The Bay Ridge Museum

The Bay Ridge Museum A virtual space dedicated to promoting the history of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, through blog posts, social media, books, merchandise, lectures and tours.
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Operating as usual

Our new book, "More True Crime Bay Ridge," is now for sale! Like its predecessor, this standalone sequel features eleven...
10/28/2020

Our new book, "More True Crime Bay Ridge," is now for sale! Like its predecessor, this standalone sequel features eleven true stories of thievery, kidnapping and murder, all set in the neighborhood from the 1880s to the 1980s. A landlord, gunned down on Gatling Place. A guidance counselor, blown up on 91st Street. A sophomore at Fort Hamilton, executed in Owl's Head Park. Together, these tales illuminate the neighborhood’s past by focusing on the lives of its unluckiest and most notorious residents, from the bank robbers who ran a roadhouse on 92nd Street to the madam who managed a brothel on 86th Street. The book uncovers a parallel history of this quiet community, which has long had a place on its margins for the dissolute and the doomed.

"Nobody knows Bay Ridge quite like Henry Stewart," says Kevin Walsh of Forgotten New York. "Get ready for another wild ride: in punchy tabloid style, this is a bullet-spattered journey...that you’ll never forget."

It's available for now only on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/More-True-Crime-Bay-Ridge/dp/B08LQZBPQ7/

Copies will be at the Bookmark Shoppe in a week or two.

In the meantime, our other books, "True Crime Bay Ridge" and "How Bay Ridge Became Bay Ridge," are available at the Bookmark Shoppe and on Amazon. Collect 'em all!
https://www.bookmarkshoppe.com/book/9781979234689
https://www.bookmarkshoppe.com/book/9781983684340
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/
https://www.amazon.com/True-Crime-Ridge-Henry-Stewart/dp/197923468X/

Sixty years ago today, John F. Kennedy visited Bay Ridge. Less than two weeks before he became the thirty-fifth presiden...
10/27/2020

Sixty years ago today, John F. Kennedy visited Bay Ridge. Less than two weeks before he became the thirty-fifth president of the United States, JFK took the ferry from Staten Island to the 69th Street Pier, where he greeted crowds of supporters before he was driven through Brooklyn, stopping every few miles to deliver remarks to gathered crowds.

Twenty-four years before (plus one day), Franklin Roosevelt had also come over to the 69th Street Pier from Staten Island, before campaigning through Brooklyn by car.

Read about these visits, and all visits to the neighborhood by presidents, here:
https://henstew02.wixsite.com/bayridgemuseum/post/all-the-presidents-who-ever-visited-bay-ridge

And find your early-voting polling site here:
https://findmypollsite.vote.nyc/

And buy our book How Bay Ridge Became Bay Ridge here:
https://www.bookmarkshoppe.com/book/9781983684340
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

finally got around to reading the sixth volume in the Hardy Boys series, about a set of car thieves operating on the tit...
10/07/2020

finally got around to reading the sixth volume in the Hardy Boys series, about a set of car thieves operating on the title street. It's not set in Bay Ridge, though it sounds like it should be! And a lot of the details evoke a small town with a farming community that's reminiscent of ours around the turn of the twentieth century, so you can easily pretend it was inspired by Bay Ridge and our Shore Road, even if there's no indication anyone involved in the book ever visited here or even knew about us.

Like the others in the series, THE SHORE ROAD MYSTERY is set in a fictional mid-Atlantic town called "Bayport," which is probably meant to be out in Nassau County. The ghostwriter for the first several books, Leslie McFarlane, grew up in Haileybury, Ontario, and Google Maps reveals it has a long waterfront street called Lakeshore Road—which is probably what fueled his imagination! Just chop off the "Lake," because the Hardy Boys live near the ocean...

Read more about the transformation of Bay Ridge from pastoral rural to modern suburban in our book: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

Got out of town for a few days to Philadelphia, where we found the birthplace of Henry George, the rockstar economist of...
10/02/2020

Got out of town for a few days to Philadelphia, where we found the birthplace of Henry George, the rockstar economist of the nineteenth century. George spent his final years in Bay Ridge, on Shore Road, living near his friends the Johnson family, who built the house that became Fontbonne.

