LEXINGTON AVENUE EL, Brooklyn

by Kevin Walsh

There had indeed been a Lexington Avenue Line in Brooklyn — an el that shrouded the entire length of the Bedford-Stuyvesant avenue that runs from Grand Avenue east to Broadway.

 

Seen on this 1920s map, the Lexington el split from the Myrtle Avenue El at Grand Avenue and then ran south and east, over Grand and then turning at Grand and heading to another connection with the Myrtle.

In the chronology of Brooklyn els, though, the Myrtle was a Johnny-come-lately, opening for business in 1888. The Lex had preceded it by three years, running Forney steam engines from its original termini at Washington and York Streets to Gates Avenue beginning May 13, 1885.

On the map, it’s the golden age of Brooklyn els — every heavy red line is an el, as the Broadway, Myrtle Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and Fulton Street els, as well as the 14th St-Canarsie, which runs as an el in East New York, were in their prime. Today only the Broadway remains.

By 1950, ridership had dwindled because of the nearby Myrtle Avenue el and the underground IND GG line subway under Lafayette Avenue, and the el was closed and dismantled. Do any traces exist?

[For full-size image, click on the above Gallery. Photo courtesy Cyril Warren]

Here, the el makes the curve at Grand and Lexington Avenues. Note that it’s supported on a low garage-type building on Lexington, with a corner store. Notice also the “Essolube” and “Garage” signs on the corner.

 

When I went past the corner around 2000, I noted the “Esso” and “GARAGE” painted signs were hanging on, barely…

 

… as were the brackets that used to support the elevated on the garage building. That “STORE FOR RENT” sign can also be seen on the older photo.

 

I haven’t been over to that corner for awhile, but with the magic of the Google Photo Truck I can see what it looks like as of 2011. The old painted signs are long gone, but two brackets that supported the el are still in place!

11/9/12

… that is, they were, until the building was demolished in 2013.

24 comments

George O'Connor November 9, 2012 - 7:57 pm

Bad news! I live around the corner from this and a little while ago a fence went up around this building. I’m afraid they’re going to be taking it down to build new condos or something!

Reply
Kevin Walsh November 9, 2012 - 11:18 pm

There goes the last of the Lex. Very few know about it but me.

Reply
Old Skool November 10, 2012 - 6:00 pm

But thanks to you we all do now.

Reply
Looking In November 11, 2012 - 11:47 am

Blame it on the X painted on the garage- building was deemed hazardous, it was only a matter of time before the place had to be demolished for safety concerns

Reply
KS November 20, 2012 - 3:07 pm

Yep – they tore the facade of that building down as of last week. Can’t say I miss it much as it’s been boarded up and dark at night

Reply
Ben February 17, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Were you able to get a piece of it a spike a brick .a piece of steel .oe even a piece of coal thats what they pored between tge beems

Reply
John P. Simonetti November 11, 2012 - 11:27 am

I wonder if those brackets just “hang” on the building, or if they are attached internally to a stanchion or supporting wall inside the building. Both seem to be at the intersecting point of two buildings, so?

Now that there’s a fence up, I guess we’ll never know.

Kevin – your thoughts?

Reply
Kevin Walsh November 11, 2012 - 6:02 pm

Unless I get over there quick, I won’t know.

Reply
Dan S. November 12, 2012 - 2:31 am

There would have to be something below them so that the weight of the trains would be transmitted directly to the ground, wouldn’t there? Otherwise, the building(s) would need to be a lot stronger than it/they otherwise would be. But I am wondering what the contractual relationship was between the BRT/BMT and the builders and/or owners of the building(s). Some kind of easement would have had to be granted to the transit company, so that they could be assured of the continuing right to run the trains there. Presumably, they paid the building owner(s) to acquire this, and it was all negotiated and arranged between them as private parties.

Reply
William Mangahas November 12, 2012 - 11:18 am

“I wonder if those brackets just “hang” on the building, or if they are attached internally to a stanchion or supporting wall inside the building. Both seem to be at the intersecting point of two buildings, so? Now that there’s a fence up, I guess we’ll never know.”

Those brackets should be part of the pillars that held up the structure from the street. The el did cut a corner and the pillars remained after the rest of the el was demolished. The building was built around the pillars.

William Mangahas

Reply
CarrollGardener November 12, 2012 - 1:56 pm

“RO” on that FDNY sign means “roof open”. So never a good sign for building longevity.

