From WINDSOR TERRACE to KENSINGTON

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This sign reminded me of something: I do most of my Forgottening by myself,  though I do tours that have accommodated between 30 and 60 people. (I’m not much  use as a party guest, as I’m not effective in big crowds where I have nothing  special to do.) I have few vices, but one of the few I do have is selfishness  with my time. I like to follow my own agenda when I’m out with the camera — I  can go for miles in the heat like a camel without ducking into a Starbucks, and  especially in the winter months, I make sure I don’t drink a whole lot rather than have to go running for a bathroom. More than one person has asked to accompany me on these jaunts, but frankly, I don’t want to have to take up time doing things other than pointing the camera and shooting.

I took a walk from Windsor Terrace through Kensington and into Borough Park. I  have reviewed the first two previously but I always feel somewhat at home, and  thence more comfortable, in Windsor Terrace — I didn’t really begin exploring it until relatively later on, since its hills prevented your lazy webmaster from scaling it in my Brooklyn years. Unlike its cousin and neighbor, Park Slope,  Windsor Terrace doesn’t seem nearly as preciously self-conscious. Kensington has  asserted itself more in recent years, while Borough Park is the great constant  — has been there for decades, carries on the same way it always did, and will  likely do so for decades more.

GOOGLE MAP: WINDSOR TERRACE-KENSINGTON

To begin my trip I took the IND subway to the 15th Street station on the F,  which takes you to the western extension of Prospect Park and the northeastern  end of Windsor Terrace. You usually think of the IND, the last branch of the subway, constructed from 1925-1940 — as strictly a subway since only two of its many stations are elevated. But here and there, some IND structures can be found  aboveground, as on this subway entrance stair, with two Machine Age-styled lamps. One has what looks to be an original 1930s protective screen. Both sport green globes, indicating this stair is open for entrance at all times.

At 15th Street and Prospect Park West is Bartel Pritchard Square, not a square at all but the exact opposite geometric shape, a traffic circle. These are common in England, where they’re called ’roundabouts’, and there, traffic runs  clockwise, while here, it’s counterclockwise. They are relatively rare in NYC — Columbus Circle is likely the most notable one; we’ll see two major ones on this  page, and a minor one as well. Further southeast in East Flatbush, there is a major one called Fraser Square (that word again) at Kings Highway and Avenue M.

At Prospect Park’s entrance at Bartel-Pritchard you will find two massive columns. Inspired by the 400 B.C. Acanthus Column of Delphi, they feature granite acanthus leaves snaking around the columns and on the capital, topped by bronze lanterns. They were designed by Stanford White in 1906. RIGHT: the Pavilion Theatre opened in 1996, after several years of moribundity. Until the mid-1970s, it had been the one-screen Sanders Theatre, opening as the Marathon in 1908 by brothers Harry and Rudolph Sanders and retooling capacity as the  renamed Sandersin 1928. Eat Pray Love was Julia Roberts’ 2010 vehicle. My movie will be called Eat,  Sleep, Eat.

Prospect Park opened in 1867 and was completed in 1873. Maps show there has  always been a traffic circle in this spot since the park opened, and the apartment buildings on Bartel-Pritchard were built along the gentle curves of  the circle. The square was named in 1923 for Emil Bartel and William Pritchard, two young Brooklyn natives who were killed in combat in World War I. Bartel was a Windsor Terrace native while Pritchard was from Bushwick. The polished granite memorial to Windsor Terracers killed in combat was placed here in 1965.

Prospect Park West continues from Bartel Pritchard Square a few blocks southwest to Green-Wood Cemetery, even though at those blocks there is no Prospect Park  for it to be west of. It has been thus for a century or more; the oldest maps I have show a 9th Avenue in Prospect Park west’s place all the way to Grand Army Plaza, but then, the whole kit and caboodle switches to Prospect Park West; there was never a situation that had a 9th Avenue for a few blocks between Bartel-Pritchard and Green-Wood.

