YOU have probably never heard of James Weir, he lived and died in the 19th Century. But his fingerprints can still be found in Brooklyn. Montague Street in recent years has seen a frequent turnover as one business replaces the other, but a pair of stores have been here for several decades now, the original Haagen Dazs ice cream shoppe for one, and James Weir Florists at #107. I believe it has been in the Heights since the 1950s. In 1971, the owner was socially conscious and placed several “message” posters in the window (in a previous location), which angered at least one local who attacked the place with firebombs. Things were somewhat quieter when I slouched past on December 4, 2021.
That’s right, the awning says 1853. James Weir opened a floral business with plant nurseries and greenhouses in Yellow Hook, in what is now Bay Ridge, that year. After a yellow fever epidemic struck the area, taking a heavy toll, Weir proposed renaming Yellow Hook as Bay Ridge, since it was built along a hill facing Upper New York Bay. The region formally approved the name change in 1853, which turned out to be a historic year at least in Kings County. The first Weir greenhouse appeared in 1880, and the second, designed by George Curtis Gillespie, is the one seen at 5th Avenue and 25th Street opposite Green-Wood Cemetery. It’s been under renovation for several years and sadly, it seems nowhere nearly finished.
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