‘Places’ Matter – short streets of BAY RIDGE part 2

by Kevin Walsh

Continued from Page 1


72nd Court

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72nd Court is a dead-end on 72nd Street just east of Shore Road. Unlike its alley partners in Bay Ridge, it doesn’t have a name, but rather unimaginatively borrows the number of the street where it’s located; perhaps all the permutations of “Bay” and “Ridge” had been spoken for, since this alley is relatively new; I can tell because it has a circle at the end to make it easier for cars to turn around. It’s occupied by fairly Tudor-ish attached homes that show the increasing propensity of architects and developers to accommodate the auto by eschewing front yards or gardens in favor of driveways. Later examples would feature ramps to underground garages.

Unusually, 72nd Court borrows the numbering scheme of the north-south avenues it parallels, Shore Road, Narrows Avenue, Colonial Road, etc, by using the cross street number. Hence we have the odd occurrence of 7203 72nd Court, the kind of address you’re more likely to see in Queens than in Brooklyn.

78th Street

Yes, 78th Street is indeed a dead end here, from Shore Road. Strangely, it ends mid-block before reaching Narrows Avenue. It begins again at Narrows before running continuously (wih an interruption for the Gowanus Expressway) all the way to Stillwell Avenue. At Bay Parkway, it forms the starting point for Kings Highway.

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78th Street here is home to a series of tidy cottage-like houses with rooflines so sharp you could sharpen your pencil on them, or get a paper cut if your finger got too near. Some have been left bare while other owners have covered their fronts in foliage.

If you persevere to the end of the street, you’re rewarded with a now-rare Westinghouse Silverliner OV-25, second series. [NYC changed all its luminaires to the modern version of the GE M400, so this has likely disappeared]

A walk down 80th Street from Shore Road gives us a view of one of Bay Ridge’s few remaining curved-mast posts. These were the vanguard of the new-style octagonal-shaft posts beginning in 1950, and curved mast posts with a thin supportive bracket dominated in the early days; the posts were outfitted with Westy AK-10 “cuplights” (“gumballs” and bells never made it on the octa-poles, at least in NYC). As the 1950s rolled on, the curvies declined and a single mast fixture took over, and later on, the cobra neck. The masts were adaptable to a wide variety of incandescent, mercury and sodium lamps.

We’re now at one of Bay Ridge’s ritzier blocks, Harbor View Terrace…

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Harbor View Terrace

As you get closer to the water, the views get better and the houses get bigger and more expensive. Harbor View Terrace takes advantage of a slight bluff to provide a clear vista of the Narrows.

Bay Ridge’s most celebrated private home, the Arts and Crafts Howard E. and Jessie Jones House (The Gingerbread House) is a block away at Narrows Avenue and 83rd Street. It was originally the cottage house of a much larger mansion across the street that was razed in the 1950s.

Another mansion nearby has a bowlling alley in the basement.

A pair of short lanes issue from Harbor View Terrace toward the water. On this 1929 Belcher Hyde atlas, they were shown as Colonial Court and Crescent Court, which has since had its name changed to Harbor Lane. Also notice the short lane circled at the end of Colonial Court … we’ll get to that.

Crescent Court was likely named for the old Crescent Athletic Club, a men’s athletic club organized in the 1880s whose headquarters still stands on Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn Heights. The Crescent had a country club in Bay Ridge along Shore Road between 82nd and 83rd Streets where Fort Hamilton High School was built in the 1940s; at that point, Crescent Court’s name likely was changed to Harbor Lane.

In Bay Ridge street naming tradition, there’s a Colonial Road and Court, and a Harbor View Terrace, Harbor Lane, and Harbor Court. When your head stops spinning, we’ll explore these small streets.

Colonial Court

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There are some newish, or at least newley-renovated, houses along Colonial Court, some with a Spanish theme. I noticed the 1950s-era No Parking sign, with straightforward typography (the signs are more cluttered these days). The Department of Traffic sign is the tipoff.

At the end of Colonial Court is a mystery, at least for an ‘outsider’ like your webmaster: a short lane (circled on the map above) with no property facing on it that seems to be a way for autos of adjacent houses to get to standalone garages; at least that’s my guess. Some maps call it Westerly Lane.

Harbor Lane

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Harbor Lane, despite its narrowness, features larger houses and lawns than Colonial Court. Without the ancient sign and hidden alley though, it’s a little less engaging.