PPW, as I’ll call it, is truly a neighborhood with home-grown businesses; nary a Starbucks or McDonalds in sight. There are several venerable awning signs in  place, too. RIGHT: pies are big again. I saw a specialty shop on 3rd Avenue a few avenues away called Four and Twenty Blackbirds, and there’s the Pie Shop on 16th and PPW. I’d frequent pie shops, but the consequences may be too much of  your webmaster to handle.

From my Windsor Terrace FNY page:

Some say that Windsor Terrace begins at Farrell’s, the venerable (1933) institution at Prospect Park West and 16th Street, where, despite the neon sign, there hasn’t been a grill for years, though you can get corned beef sandwiches  on St. Patrick’s Day. There’s no table service at all–you drink at the bar. If  you were female, you didn’t drink at the bar until 1972, when Shirley MacLaine swept in with her then-boyfriend, Park Slope’s Pete Hamill, and demanded service, ending the outdated tradition.

Hey Windsor Terracers: does the sign light up at night?

If you’re looking for candy, soda and ice cream (well, I always am) here at 216 PPW, you’re out of luck; when Windsor Wines moved to this locale recently the owners stripped off the exterior and found vintage stained glass signs. They were just too good to remove. RIGHT: Laundercenter has what appears to be a vintage woodcut awning sign. Looks like it gets regular paint jobs, too.

For many Windsor Terrace guys, Sundays mean Holy Name of Jesus Church at PPW and  Prospect Avenue in the mornings, and Farrell’s in the afternoon. The Gothic Revival church, and the school behind it, are both massive; the church dates to 1878 and the school to 1923.

Eons, er, decades ago, I attended my cousin Jim’s first marriage here, in 1978.  I am on the right in the picture, with a single chin. My uncles Tom and Jim are on the left, my grandmother Catherine in the middle, and my father Kevin W. next to me. Regina Bakery, across the street, is still there. Photo from the Thomas Paul collection

I always preferred awning signs that get to the point. This is a delicatessen and you can get Boars Head and Swiss cheese here, and that’s all you need to know. The same sign has likely been in place since the 1978 photo and probably before that. Compare that awning sign to the ugly object to its left. RIGHT: the architects and artisans of the late 1800s were able to make miracles whenever they touched hammers, nails and bricks.

A couple of more signs of varying venerableness at 18th Street and the Prospect Expressway.

New York’s master builder (some have other names for him) Robert Moses had nearly unchallenged supremacy in road building from the 1930s into the 1960s;  whetever he wanted built, got built, and some neighborhoods such as Unionport and Tremont in the Bronx and Sunset Park in Brooklyn were ran roughshod over and still haven’t completely recovered. Windsor Terrace got its own Moses touch in the 1950s, when the Prospect Expressway was built to connect Ocean Parkway and  the Gowanus Expressway.

RIGHT: Hello, old friend! Sometimes I run into old pals on these ForgottenTrips, like the B61 bus. Previously running from Red Hook to Long Island City, its terminal was changed to Bishop Ford High School in 2010 during the MTA’s Great Bus Purge (many routes were eliminated or changed).

Delving into Windsor Terrace’s inner recesses, I found an amp and guitar wellness center at 10th Avenue and 17th Street. Windsor Terrace is the only place in Brooklyn where avenues in the teens meet streets in the teens. At  right, on the opposite corner, a once-handsome building has been covered with an excrescence of some sort. Probably something in a catalog they got talked into.

10th Avenue is subtitled John P. Devaney Boulevard, after a hero firefighter who perished in 1989. Here the Department of Transportation made the unfortunate decision to place both names on the same sign, making both rather illegible.

Punny title at 10th and Prospect, likely Irishmen within.

Sherman Street and 10th Avenue is one of my favorite spots in Brooklyn for photos — I can never resist the rows of identical bowed front attached stone and brick buildings. most with original roof corbelling. It’s a great opportunity because it’s a relatively rare T-shaped intersection. Often, row houses were built at these, to take advantage of the block-long vista.

There’s not a bad building, except for the one shown above, on 10th Avenue between the park and the cemetery. RIGHT: 16th Street former storefront. You find these relatively frequently and some even have some remaining businesses
still there.