Read more about George, the Johnsons, stage actress Lillian Russell and the social life of old Shore Road here: https://henstew02.wixsite.com/bayridgemuseum/post/did-a-famous-actress-really-once-live-at-fontbonne

And learn more about the history of the neighborhood in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341

235 73rd Street, then (1917), then (2016) and now (2019)—the original was torn down and replaced!It had been up the bloc...
08/14/2020

235 73rd Street, then (1917), then (2016) and now (2019)—the original was torn down and replaced!

It had been up the block from what was once the social heart of Old Bay Ridge—Ridge Boulevard, from 69th to 73rd Streets, where you'd have found the old post office/reading room/meeting hall, the verdant Joseph Perry estate, a field that almost became a public park, the Ridge Club, PS 102, the public library....

Learn all about it in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

231 85th Street, then (1919) and now (ca. 2020).This house would have been on the edge of William Dowling's Rhododendron...
08/12/2020

231 85th Street, then (1919) and now (ca. 2020).

This house would have been on the edge of William Dowling's Rhododendron Park development, between Third and Ridge, roughly from 82nd to 85th streets. Many especially handsome old houses still stand here.

Read more about Rhododendron Park, and the neighborhood's development, in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE:
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

340–348 79th Street, then (1917) and now (2013).They are a relatively late example of the rowhouses that were built in t...
08/11/2020

340–348 79th Street, then (1917) and now (2013).

They are a relatively late example of the rowhouses that were built in the early 20th century within a block or two of the Fourth Avenue subway route, which opened as far as 86th Street in 1916. Think of all the similar limestone buildings between Third and Fifth (or even Sixth) avenues, from Bay Ridge Avenue to 79th Street...what we like to call Bay Ridge's historic "Commuter District."

Read all about the development of the neighborhood in the early 20th century in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

139 85th Street, then (1918) and now (2013)
08/10/2020

139 85th Street, then (1918) and now (2013)

8223 Ridge Boulevard, then (1919) and now (2013)
08/07/2020

8223 Ridge Boulevard, then (1919) and now (2013)

when there wasn't much of anything on 86th Street—besides snakes!From the Brooklyn Times, April 1897The station house at...
07/07/2020

when there wasn't much of anything on 86th Street—besides snakes!

From the Brooklyn Times, April 1897

The station house at the time, by the way, was on the north side of 86th Street, at Gatling Place. The old New Utrecht Town Hall.

223 78th Street, then (1918) and now (2019), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google. This "cottage," similar in appearance to...
06/03/2020

223 78th Street, then (1918) and now (2019), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google. This "cottage," similar in appearance to its still-standing neighbors, occupied a lot that was 60 feet wide—large enough to accommodate the apartment building that replaced it, ca. 1928, which is still there today.

Read about the neighborhood's transformation from the rural pastoral to the suburban modern in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE, available from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

And from the Bookmark Shoppe:
https://www.bookmarkshoppe.com/book/9781983684340

the NE corner of 86th and Narrows, then (1919) and now (2019), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google. These "cottages" would...
06/01/2020

the NE corner of 86th and Narrows, then (1919) and now (2019), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google. These "cottages" would once have been a stone's throw from the Crescent Athletic Club—the premier amateur sporting organization in the borough, with many important and influential citizens among its members—whose old grounds are now occupied by Fort Hamilton High School.

You can read more about the Crescent Club in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE, available from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

And the Bookmark Shoppe:
https://www.bookmarkshoppe.com/book/9781983684340

Charles Thompson had a fractured skull and a brain hemorrhage. Was it the result of a drunken scuffle on the streets of ...
05/13/2020
On 69th Street, a Local Mysteriously Found Beaten

Charles Thompson had a fractured skull and a brain hemorrhage. Was it the result of a drunken scuffle on the streets of Bay Ridge? Or something else?

What happened to Charles Thompson on Decoration Day in 1908?

