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

In May 1932, eight thousand babies competed in a "Best Baby" contest, a parks department program featuring parades at tw...
03/29/2021

In May 1932, eight thousand babies competed in a "Best Baby" contest, a parks department program featuring parades at twenty-seven different parks in Brooklyn. Many awards were given out at each, including, at McKinley Park, "Prettiest Baby," to Theresa May Malone of 56 Oliver Street.

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

Bay Ridge has a long and troubling history of celebrating its Confederate connections—many of which are more legend than...
02/09/2021
Where in Bay Ridge Did Robert E. Lee Really Live?

Bay Ridge has a long and troubling history of celebrating its Confederate connections—many of which are more legend than fact

Separating the lore from the facts about the time future Confederates spent in and around Fort Hamilton.

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01/26/2021

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This photo, from around the turn of the twentieth century, was taken from Third Avenue, looking east up 75th Street. Today, Starbucks would be on your left, Citibank on your right. But because so little had been built or developed at this time, you can instead see the original Our Lady of Angels church at left, on the corner of 74th and Fourth, as well as a hint of the open fields beyond.

Photo by Samuel Winter Thomas.

Learn more about the history of the neighborhood from books! More info on our website: https://bayridgehistory.wordpress.com/books/

Bay Ridge resident Patrick J. McKenna (1859–1939) was a real estate broker better remembered for his passion for horse r...
01/14/2021

Bay Ridge resident Patrick J. McKenna (1859–1939) was a real estate broker better remembered for his passion for horse racing—he’s said to have invented the racing form, a notable enough accomplishment that the AP issued an obit, which was run by dozens of papers across the continent. But his most important contribution to our neighborhood, where he lived for many years, was in 1906, when he advocated for fancier-sounding names for First and Second avenues. His idea was to call the former “Holland Avenue” and the latter “Emerald Avenue,” nods to the old Dutch colonizers and new Irish immigrants. Locals accepted neither, but liked the general idea—in 1908, the streets were renamed “Colonial Road” and “Ridge Boulevard” instead.

He lived for a while at 76th and Fourth Avenue, though we can’t figure out in which house; it’s not specified in the 1900 census. In 1907, his wife, Jennie, died of the grippe, and that same year McKenna moved to a new home—8220 First Avenue, soon to be Colonial Road. He was one of the first residents in the new and fashionable "Crescent Hill" district, named after the tony Crescent Athletic Club, where Fort Hamilton High School is today; McKenna would have lived across the street, on the corner of 83rd Street.

Wedding notices for a daughter, in 1916, suggest he had moved away, to Flatbush, and when he died in 1939 he was living with a daughter in Douglaston, Queens. His house persisted, though—it appears in the tax photos, ca. 1940, though with some alterations. It was torn down, however, around 1968, according to the department of buildings, and replaced with the squat federal house with bay windows that’s there today.

You can learn all about the renamings of Ridge Boulevard and Colonial Road; the development of Crescent Hill; and the influence of the Crescent Athletic Club in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE. Signed copies at the Bookmark Shoppe, or order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

The largest cemetery in Bay Ridge was at the corner of Couwenhoven Lane (roughly, today's 67th Street) and Sixth Avenue—...
01/13/2021

The largest cemetery in Bay Ridge was at the corner of Couwenhoven Lane (roughly, today's 67th Street) and Sixth Avenue—in fact, it was half in what became Sixth Avenue, half in what became Leif Ericson Park, so when both those were set to open, the bodies had to be moved. Here you see a photo of the work being done, from the New York Tribune, July 1901, via the Library of Congress.

The cemetery had once adjoined a Methodist church, until it burned down. The congregation built a new church on Sixth Avenue and 76th Street—in fact, right in the middle of what became Sixth Avenue, so they had to move again when that street formally opened. This time, they bought a plot on Ovington and Fourth and built what became "the Green Church," outside of which was a crypt to store the bodies from the old graveyard. When the Green Church was sold, the bodies had to be moved again, in 2007, this time to Cypress Hills Cemetery.

You can read all about the congregation and the graveyard, as well as much more, in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE. Signed copies at the Bookmark Shoppe, or order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

253* 80th Street, then (1897) and now (2019), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google. (N.B. 251, 253 and 259 80th Street all ...
01/12/2021

253* 80th Street, then (1897) and now (2019), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google.

(N.B. 251, 253 and 259 80th Street all seem to have been built from the same plans, so it's hard to determine which, exactly, we're looking at in the 1897 drawing. All three look very different now.)

Read about how our community transitioned from the rural pastoral to the suburban modern in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE. Signed copies at the Bookmark Shoppe, or order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

175 81st Street, then (1897) and now (2013), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google.Read about how our community transitioned...
01/11/2021

175 81st Street, then (1897) and now (2013), via the Brooklyn Eagle and Google.

Read about how our community transitioned from the rural pastoral to the suburban modern in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE. Signed copies at the Bookmark Shoppe, or order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

...what are we looking at here? Perhaps the oldest existing photo of Bay Ridge.At far right, in the distance, is Fort La...
12/29/2020

...what are we looking at here? Perhaps the oldest existing photo of Bay Ridge.