Where 16th Street meets Prospect Park Southwest (which will subequently be called PPSW on this page) there’s another mini-traffic circle; traffic has the option, at least some of the time, to enter Prospect Park via Center Drive, which leads into a rather interesting section of the park that contains a Quaker cemetery that was there long before the park was designed in the 1860s. The cemetery is the final resting place of famed actor Montgomery Clift. Lookout Hill, the park’s highest point, is also nearby.

In the early days of Prospect Park, PPSW had two names: It was 15th Street until it curved south, then became Coney Island Avenue. The two streets were then combined under one name. When Coney Island Avenue begins at Park Circle, it  retains PPSW’s house numbering.

So that’s why they call it Windsor Terrace. I liked the big brick apartment building at 310 Windsor Place, where it meets Terrace Place and PPSW, which has an odd shape due to the three streets coming together, and a pair of gnomes guarding the front door.

You don’t often see a nude Corvington, as most are painted shiny black (the classic models from the early 20th Century were chocolate brown). Here at Seeley Street, the primary red coat is showing as well as the plain aluminum underneath. Note the “top hat” fire alarm indicator on the finial. RIGHT: I suppose Heartbreak Hotel closed down years ago. (Yes, I know the lyric was  “Lonely Street.”)

At Vanderbilt Street and PPSW there’s not only a huge pizzeria, but also a “cheesesteak factory: and Uncle Louie G’s ices. (I could happily eat cheesesteaks, pizza and ice cream and nothing else for quite awhile.) It turns out ULG’s is an extensive franchise, but hasn’t attained the fame, say, of the Lemon Ice King of Corona or Ralph’s of Staten Island.

Brooklyn has its very own Algonquin, at PPSW and Reeve Place. I don’t think  there’s a round table inside where witty writers sat around like Robert Benchley, Alexander Woolcott and Dot Parker, outquipping each other.

Actually, looking at this Algonquin, it reminds me somewhat of the Shively (Cherokee) Apartments (right) on Manhattan’s far east side, East 77th and the FDR Drive. The Cherokee was constructed as a tuberculosis treatment house.

Here we have arrived at the southwest corner of Brooklyn’s crown jewel, Prospect Park. There are several ornate rain shelters scattered on the southern part of  the park; one is shown at left. The pair of statues flanking the entrance road
are the Horse Tamers group, sculpted by Frederick MacMonnies and installed in 1899 and renovated in 1999.

Prospect Park is so vast that several very different neighborhoods border it: Prospect Park South, Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Lefferts Gardens.

Park Circle is the second major traffic ’roundabout’ encountered bordering Prospect Park. Here, auto and bike traffic can access Coney Island Avenue, Ocean Parkway, Prospect Park Southwest and Parkside Avenue, which separates Prospect Park from a separate area known as the Parade Grounds — in the 1860s the Grounds were originally a staging area for Civil War veterans of New York’s First Division of the Union Army and New York Coast Guard to conduct military exercises away from Prospect Park’s tranquil interior.

Throughout the late 1880s and 1890s, when unoccupied by the military, the lengthy Parade Grounds field often hosted archery practice, lawn bowling games,  and cricket matches. In later years the Parade Grounds would also hold public lacrosse, baseball, football, and soccer games. When Caton Avenue underwent construction in 1926, the City added a small triangular section of its unused land to the grounds. By the late 1930s the Parade Grounds’ baseball diamonds attracted an average crowd of 20,000 daily spectators to watch soon-to-be-discovered baseball players, such as Dodger Sandy Koufax. NYC Parks

The Park Circle Apartments, a monstrosity constructed in 2006, overlooks Brooklyn’s Bowling Green, an enclave in the Parade Grounds formerly given over to lawn bowling.

As a kid I seem to remember bocce games taking place in this western end of the Grounds. Brooklyn’s Bowling Green is almost unknown compared to its historic Manhattan cousin, and the gate was locked the day I slumped past.

