8th AVENUE, Park Slope

I was staggering around in the 96-degree blast furnace heat in the sunshine of Park Slope, scouting the route for an upcoming Forgotten NY tour, when after about three hours I decided to take a direct route back to the F train, which has an entrance at 8th Avenue and 9th Street. (Unlike some parts of Queens, the streets are not numbered in the hundreds in this part of town, and the numbers are easier to remember.) I realized that I had been here before, and that I had already recounted my experiences on 8th Avenue in a FNY entry from 2007.

That really doesn’t matter because like a diamond, NYC has an infinite number of facets that can be overlooked and then noticed at the next viewing. While the 2007 page took in the stretch of 8th avenue between the Prospect Expressway and Flatbush Avenue, today’s runs between the expressway and 9th Street. As I continue with Forgotten New York, 16 years in as of 1999, I find that I am scrutinizing things with an even keener sensibility and noticing stuff I would have passed by earlier. I hope that’s true in this case.

 

The quirks of geography create a one-block stretch of 8th Avenue between 19th and 20th Streets. In Brooklyn, there have always been two 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th Avenues, because while those roads were drawn to the same line on a map, there have always been over-20 block sections of those avenues occupied by Green-Wood Cemetery, which opened in 1838, before the avenues were actually built. (9th Avenue has for a long time been called Prospect Park West, and thus does not extend north of 37th Street.)

Prospect Expressway was built through Windsor Terrace, a relatively narrow Brooklyn slice between Green-Wood Cemetery and Prospect Park, between 1953 and 1962, with the interchange at Fort Hamilton and Ocean Parkways the last to be completed. It’s one of the few expressways in New York that becomes a surface route, as it was built to connect Ocean Parkway at Church Avenue with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Ocean Parkway was originally built by Prospect Park engineers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux from 1874-1880 as a wide carriage road and parkway, imitating examples of the genre in Berlin and Paris.

After the combustible engine enabled the spread of the automobile, Ocean Parkway was a natural location for a north-south speedway — there is still no north-south divided parkway or expressway in southern Brooklyn — and Ocean Parkway has come to fill the role, with synchronized stoplights enabling quick travel from Coney Island to Prospect Park.

In Windsor Terrace, the expressway is carried through an open cut between the BQE and Ocean Parkway. There are two pedestrian bridges at 8th and 10th Avenues, very simple affairs compared to the sometimes tedious winding ramps or steps you find with other pedestrian bridges found, say, on the Queens Midtown and Horace Harding Expressways in Queens. Here, no wheelchair ramps needed to be built.

The bridge fencing arches over the walkway, completely negating the possibility of knuckleheads throwing debris onto the roadway. I don’t know why this sort of construction wasn’t standardized for other expressway walkways in NYC.

 

If you have been on a Forgotten NY tour, or have read the site with any frequency, you know how much I like simple brick architecture. Here on 8th Avenue and 18th Street are a pair of what were  factory buildings that have been reimagined as residential units. A few blocks away on 7th Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets is the much larger former Ansonia clock factory (see this FNY page), which was similarly repurposed.

A look at a 1929 Brooklyn Belcher-Hyde atlas reveals they were once the Gurney Paper Company.

North of 17th Street, 8th Avenue gains shade trees, and the shade is so thick that unless you were actually trying to see details, as I do whenever walking, you would miss this grouping of small attached residences. They’re only two windows wide and are somewhat longer, though not very large at all.

Small as they are, they were built with front yards big enough for trees, and there are shared yards in the back. Quite a contrast to today’s lawnless, charmless Fedders Specials.

 

This eatery at 8th and Prospect Avenues has been known by a few names, most recently Crespella Cafe and now, Fresh Fix. The place seems closed for now [July 2015]. I wonder if those are the original storefront moldings, though it’s likely the lengthy windows aren’t.

 

A block away at Windsor Place, Tiny Scientist offers kids introductions to scientific principles via hands-on exhibits and classes. Older neighborhood hands remember this as the G & Y Deli.

 

Senior housing on 8th Avenue between Windsor Place bears the name “Bishop Boardman Apartments.” Raised Catholic in the 1960s, I remember who Bishop John Boardman was, as he served as the auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn between 1952 and 1977. He may even have presided over my confirmation in 1970.

