You can go by something dozens or hundreds of times without noticing it. For my first 35 years I was a Bay Ridge resident and I may have passed this little item plenty of times without ever seeing it. It’s easy to miss, on the obtuse angle of Fort Hamilton Parkway and New Utrecht Avenue, which make an X as two diagonal streets in the otherwise square grid of Borough Park. Well, that’s why I have acolytes, and FNY correspondent Gary Fonville sent it in.
Notice we are on Fort Hamilton Parkway, yet the sign says Fort Hamilton Avenue. That is the road’s original name, as it appears on maps going back as early as the 1870s with that name.
Here’s a fascinating 1890 Kings County atlas plate when this area was still part of the town of New Utrecht. The intersection in question makes an X at the top of the map. Purple indicates what streets were already open. As you can see, the neighborhood wasn’t developed all at once, as different entrepreneurs built different sections independent of each other; however, the street grid had already been surveyed, and would be built within a few years.
In those days, a steam railroad called the Brooklyn, Bath and West End Railroad ran down the center of New Utrecht Avenue, which had existed since colonial times. The railroad ran from the Green-Wood cemetery entrance at 5th Avenue and 25th Street to the West End Hotel near the water’s edge in Coney Island. In 1917, the line would be elevated on a steel trestle and for many years would be called the West End Line. In 2015, it’s merely the D train.
In 1890, the route was still Fort Hamilton Avenue, but I have a Home Life Publishing Brooklyn map from 1902 in which the switch had already been made to Parkway. Now, this map doesn’t show any structures on that obtuse angle where FHP and NUA intersect, which would show up as yellow boxes. But plenty of things can happen in 12 years!
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Aug. 2, 1892, p.8, col.6: “The continuous highway, extending from the Ocean parkway through the towns of Flatbush and New Utrecht to the Shore road at Fort Hamilton and known as Fort Hamilton avenue, shall from and after passage of this act, be under the exclusive charge and management of the park commissioner of the city of Brooklyn, and shall be known as Fort Hamilton parkway.”