4th and 5th from left: There’s a short street trailing off to the west called Kermit Place that actually has two sections, one block between Coney Island Avenue and East 8th, and another from East 8th west to Ocean Parkway. The western end was originally called Henry Street (on 1890 maps I have) while the eastern end appears around 1917. (The eastern end is shown left, the western end shown right). Brooklyn has a much longer Henry Street in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, so it was  thought prudent to rename this little street — I thought it might be named for Theodore Roosevelt’s son Kermit, since his son Quentin, who died fighting in World War I, had Avenue Q renamed for him. Kermit fought in World Wars I and II,  explored the Amazon with his father, and founded a steamship company. He was a  suicide in 1943 while battling depression. I can’t be sure of Kermit Place’s  origin, though.

Kermit Place bisects a curious little Brooklyn backwater that is not a part of  the surrounding Kensington street grid — the streets, as you can tell from the center of the map, run against the N-S-E-W overall grid. This area is older than the surrounding area and had paved streets earlier, as shown by the purple coloring in this 1890 atlas (left). On today’s map, Henry Street is Kermit Place, Johnson street has become a part of Caton Avenue, Poplar Street is now part of  East 8th, as has the continuation of 18th Street shown at bottom; Montgomery Street has become Friel Place, while a northern extension of East 7th has  eliminated Bowne.

The map on the right is from 1917 of the same area. At that time Caton Avenue had not yet been continued through from Ocean Parkway to East 8th, as it would be in a few years. Even today the connection is an awkward one, with Caton sharply turning  at East 7th just past Ocean Parkway. You can see Kermit Place on the right just  north of Caton.

Handsome Caton Avenue stooped houses, left, resemble those on Kermit Place, just  to the north. RIGHT: Ocean Parkway Art Deco at Caton Avenue. Ocean Parkway’s  apartment buildings are not as storied as those on the Bronx’ Grand Concourse,  but I should really do a survey of them in winter (when they are more visible) to see how they stack up. Here, Ocean Parkway serves as the service road for the Prospect Expressway, which begins at Church Avenue.

LEFT: one of the older houses on East 5th between Caton and Church Avenues. I liked that trio of peaked windows at the attic. CENTER: Flatbush Shaare Torah Jewish Center on the NE corner of Church and East 5th in this still  heavily Jewish neighborhood.

RIGHT: I was stumped for several years on why Church Avenue gains a couple of traffic lanes for a block on either side of Ocean Parkway. Then I found out that the #8 and #13 trolleys traveled under Ocean Parkway in a tunnel that began here at East 5th. The #8 was actually one of the last Brooklyn trolleys to be shut down, finally succumbing to the diesel engine on Halloween of 1956.

LEFT: Beverly Road is born via Church Avenue at East 2nd Street. In the original scheme, Avenues A, B, C etc. began here, but developers of the neighborhoods south of Prospect Avenue decided the area needed some British panache, so, just a century after we spilled the blood of thousands to free ourselves from the Crown, Brooklyn brought the Crown back somewhat and we got names straight out of the English gazzeteer such as Albemarle, Beverley, Clarendon, Dorchester etc. The Dutch got in on the act, too, as the Cortelyou and Ditma(r)s families weighed in as well.

RIGHT: Though the G has had virtually all its Queens stations along Queens Boulevard scythed from its route by the penny pinching MTA, it actually gained 5 stops in Brooklyn on its southern end and now runs all the way to Church Avenue.  This was formerly a terminal until the 1950s when it was extended to meet the Culver El.

Church Avenue, for its part, has nearly a 300-year history as it was originally the road that led from the town of New Utrecht to the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, established in the 1600s. The “new” church, built in 1799, stands at
Flatbush and Church Avenues.

At McDonald and Church Avenues, the pavement has worn thin enough to allow ancient trolley tracks to peek through. These tracks enabled a connection from the #8 (Church Avenue) line to the #69 (McDonald Avenue) line.

For a first person recollection of Brooklyn trolleys, hunt down a copy of Stan “the Maven” Fischler’s “Confessions of a Trolley Dodger From Brooklyn.”