Some more amazing brick architecture on the west side of 8th Avenue between Windsor Place and 16th Street. I noticed several examples of intersting window treatments along this stretch, as architects strived to provide multiple outside views. V-shaped bay windows provide looks out of both  north and south directions.

Some of the buildings are missing their roof ornaments, but a couple are still intact.

At times, a building is built completely in synch with the buildings that surround it. Such is the case with the Memorial Baptist Church at 8th Avenue and 16th Street, a building I saw for the first time today. The parish was established as a Sunday school on 7th Avenue in 1872.

The building comes from a period (1887-1900) when, no doubt, architects has a great deal of fun with fanciful designs. Se the small circular and half-moon windows adjoining the arches on both sides.

I had dealt with the NYC Landmarked 14th Regiment Armory facing 8th avenue between 14th and 15th Streets on my first 8th Avenue page, quoting from Nancy L. Todd’s New York’s Historic Armories and some defunct websites as well.

It was built from 1891-1895 during the golden age of architecture [William Mundell, arch.] honoring the 14th Regiment of the US Army, established in the 1830s and known as the “Red Devils” as their dress uniforms copied the flamboyant Zouave style favored by the French, who got the design from Algeria; the uniform featured blue shirts and red pants. For most of its life, the building housed the US National Guard. Since the 1980s it has had a variety of uses as a women’s shelter, YMCA sports complex and Park Slope Veterans Center and museum. “Here stands a tower where boiling oil might be poured on mythical attackers.”–AIA Guide to New York City

The front entrance is guarded by a sculpture of a bayonet-brandishing doughboy by Anton Scaaf, dedicated in 1923. The pedestal features passages from Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome and Fitz-Greene Halleck’s Marco Bozzaris, a tribute to a Greek national hero.

 

A small plaque to the right of the front door marks what is purportedly a small stone removed from the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where at the dedication of its National Cemetery on November 20, 1863, The stone was donated by 14th  Regiment veterans and reads: “All of which I saw, part of which I was.”

Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech that, according to legend, he scribbled en route, that is today recognized as one of the most inspirational speeches ever given. When I’m in Washington, I never fail to visit the Lincoln Memorial in late evening when few are there, and read the address carven on the marble wall.

Lincoln may have been remembering 14th-Century scholar John Wycliffe, who was the first to translate the Bible into English and dedicated it thusly: “This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, for the people.” That day, Lincoln wasn’t even the featured speaker; he was preceded by a famous orator of the day, Edward Everett, who gave a two-hour stemwinder that is little-read today, even by scholars. Lincoln’s address ran for two minutes.

 

A pair of nearly identical apartment houses front on 8th Avenue facing the Armory between 14th and 15th Streets. One is called the Taft, the other the Leon. They were likely built at the same time by the same architect.

It’s one winner after the other as you walk north on 8th Avenue — at 14th Street it’s the Romanesque/Baroque Park Slope Jewish Center, constructed in 1925 as the Congregation B’nai Jacob. The Conservative synagogue features a rose window and Stars of David on the exterior masonry.

PS 107, between 13th and 14th Street, was built in the Golden Decade in 1891 by then-schools architect J.M. Naughton, who designed most of Brooklyn’s public school’s during this period.  “A simple Romanesque Revival schoolhouse of orange-brown brick, terra-cotta, and brownstone: a stern and stately building then serving a newly mushrooming Brooklyn population (consolidation with New York was still 4 years off).”– NYC Architecture

Apparently some insect life was left over from the previous Halloween!

 

Some original fencing and gates in front of brick dwellings on 8th Avenue across from PS 107.

 

From the Fab Fifties, a period design for a laundromat at 8th Avenue and 13th Street. I don’t think this has been touched in at least 55 years.

 

There are quite a few apartment houses around here from the 1890-1910 period but few have kept their corner conical witch’s hat turrets, unlike this wondrous example at 8th Avenue and 12th Street.