"The Narrows is among the most beautiful spots about New York, and the ride along the shore today would present a mostly...
03/12/2020
How Bay Ridge Became Bay Ridge (Paperback) | The BookMark Shoppe

"The Narrows is among the most beautiful spots about New York, and the ride along the shore today would present a mostly lovely landscape, bright in cultivation and blossoming with flowers—with no outward sign of the desolation and death which reigns within."

So reported the New York Times in 1856, during the most serious public-health crisis in Bay Ridge history—the yellow fever outbreak, when Shore Road was put under quarantine.

If you're interested in this history, it's covered across several pages in Chapter 4 of our book, HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE.

Not trying to profit from present health concerns but to encourage you to support your local small businesses during this time of economic slowdown. The BookMark Shoppe has copies of the book in stock. If you don't want to go inside, we hear they'll bring it out to the curb; if you don't want to leave the house, they'll ship it to you!

https://www.bookmarkshoppe.com/book/9781983684340

Neighborhoods don't just happen. With unprecedented detail, local historian Henry Stewart (True Crime Bay Ridge) reveals how a quiet Dutch farming community in Kings County was transformed into a bustling small city.

This is probably 8901 Shore Road, a husband-pillow-shaped house at the intersection of Narrows Avenue, judging from the ...
03/09/2020

This is probably 8901 Shore Road, a husband-pillow-shaped house at the intersection of Narrows Avenue, judging from the apartment building visible in the background. It was torn down in the early 1960s and replaced with the unusually tall "Harbor View Towers" and its fancy penthouses.

From a 1948 Look magazine article, "Brooklyn Nobody Knows," via the Museum of the City of New York: https://collections.mcny.org/Collection/Brooklyn%20Nobody%20Knows-24UAKVKNVBRC.html

spent Saturday at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Library, reading Bay Ridge historian Teunis G. Bergen's unpublished,...
03/09/2020

spent Saturday at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Library, reading Bay Ridge historian Teunis G. Bergen's unpublished, handwritten manuscript, A HISTORY OF NEW UTRECHT, from the 1860s or so. Got lots of interesting info, but was really hoping to find some mention and details of the famous 1853 meeting at which residents of Yellow Hook decided to rename the community Bay Ridge. Bergen himself presided over the meeting!

And yet he doesn't mention it in his book, skipping chronologically from the first cases of potato rot in July 1848 to the yellow fever outbreak in 1856. The only mention of the renaming I found was in a footnote on a page about post offices, in which he writes, "Name changed from Yellow Hook around 1855 or 1856"—actually, 1853! Disappointed that Bergen treats it as a nonevent, as that meeting has become such a big part of our local history and mythology.

You can read more about it here: https://henstew02.wixsite.com/bayridgemuseum/post/how-bay-ridge-got-its-name

on 86th Street and Gatling Place, George Ricci executed his old boss in broad daylight. At trial, his wife offered an un...
03/04/2020
Sex, Scandal and Murder on 86th Street

on 86th Street and Gatling Place, George Ricci executed his old boss in broad daylight. At trial, his wife offered an unexpected motive...

Eight weeks after getting fired, George Ricci shot his old boss. Then his wife revealed a different motive.

after a bad storm in July 1927, a taxi cab sank into the soft fill above a new sewer outside the apartment building at 2...
02/18/2020

after a bad storm in July 1927, a taxi cab sank into the soft fill above a new sewer outside the apartment building at 293 Dahlgren Place.

Seen here also is that intersection, with Fort Hill Place, today.

The apartment building was where 8-year-old John Arthur Russell was briefly kept after being kidnapped in 1932—a story recounted in our book, TRUE CRIME BAY RIDGE, available at the Bookmark Shoppe or on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/True-Crime-Ridge-Henry-Stewart/dp/197923468X/

why yes that is a photo of FDR on the 69th Street Pier. Celebrate Presidents' Day this year by remembering the chief exe...
02/11/2020
All the Presidents Who Ever Visited Bay Ridge

why yes that is a photo of FDR on the 69th Street Pier.