At far right, in the distance, is Fort Lafayette, the military installation in the harbor, just off the coast of Fort Hamilton—where the Brooklyn tower of the Verrazano Bridge is today. So, ok, we're looking at Shore Road.

The photo is half of a stereoscopic view published by E. & H.T. Anthony & Co—cards with two images that in a special viewer called a Stereoscope would produce a three-dimensional effect. Such viewers were invented in the 1830s and took off in popularity in the 1850s and '60s.

The guy who sold me this on eBay, as well other sources online, suggest this image is probably from the 1860s—making it one of if not the oldest photographic image of the area I've ever seen. (EDIT: the company was active 1869–1880, so 1870s is more likely.)

But I'm surprised to see the Shore Road area looking so smoothly paved, manicured, fenced and staircased at such an early date. I'm also a bit mystified by the structure that's the focus of the image, though I wonder if it's what was referenced by the Brooklyn Eagle in 1896, as Shore Road was preparing to undergo a major renovation—

"Still another class of houses—they have four walls—along the road and on it must disappear with the new drive. These structures are hardly houses, more properly little retreats on the top of the bluffs at the side of the wood. The residents who use them call them lookout houses. They command a splendid view of the bay and are the resorts for the most part of the old people, who like to sit in them in summer nights and see the [sea]craft ply up and down the bay. They are airy retreats, too, and cool when the dwelling houses nearby are uncomfortable."

Still, from that description, I didn't expect something so handsome and architecturally distinctive.

We'll keep thinking about this one and keep you posted...

In the meantime, you can read about the social life of old Shore Road in this post about Fontbonne and Lillian Russell:
https://henstew02.wixsite.com/bayridgemuseum/post/did-a-famous-actress-really-once-live-at-fontbonne

And you can read about the transformation of Shore Road, from a rural seaside bluff to an urban park lined with apartments, in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE. Signed copies at the Bookmark Shoppe, or order on Amazon—
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

9701 Shore Road, a ninety-one-family apartment building, was under construction on March 30, 1935, when it burst into fl...
12/23/2020

9701 Shore Road, a ninety-one-family apartment building, was under construction on March 30, 1935, when it burst into flames. The $8–10 million project (adjusted for inflation) turned into a spectacular blaze, a five-alarm fire that took hundreds of firefighters with a dozen hoses almost two hours to control. High winds turned the building “into a veritable furnace,” one paper reported. Firefighters could only stand to work for five minutes before falling back. “As smoke rolled over the neighborhood, thousands vacated their homes and watched the fire,” the Eagle reported. “The scene was even more spectacular from the water… Harbor craft slowed down so those aboard might get a better view. The 69th St. ferry to Staten Island had a bumper crop of passengers,” as Richmonders hurried to Brooklyn to see the spectacle.

No one was hurt. Witnesses later said they saw two men before the fire run from the building’s main entrance on 97th Street, and the district attorney suspected arson—the result of labor trouble with the mob, after a lathing contract was awarded to an independent company, rather than one allied with racketeers. The fire started in two separate spots, on the third and fourth floors. “The upper floors of the rear section of the 97th St. wing” had to be demolished, the Eagle reported. “Cables were placed around sections of the brick walls and, when pressure was applied, the masonry crashed with a roar.” Despite well-publicized investigations into the cause, no papers followed up about arrests or prosecutions. The apartment building, dubbed Lebern Towers, began advertising in September, just a few months behind schedule, and residents were living there by October.

Read the whole history of Shore Road, its transformation from a country lane to an apartment-lined, park-adjacent boulevard, in our book, HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE. Signed copies at the Bookmark Shoppe, or order on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

on this date in 1853, the residents of Yellow Hook agreed to change the name of their community to Bay Ridge. What did t...
12/16/2020

on this date in 1853, the residents of Yellow Hook agreed to change the name of their community to Bay Ridge. What did the area look like back then? Well, we don't have photographs, but we do have a map from 1852, showing just two or three dozen families south of 60th Street (the city of Brooklyn), north of what's roughly 86th Street, and west of Stewart Avenue—the rough boundaries back then.

You can see the full zoomable map at the Library of Congress:
https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3804n.la002117/?r=-0.014,0.636,0.176,0.097,0

There are lots of interesting details: the natural woodlands around Stewart Avenue, some of which later became McKinley Park; the houses of Teunis G. Bergen, one of which is still on Shore Road; the district school ("Dist. Sch.") on Third Avenue, where one year later residents would meet to discuss the name change; the Couwenhoven Lane greenhouses of landscape artist James Weir, who would suggest the name "Bay Ridge"; the Methodist church on Stewart Avenue, whose congregation would later move to Ovington Avenue (already on the map here!) and build "the Green Church"; and so much more.

