ForgottenFans gather at the Eagle Warehouse in what was one of the better attended tours the past couple of years. This handsome warehouse on Old Fulton Street across from Front, now converted to condominiums, comes packed with the history of one of Brooklyn’s literary lions, Walt Whitman. Best known for “Leaves of Grass”, the revolutionary collection of twelve poems that first appeared in 1855, as well as “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” and “I Sing The Body Electric”, Whitman was born in West Hills, Long Island, in 1819. The young Walt worked as a typesetter and pressman in the 1830s for a couple of Brooklyn newspapers. After trying his hand at fiction in the 1830s, he took over as editor of the Brooklyn Eagle in 1846, a post he would keep until 1848, leaving in a dispute over abolition (Whitman was anti-slavery, Eagle owners weren’t. The Eagle continued to publish until 1955).
In 1861, Whitman would move to Washington, DC, to aid in the Civil War effort (he worked as a nurse’s aide in a hospital) and would not spend as much time as he used to in New York City…but not before writing a series of essays published in the Brooklyn Standard called his Brooklyniana.
The Eagle Warehouse, 28 Old Fulton Street, was built by architect Frank Freeman in 1893 on the site of the old Brooklyn Eagle building. For 114 years the Eagle was Brooklyn’s hometown paper. While designing the new Eagle Warehouse, Freeman decided to leave intact the old three-story Brooklyn Eagle pressroom at Doughty Street and Elizabeth Place. It can be detected easily by its old cornice. Perhaps Whitman himself worked in this building. In any case, the “Good Gray Poet” is remembered by a plaque near the building entrance on Old Fulton Street.