Celebrate Presidents' Day this year by remembering the chief executives who have visited our corner of Brooklyn.

UPDATE: this has been expanded to include a visit from President Ford in 1976.

At least four sitting and future presidents have passed through this part of Brooklyn.

featuring ten alternative suggestions for names considered at a famous 1853 meeting, where "Yellow Hook" became "Bay Rid...
02/05/2020
How Bay Ridge Got Its Name

featuring ten alternative suggestions for names considered at a famous 1853 meeting, where "Yellow Hook" became "Bay Ridge"

In 1853, residents of Yellow Hook renamed their community because—well, it's complicated.

The Carmel, 8602 Fort Hamilton Parkway, seen in 1927 when it was new and in 2019
01/22/2020

The Carmel, 8602 Fort Hamilton Parkway, seen in 1927 when it was new and in 2019

The Ambassador, 8718 Ridge Boulevard, seen in 1928 when it was new and in 2019
01/22/2020

The Ambassador, 8718 Ridge Boulevard, seen in 1928 when it was new and in 2019

Rose Court, 314 79th Street, seen in 1927 when it was new and in 2013 when it wasn't
01/22/2020

Rose Court, 314 79th Street, seen in 1927 when it was new and in 2013 when it wasn't

The Bliss estate ca. 1909, years before the city bought it and turned it into Owl's Head Park, seen here from Shore Road...
01/13/2020

The Bliss estate ca. 1909, years before the city bought it and turned it into Owl's Head Park, seen here from Shore Road. You're looking at just about where the lookout plaza is today, at the top of the hill.

A famous Bay Ridge resident that most people have forgotten once lived here, Cassius M. Coolidge (1844–1934) was an arti...
01/07/2020

A famous Bay Ridge resident that most people have forgotten once lived here, Cassius M. Coolidge (1844–1934) was an artist, best remembered for his now very famous paintings of dogs playing poker. He’s also believed to have invented the “comic foreground”—“a painted wooden façade featuring a colorful character in an outlandish situation with a hole where the head should be,” still today a common fixture of carnivals and boardwalks.

A native of Antwerp, New York, about 80 miles south of Ottawa, Coolidge married—in 1909, at the age of 64—a woman almost 35 years his junior. The couple had a daughter in 1910, when they appear on the US census living at 718 W. 178th Street, in Manhattan. Probably that year, infant in tow, the family moved to Bay Ridge, settling in a home and presumable workspace Coolidge called “Owl’s Head Studio,” after the nearby estate (now the park).

They lived at 105 72nd Street, the first of four three-story rowhouses west of Colonial Road. (Today, it’s covered in ivy, with gives it a touch of Gothic grandeur, although that’s a mid-20th-century addition.) Coolidge probably bought it when it was brand new; it doesn’t appear on a map from 1905 but does on another from 1907–1912, the period during which he moved to the neighborhood. In 1920, his family shared the building with a young man and his mother, who rented from the Coolidges. In 1926, Coolidge had a two-car garage built—most likely the one that’s still there.

Coolidge and his wife had tried to raise chickens when they moved to Brooklyn but abandoned the idea, and their daughter then used the coop for a playhouse. This was probably where the garage was built, as a sixteen-year-old girl presumably would have had no more interest in a chicken-coop playhouse...

In 1928—the year Owl's Head Park finally opened—the family left Bay Ridge for Grasmere, Staten Island, a more rural location. When the family had moved to Bay Ridge, they bought a modern urban house, true, but many of the surrounding modern homes and apartment buildings were yet to be built; by 1928, that was no longer true. Cassius was still living on Staten Island when he died in 1934. He was buried in Antwerp, as was his wife, who died in 1977.

Read more about the history of the neighborhood in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE, available at the Bookmark Shoppe or on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

Abraham Bassford, who lived in Bay Ridge at 225 74th Street (a house next door to Christ Church, since replaced by condo...
01/06/2020

Abraham Bassford, who lived in Bay Ridge at 225 74th Street (a house next door to Christ Church, since replaced by condos), went with six other people on a "Freedom Ride" on a Trailways bus from New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi, in June 1961 to fight for desegregation—and spent thirty-nine days in jail for it. When the 24-year-old Wagner College student got out, he wrote about the experience in the Home Reporter.