Shore Court

A slight lane issuing from 89th Street between Colonial Road and Narrows Avenue, Shore Court boasts more Tudoresque residences and unique paving stones.

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Though I haven’t been to London yet, I have seen photos and Shore Court, for me, presents a Londonesque scene, with quaint buildings backdropped by modern towers. The Shore Hill senior housing center has loomed over Shore Court since the 1970s. It is the former site of Shore Road Hospital.

The lane claims two separate paving stone styles: lengthy, unicolored bricks, and shorter bricks in contrasting colors as on Bay Ridge Place, seen earlier.

Another short private court, Colonial Gardens, is around the corner at the instersection of Shore Road and Narrows Avenue. It is a walkway only with no roadway at all.

98th Street, Harbor Court, Barwell Terrace

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A bay in the Narrows causes the shoreline to curve southeast at the tip of Bay Ridge and the street layout accommodates it, with Shore Road and Marine Avenue running southeast against the grid. When the numbered cross streets meet Marine Avenue they change direction, turning northwest. 98th Street is the shortest numbered street in Brooklyn, issuing from Marine Avenue toward a dead end against the back of apartment buildings on Shor Road (above right photo). For such a sort street, it has a rich store of architectural styles, like a Moderne building on Marine Avenue and plain 2-story homes with indoor porches. 98th Street does have a sort outlet, Harbor Court…

No properties front on Harbor Court, which continues Bay Ridge’s tradition of wearing out alley names (we have already seen Harbor View Terrace and Harbor Lane). There are two unnamed alleys that intersect it, but these serve to allow access to garages. The “school crossing” referred to above right is for Fontbonne Hall at Shore Road and 97th Street, one of Shore Road’s few surviving mansions. According to legend, it was purchased by legendary financier and gourmand “Diamond” Jim Brady for his girlfriend, entertainer Lillian Russell, in the 1890s. It became a parochial girls’ school in 1937 (I have a photo on this ForgottenTour page).

A few years ago, when gathering photos for the Forgottenbook, I arrived at the school just when the school was emptying out for the day. Suspecting the authorities would look askance at a fortysomething fellow snapping pictures at a girls’ school at that time of day, I went to a Shore Road park bench and perused the newspaper for a half hour. When the girls had gone home, I successfully obtained my Fontbonne Hall photo.

Barwell Terrace, like Colonial Gardens, is a pedestrian-only street accessible only on foot. It’s located on the south side of 97th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues and resembles Hamilton and Lafayette Walks (see below). I have heard a rumor that Barwell, Hamilton, Lafayette as well as Woodrow and Roosevelt Courts in Greenwood Heights (see ’em all here) were all developed by the same person. I don’t know the origin of the name, but it’s likely the developer (him)self or the original property owner.

Hamilton and Lafayette Walks; Wogan Terrace

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Hamilton and Lafayette Walks can be found on the north side of 94th Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. Hamilton Walk’s derivation is fairly easy to deduce: nearby Fort Hamilton, one of NYC’s few remaining active military bases. It was built in the early 19th Century and named for the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Lafayette Walk was also named for a fort: the much smaller Fort Lafayette (originally Fort Diamond) was situated a little offshore in the Narrows, and was demolished to make room for the Brooklyn tower of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

94th Street is home to yet another short lane and the last of the tour’s Tudor enclaves, Wogan Terrace, opposite Gelston Avenue between 5th Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway.

I have maps of Bay Ridge from 1890, 1917 and 1929; most of the last few alleys show up on the 1929 map but not the ones preceding it. The 1920s saw a Bay Ridge building boom in the aftermath of the BMT 4th Avenue subway’s arrival in 1915.

Forest Place

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Unlike the other short streets we’ve seen on these pages, Forest Place, which runs at an angle to the street grid from 4th Avenue and 89th Street west to 90th, is very, very old; I suspect it may be part of the old Gowanus Road that ran from what is now downtown Brooklyn more or less along the shore to Yellow Hook, now Bay Ridge. When I was a kid in Bay Ridge, it was unpaved and had three dilapidated homes on it (I have circled two of them on a 1917 Bay Ridge map, above right). For most of my experience it was pretty much used as a parking lot for the used-car palaces along 4th Avenue.

Forest Place in the last decade has become a cautionary tale. Zone and landmark — otherwise Krappe Moderne like this will invade like weeds and mold.

Phew, that was tiring. Time for the train back to Little Neck…

Photographed April 8, 2009; page completed April 22


©2009 FNY