Read more about the name change on our blog:
https://henstew02.wixsite.com/bayridgemuseum/post/how-bay-ridge-got-its-name

And more about how the community grew and changed over the last 350 years in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE; signed copies at the Bookmark Shoppe or order on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

Happy Bay Ridge Day!

today is Bay Ridge's birthday—the 167th anniversary of the day residents decided once and for all they didn't want to be...
12/16/2020
How Bay Ridge Got Its Name

today is Bay Ridge's birthday—the 167th anniversary of the day residents decided once and for all they didn't want to be called Yellow Hook anymore. It's a complicated story that you might think you know, but it's not really about yellow fever—it's about rich businessmen and farmers, about a community in transition between the rural pastoral and the suburban modern.

Separate the lore from the facts...

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

Yellow Hook was changing. A sleepy farming community for almost two hundred years, it had by 1853 recently begun attract...
12/15/2020
How Bay Ridge Got Its Name

Yellow Hook was changing. A sleepy farming community for almost two hundred years, it had by 1853 recently begun attracting well-to-do businessmen, who bought chunks of former farmland and built handsome summer estates. These newcomers didn’t like the name “Yellow Hook,” maybe because of negative connotations with yellow fever, which that summer was devastating New Orleans, but mostly because it was inelegant and ugly. In August, someone wrote to a local paper to say the name had been changed—to “Belleville.” Obviously, this didn’t stuck, and likely lacked the support of the community, but it surely caused a stir, and a meeting was held in December to resolve the issue.

The old farmers tended to live along the shore, while the newcomers lived on the high ground, for the panoramic views. The former wanted the area’s new name to highlight the bay, while the latter wanted it to celebrate the ridge. One side suggested Bay View, the other countered with Ridge View. Bay Front, Ridge Side. Bay Breeze, Pleasant View. Finally, James Weir, a local landscape artist, stood up to bridge the difference, and suggested Bay Ridge. The crowd accepted the compromise, and we’ve been Bay Ridge ever since—167 years, as of tomorrow (December 16).

Happy birthday to us.

Read the full story on our blog:
https://henstew02.wixsite.com/bayridgemuseum/post/how-bay-ridge-got-its-name

And buy our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE, available at the Bookmark Shoppe and on Amazon, to learn about how the neighborhood transformed from a farming community into a modern suburb.
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

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

Peter Denyse was the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Jacques Cortelyou, who founded the town of New Utrecht in...
12/06/2020

Peter Denyse was the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Jacques Cortelyou, who founded the town of New Utrecht in the seventeenth century. Peter moved into a farmhouse at what became the corner of 78th Street and Sixth Avenue in the 1880s; he celebrated his 100th birthday there, in 1931, and died two months later, of pneumonia. The family sold the house, which was torn down May 1. It's seen here about five weeks earlier. “The passing of the old homestead…means the passing also of what is probably the last flock of chickens in the section,” the Eagle reported. “The Denyse yard was always the scene of picking hens and scratching chicks,” but their coop was torn down with the house.

Peter, Jr., however, retained for a while the family’s five greenhouses, which took up 1.5 acres behind the house, on the corner of 79th Street, where he cultivated dahlias and chrysanthemums with "a love for flowers that is not always professional." The greenhouses were torn down in 1940 and replaced with the large apartment building still there—called the De Nyse.

Peter and his siblings were descended from their great-great grandfather Denyse Denyse, who ran a ferry down around where Cannonball Park is today. It’s often said that the pier just past the bridge, in front of the army base, is Denyse’s old wharf, but we’re skeptical…more research to come.

In the meantime, learn more about the area's old families, including where they lived and what happened to them, in our book HOW BAY RIDGE BECAME BAY RIDGE, available at the Bookmark Shoppe or from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/How-Bay-Ridge-Became/dp/1983684341/

6823 Third Avenue. Today, it's the site of Cocoa Grinder, but back then it was the Owl's Head Tavern—in 1929, the scene ...
12/04/2020

6823 Third Avenue. Today, it's the site of Cocoa Grinder, but back then it was the Owl's Head Tavern—in 1929, the scene of a shootout between gangsters and bootleggers. The "bedlam of bullets" ended with a crooked cop shot by another police officer, who'd stumbled onto the scene.

The full story is 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/

Looking south on Fifth Avenue from about 69th Street—more or less from in front of where the Alpine would be now. That t...
12/01/2020

Looking south on Fifth Avenue from about 69th Street—more or less from in front of where the Alpine would be now. That theater hadn't been built yet; this was 1914, two years before the Fourth Avenue subway would open, when real estate speculators were buying up land, developing storefronts and housing for the expected surge in new residents/commuters.

You can read all about how the subway came to Bay Ridge, and the radical transformation that brought to the landscape, 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/

Photo from Columbia University's archive of the Real Estate Record and Buyer's Guide:
https://rerecord.library.columbia.edu/document.php?vol=ldpd_7031148_053&page=ldpd_7031148_053_00001267&no=13

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The end of the old boathouse, 1933...
Great, a musuem in Bay Ridge. Have you even THOUGHT about the traffic?
Heck yes! I am 100% in support of this. 🎉