a disgrace .NYC is t all what it stands for .It’s sad to see pan handlers in every corner people can’t eat because they must pay ridiculous rent it’s just not right. NYC people living on top of each other overly crowded overly priced real estate for what .I ask for What? It’s not worth that kind of money to live there I’d like to slap the schmuck who did that real estate is vs nykrs get ripped off big-time I mean ripped off my sister bought an apt 210k dollars I can buy 4 5 6 houses in pa for that kinda money and she still pays a 935 dollar mthly maint fee who dreamed that up that’s just bs then you pay a finders fee if r e agent finds an apt for you ny wake up your getn ripped off it’s a joke the ridiculous rent amount ripping off good hard working people who can’t eat no thanks ny i have good memories but nightmares of how it had changed not for the people but for the greedy real estate monsters

  19. Mark says:

    I was born in Greenpoint in 1950 and lived at 95 India Street. Went to PS 31. On the corner of India and Franklin was a large commercial laundry company. I think it was Consolidated Laundry. Used to play punch ball, slap ball on the street. It was a perfect street to play on since the fire department was on India and no cars could park across the street. This meant we had an open street to play. This was between Manhattan and Franklin. On the other corner of India and Franklin was the Astor. Amazing building that a few years ago someone wrote a really good novel about living there.

    My mother and her friend owned the Ice cream parlor and luncheonette on Manhattan Avenue between Meserole and Norman from 1961-1965. Best malteds and ice cream sodas. It was next to the jewelry store with the large clock outside.

    Went to all 3 movie theaters in Greenpoint. The Meserole, The Norman on Manhattan Avenue between Noble and Calyer and the American on the corner of Greenpoint and Manhattan. My friend Joe’s family had the best pizza in Greenpoint on Manhattan Avenue between India and Java. On Huron and Manhattan was Baby Anna’s pizza. They only sold pies – no slices.

    I used to play little league by the tanks on the other side of the high BQE. When I lived in Greenpoint McGuiness Blvd was called Oakland Street. Also, easy to reminder the streets as they started from Ash to Box to Clay to Dupont to Eagle to Freeman to Green to Hurom to India to Java to Kent – then Greenpoint Avenue – Former Lincoln to Milton to Norman.

    They used to be a large synagogue on Manhattan Ave between India and Java until it burned down in the mid 50’s. There is still a small synagogue on Noble Street.

    A lot of good times in Greenpoint.

  20. Geraldine foray. says:

    Loved hearing about Greenpoint, I miss it and go back at least once a month. I lived on Huron st. Across from the bath house. It was a great time in my life playing with all my friends, Doris banta, Paul Ingram, Johnny Sutera.

    • ken todzia says:

      Paul Ingram was my cousin passed away last year I live on franklin and huron above the store back in the 1950,s

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