Reply
Frank B November 13, 2012 - 12:54 pm

What had always confused me was that there was a IRT Lexington Avenue Line in Manhattan, and a BMT Lexington Avenue Line in Brooklyn.

Then, there was an IRT 3rd Avenue El in Manhattan, and a BMT 3rd Avenue El in Brooklyn.

THEN there was a BMT Broadway Line in Manhattan AND a BMT Broadway Line in Brooklyn! That really confused me! Lol (The BMT Broadway Line is now known as the BMT Jamaica Line; it was extended and now terminates at Jamaica, traveling over Jamaica Avenue in Brooklyn through Queens.)

My personal confusion aside, I do wish they had kept the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line to Jay Street up, and the BMT Lexington Avenue Line up.

The Myrtle Avenue Line would’ve been, today, an important crosstown-connection between Middle Village, Ridgewood, and Glendale to Brooklyn; unlike the G Train which just connects the two downtown centers of Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn, the Myrtle Avenue Line connected a lot of communities; once the infrastructure is torn down, it’ll cost money to put it back up again; money that rarely ever materializes; it’s not worth paying to build it again.

The BMT Lexington Avenue Line is sorely missed in Bedford-Stuyvesant; while the edges of the neighborhood have subway service from either IND Fulton Street, IND Crosstown, and BMT Jamaica Lines, the middle of the neighborhood is quite a long walk from these lines; the Lexington Avenue Line, even acting as a shuttle, would have been a boon to residents facing such a long walk; a connection to the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line would have been a particular help to transfers in downtown Brooklyn.

If we could only go back in time to warn the people of the past…

Reply
Mike November 13, 2012 - 7:59 pm

The garage may have been built after the EL was up

Reply
Andrew November 19, 2012 - 10:21 am

If you “Bing Maps Birdseye view” it, you can see only the front smaller buiulding has the fallen in roof.

Reply
Closing Bell: We Miss the Myrtle and Lexington Els – insiderater.com November 20, 2012 - 1:36 am

[…] the weekend, Forgotten New York took a loving look at the elevated trains that used to crisscross Brooklyn; most ran through the […]

Reply
Tim November 25, 2012 - 11:47 am

If you go by now you can see more of the el train supports revealed…But don’t wait too long.

Reply
George O'Connor December 1, 2012 - 11:39 am

Went by today and the old supports are fully visible– no building left. I got some snaps, let me know if you’d like me to send them in. If you want to get some yourself, I’d hurry up!

Reply
Kevin Walsh December 1, 2012 - 3:08 pm

Def send those!

Reply
Jesse Resnick December 5, 2012 - 10:39 am

Here’s a video I shot of them taking down the old trusses. This is truly the last we’ll ever see of the Lexington Ave line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI4UWFDeS54&feature=plcp

Reply
Dan December 6, 2012 - 3:29 pm

Jesse, thanks for filming that! To think those supports went up in 1885, 127 years ago.

Reply
Martin H. Stander December 13, 2012 - 2:16 pm

In the 1940’s I lives on Lewis Ave at Lexington Ave. Spent many a day watching the old Lex rumble by. A lot of memories.

Reply
arty cohn June 29, 2014 - 2:08 am

In the spring of 1950, a friend of mine and I decided to ride the whole NY city subway and elevated system. the most interesting parts that I still remember were the Lexington Ave EL(Brkln) and the Dyre Ave line (Brx) Both lines had Brooklyn end gate cars. The Dyre Ave line did not have fare controlled stations. (you could just walk on to the station platforms without paying a fare). Instead a conductor with bus type fare box rode on the platform of one of the gate cars coupled back to back in the two car train. You put your dime into the fare box as you got on.
The Lexington El cars were also end-gated cars. When we rode in the early spring, the side windows were open. T^he seats had reversible backs so that you could always sit facing forward.

Reply
dani May 9, 2015 - 9:54 pm

I live on Lexington ave, I never knew about the El here. I do remember the L train on myrtle and bway. This is good trivia

Reply
audrick wiltshire February 21, 2016 - 5:41 pm

I remember the el at Grand & Lexington as it made the turn onto Lexington ave. I used to take my son on the myrtle ave el just for amusement back when we lived in the Marcy Projects. The whole experience was great fun.

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.