One hundred and sixty six years ago, on December 16, 1853, members of a community in Kings County known as Yellow Hook m...
12/16/2019

One hundred and sixty six years ago, on December 16, 1853, members of a community in Kings County known as Yellow Hook met at the local schoolhouse, on the northeast corner of what's now 73rd and Third (it would later move to 72nd and Ridge and evolve into PS 102), to change the area’s name. “Yellow Hook” was a geographic point, long home mostly to descendants of Dutch farmers, but in the preceding few years other people had started moving to the area—“mercantile elites,” such as Joseph Perry, comptroller of Green-Wood Cemetery, after whom Perry Terrace is named, and Henry Murphy, the former mayor of Brooklyn, who first developed an estate he said was called Owl’s Head (it wasn’t).

Little about this meeting was reported at the time, just what was printed in a small item in the Brooklyn Evening Star (which was also printed in the Brooklyn Eagle). More details emerged in the 1930s from the Heinigke family, descendants of Otto Heinigke, Sr., one of the founders in 1850 of Ovington Village, a settlement of artisans and craftspeople whose main street was called Ovington Avenue. They should be taken with a grain of salt. Jessie Heinigke, 81 years old when she spoke to the Eagle in 1932, said she was at the meeting as a very little girl with her father, James Weir, and that he'd suggested the name “Bay Ridge,” which was a hit with the audience. Weir was a landscape architect who moved to Brooklyn in the 1840s, to work on estates in the greater Yellow Hook area. His descendants are still in the flower business, with a shop on Montague Street.

Mrs. Heinigke also said the reason for the name change was in response to a yellow fever epidemic that had swept through the area, creating a negative connotation with the word “yellow.” This, however, is not true—yellow fever struck Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton just once, in 1856, three years after the name change. The reasons for the change are probably more complex. Yellow fever had struck Staten Island in 1848, right across the Narrows, and a terrible epidemic killed thousands in New Orleans in 1853, both of which were well reported in local newspapers; yellow surely did have a negative connotation in that context. But it’s also likely that many of the newcomers just found the name “Yellow Hook” ugly and wanted a change. They moved to the area for its natural beauty, for the views of the bay seen from high up on the ridge where they’d built their homes. They weren’t farmers; they didn’t care about the color of the soil. And the old Dutch descendants went along, perhaps because they also found the name “Yellow Hook” unattractive, and/or because they wanted to draw more wealthy men to pay them handsomely for pieces of their farms (though that’s not how it worked out; after the first rush of new residents, not many more moved to Bay Ridge until the 1880s, when they began building mansions along Shore Road).

Mrs. Heinigke’s son told the Eagle in 1938 that the meeting at the schoolhouse 85 years before had been deadlocked between two names before Weir broke it, though he doesn’t say what they were. We know that several New York papers reported in August that year, four months before the meeting, that residents of Yellow Hook had decided to rename the area “Belleville,” a fancy French way of recognizing the area’s beauty. (It literally means beautiful city, or town.) We know this didn’t stick, and it makes you wonder who exactly had made that decision. My best guess is that it was a group of mercantile elites and/or artisans, who did it without consulting the farmers, and the meeting in December was to hash this out between all interested parties once and for all. Perhaps “Belleville” was one of the two names on which the meeting was deadlocked. But we’ll probably never know for sure, unless new records pop up.

Still, Bay Ridge is a handsome name, better than Yellow Hook, better than Belleville, and we’re lucky to have it. Happy birthday to us.

Read more about this, and so much more history of the neighborhood (such as where the name Owl's Head came from), in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE, available at the Bookmark Shoppe and on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

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Great, a musuem in Bay Ridge. Have you even THOUGHT about the traffic?
Heck yes! I am 100% in support of this. 🎉