West of McDonald Avenue Church Avenue gets palpably sleepier as we near borough Park, especially on Saturdays. I have always liked the hand-drawn awning signs here, Sea Dragon Fish Market and Kensington Dental Care.

When I’m in the area I always furtively scuttle down one-block Story Street –to do… what? Check out two of Brooklyn’s last black and white 1964-vintage street signs of course. When I started perpetrating FNY in 1998 I found quite a few 1960s color coded street signs in NYC, but the Department of Transportation has been seeking them out as well — to remove them. These two have survived likely because Story Court is a private street not on official DOT maps.

LEFT: 14th Avenue and Church Avenue. On the Borough Park-Kensington border is the great clash of Brooklyn street systems — the Avenues and Streets layout of Park Slope, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Borough Park versus the lettered avenues and East/West Streets of Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, Canarsie, Gravesend and Coney Island. For most of Brooklyn, Dahill Road is the stalwart dividing line between the two.

But here, 14th Avenue comes dangerously close to invading the Flatbush numbering system! Like Charles Martel checked the Moors in the 8th century, Church Avenue stops it right here. Further south, though, 18th Avenue makes it all the way  east to Coney Island Avenue!

CENTER: a quintessential Brooklyn apartment building, Chester Avenue north of Church. Your webmaster grew up in a building the looked a great deal like this. RIGHT: across the street, a faded plumbing ad.

Church Avenue begins humbly, at 36th Street and a one-block alley called Old New Utrecht Road, and runs east to East 98th Street in Brownsville. This one-block piece of Old New Utrecht Road was once a main route in the town of New Utrecht before the dominant street grid was laid on top of it. It then became disused and died out, leaving two small pieces here and another running from 48th to 52nd Streets between 17th and 18th Avenues.

I was perplexed by a clothing store in this Pergament Home Center on 37th Street. They sell tools and hardware, don’t they? Then I saw the other sign. Like a hermit crab taking over a snail or conch shell, Bergament has changed a  letter and squatted in the old housewares shop.

The corner of 13th Avenue and 37th Street is now a nondescript school bus parking lot. Not too long ago, though, this stretch was home to two railroads: the South Brooklyn Railway, which carried freight and subway car deliveries from the Bush Terminal and the East River waterfront to the Coney Island subway yards, and the overhead Culver Shuttle, which connected the 4th Avenue and West End BMT lines to the Culver El on McDonald Avenue. It was a remnant of an earlier Culver line (so named for the original steam railroad founded by Andrew Culver) that connected to the long-gone 5th Avenue Brooklyn el.

Photos from the Culver el demolition by Vincent Losinno

David Byrne once wrote a song that said: “Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.” I like to go to Borough Park on Saturdays: the whole place is Orthodox or Hasidic Jewish, and on Saturday the vast area is quiet as a mouse, and I have the run of the place. Facing 13th Avenue and extending each side to 39th and 40th Streets is the 13th Avenue Retail Market, one of a series of no-frills, nice-price markets built by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s depression. A colorful vinyl awning sign has hidden the magnificent chiseling on the 13th Avenue side, but you can still see remnants on the side streets.

Though Borough Park is best known as a Jewish neighborhood, the steeple of the Roman Catholic St. Catharine of Alexandria at Fort Hamilton Parkway and 41st Street dominates the skyline for the surrounding blocks. The church was built in 1902 and its neighboring grade school ten years later, although the school building is now occupied by two public high schools. The church can also boast a large Lourdes grotto, used in the veneration of Jesus’ mother Mary.

I concluded my trip at the 9th Avenue BMT stop at 9th and 38th Street. When Brooklyn Rapid Transit eliminated grade crossings on the Sea Beach Railroad in 1915, the line was placed in an open cut. Handsome station buildings were built at all the stops, which the BMT and later, the MTA proceeded to let lapse into rack and ruin. Only now is any extensive restoration being done. I’m glad the  MTA, at least in some cases, understands what treasures it has. RIGHT: there is a secret lower level that used to connect with the Culver Line. This barricaded staircase goes down there.

 





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