 

Powerhouse on 8th is an extension of DUMBO’s Powerhouse Arena, which is a book store and performance and lecture space where I presented one year at the Brooklyn Blogfest, which used to be held once a year in the spring at various venues. I qualified since I was born in Bay Ridge. When I was working in DUMBO in February and March [2015] the DUMBO locale still had one of the ForgottenBooks in the NYC section, even though it came out in 2006. (Uh, oh, maybe it was sitting there all that time.)

 

I have spoken about window treatments — here’s a dandy from the Golden Decade of architecture, in which the corner treatments feature windows in three different directions… you can see north on 8th, south on 8th, and west on 11th Street. There’s another set of windows toward rhe rear that face two different directions. Why don’t architects design like this anymore?

 

The same building has some nice stained glass in an entrance transom on 8th Avenue.

565 11th Street is a survivor — one of a handful of remaining wood-framed houses still surviving in Park Slope, which was built up with brick and brownstone attached houses beginning in the 1880s. (There is a second such in the area, at #457 12th Street, that I’m not showing here.)

 

To give you an idea how rare wood-frame houses are in this part of Park Slope, here’s a look at a 1929 atlas plate of the area. All the buildings shown in dark red lining the streets are made of brick, and yellow signifies frame buildings. Just the two I’ve mentioned show up on the map!

Many of Park Slope’s wood frame houses have been meticulously restored to glory in recent years. The Wooden House Project takes a look at some of those.

The Wooden House Project: A Walk Through South Slope [Urban Omnibus]

The odd wood frame house pops up in Brooklyn Heights, as well, and I plan on examining those sooner or later.

Junior’s Deli, at 8th Avenue and 11th Street, presumably has nothing to do with the Juniors cheesecake mecca in downtown Brooklyn. I show it here because it has retained its 1940s-era black and white entrance tilework and that’s a really good reason to show it.

 

I’ve said there are only two public gaslamp poles still remaining on public thoroughfares (on Patchin Place in Greenwich Village and on Broadway and West 211th in Inwood) but working, electrically-powered gaslamps are found with some frequency in Brooklyn and Manhattan in front terraces of brownstones.

What was originally the parish hall of the now-demolished Prospect Heights Presbyterian Church is now the Presbyterian Church of Gethsemane, but the building also hosts the Brooklyn Acting Lab, the Kolot Chayeinu Jewish congregation, and Rock Blossom Sangha Buddhist community.

 

A string of masterpieces along 10th Street east of 8th Avenue.

 

The air conditioned train begs my presence.

8/2/15

 


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9 Responses to 8th AVENUE, Park Slope

  1. Marc says:

    Ninth Avenue hasn’t always been called Prospect Park West in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. I looked this up in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which is now online. In the late 19th century (I am too lazy, I mean, busy to find the links or references), there was a proposal from residents of Ninth Avenue along the park to change the name of the street to Prospect Park West, similar to Central Park West, because their mail was being delayed by being sent to the wrong post office or address: to NInth Avenue in Sunset Park, to Ninth Avenue in Manhattan, to Ninth Street, etc. When they held a public meeting about it–holding public hearings is not just a post-Robert Moses thing; the Eagle is full of them for things like street name changes; “Should rename a street for Garfield as we did for Lincoln?”Anyway, there is an article about the public meeting, and a local priest–I assume from Holy Name–suggested that, it they decide to rename the street, they should rename it all the way to the cemetery. And, they did. It doesn’t stop old-timers and newbies who want to sound like old-timers still call the shopping strip “Ninth Avenue.” I’ve lived here all my life, over 50 years, and it is Prospect Park West as far as I am concerned.

    • Edward says:

      “The residents of Ninth Avenue have petitioned the board of aldermen to change the name of that street to ‘Prospect Park, West’”. Eagle 5/21/1895.
      Ordinance approved to change name between Union Street and Green-Wood Cemetery, June 17, 1895. Eagle 7/6/1895

  2. Bill Tweeddale says:

    I can remember the eastern shoulder of Ocean Parkway having a bridle path. The stables were near Prospect Park and you could ride down to Coney Island. The horses and riders must have had nerves of steel to cross those avenues! Before the Prospect Expressway was built, the city used to close part of Ocean Parkway on a June afternoon for the Brooklyn Sunday School parade. We’d have marchers, bands, and floats for a few hours.

  3. Alec says:

    Re: Lincoln and Everett – I believe once Lincoln finished his address, Everett came up to him and told him he had said more in two minutes than he (Everett) had in two hours.

  4. chris says:

    I wonder why this country doesn’t need armories anymore.
    The most recently built one I know about is on 14th st. which Im guessing was built in the 60s judging by the style.

    • Ken B. says:

      The Militia, or National Guard, served several purposes. In the early days of our nation, there was a fear of a large standing army that could take over the government. At the same time, there was no desire to spend what would be necessary to support a large standing army. If there was need for an army, volunteer regiments were often raised to fill the need. There were also standing volunteer regiments, which were under the jurisdiction of the state Governors, who could send them in response to a call from the President. These National Guard units were very important at home. Municipal Police were rarely able to maintain order when local riots broke out, and there were several, for varying reasons, in NYC in the early 1800’s. The National Guard units usually drew from the residents of their neighborhood, creating a type of private club. The armories were necessary for drilling and to house the units’ equipment. They also became centers of community activity, hosting dances, etc. Local elected officials all competed for the grandest armories for their local regiments. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a bill that relegated the National Guard to secondary statue after the standing US Army. That ended the raising of volunteer regiments (technological advances in warfare really made them obsolete), and froze growth of National Guard units. Following WWII, the Guard shrunk in size, and local armories became less necessary.

      • Ken B. says:

        The Armory on 14th Street was built mostly as an administrative structure, very different from the older, classic armories with high drill hall floors.

  5. Robert Brennan says:

    I think the main purpose of armories (other than storing equipment for the local militia regiment) was to provide an enclosed area for close order drill. It was still a big part of boot camp 30 years ago, but not much in demand otherwise.

  6. Kiwiwriter says:

    The 14th Brooklyn Regiment was part of the 1st Corps at Gettysburg, and faced the first waves of Confederate advance in the “bloody railroad cut” northwest of town on the first day, July 1st. The regiment took an incredible toll of Confederates from Archer’s Brigade of Harry Heth’s Division, fighting alongside regiments from Wisconsin.

    The 14th Brooklyn is honored with a large statue of a rifleman reaching for a cartridge box, facing the advancing Rebs. On the statue’s base is the Brooklyn City (Borough) seal, complete with “Endragt Markt Markt,” the City/Borough motto, which means, according to cynics, “You are hereby summoned to Jury Duty at Kings County Courthouse.”

    There is another marker honoring the 14th Brooklyn where it made its second stand on Culp’s Hill on the second day, and my pals from Brooklyn and I stumbled into a party of Union re-enactors and members of the regiment’s descendant outfit holding a ceremony to honor the restoration of the second marker when we went to Gettysburg 20 years ago.

    The 14th Brooklyn is the only regiment in the Union Army at Gettysburg that was known for representing a city — other regiments came from other cities, but were not identified by their city, although the 42nd New York’s memorial honors it being the “Tammany Regiment,” drawn from and paid for by Tammany Hall, which, of course, opposed the Union cause. Figure that one out.

    Lincoln, of course, did not write the Gettysburg Address on the train or on an envelope…he spent some time working on it, according to Garry Wills’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lincoln at Gettysburg,” and his study of the “great books” gave him a basis of what he wanted to say.

    Edward Everett did indeed laud the speech at the time, as did other media outlets, but The Times of London and the Harrisburg News-Item, both in the bag for the Rebs, trashed it. The Harrisburg paper was owned by and shilled for a Democratic politician, so that publisher dictated editorial page policy, hoping that the “veil of oblivion would descend” on the President’s “dishwatery utterances.”

    150 years later, as the paper’s modern descendant was covering the ceremonies for the Gettysburg Address, it ran an article on how it had messed up the original coverage, noting that their editorial had been used in history books for a century and a half as an example of a complete misreading of the speech.

    The paper also wrote a tongue-in-cheek editorial, parodying the style of Lincoln’s speech, admitting that they had botched up their coverage and assessment of the Address. The editorial was followed by a short statement saying “in our coverage of the Gettysburg Address, this newspaper failed to recognize the timeless importance and immense power of the speech. We regret the error.”

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