enter name and hit return
Find in Page
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
28 September 1874

Brooklyn In its Infancy - Memories of Localities Now Obiterated - the River 
Front on Both Sides - How the March of Improvement has Transformed the Old 
Scenes in the River Wards of Brooklyn and New York, etc., etc.

    Fifty years ago travelers crossed the Catherine Ferry in a horseboat, 
then, and for years after, owned by Rodman Bowne and Brothers, who 
accumulated a vast amount of real estate and left millions of dollars to 
their heirs.

    Then there were but few buildings between this point and Red Hook in 
comparison to the present.  Beyond the Fulton  Ferry, excepting an occasional 
shanty or boathouse, there was nothing but a beach, affording a very 
comfortable bathing ground.

    What is now called the Heights was then a delightful promenade, with only 
a few mansions and the Eagle tavern, very near to what is now Atlantic 
avenue.   Many resorted to this promenade to enjoy the exhibarating breezes 
from the bay and harbor.  

    There was a gradual slope from the top of the bank down to the water, and
                        A FEW WOODEN STAIRS
to ascend and descend. It was not easy to walk down where there were no 
steps, and the boys, in attempting to run, would go head over heels into the 
water. It may be that here
                    Jack and Gill
                    Went up the hill
                        To get a pail of water;
                    And Jack fell down
                    And broke his crown,
                        And Gill came tumbling after.
    Below Atlantic avenue was what might be termed a great bog meadow until 
Red Hook was reached. The most prominent bulding in this locality then was a 
very extensive glass blowing establishment.  At a later period the Long 
Island Railroad Depot was at this point, and went through Atlantic avenue the 
most of the way underground.  It was finally driven away by the old fogies, 
whose nerves were so sensitive that they could not endure the noise of the 
iron horse.  They had to shut up the tunnel, thereby burying an enormous 
amount of treasure which had been expended in its construction. 

    Looking at this portion of Brooklyn now, and comparing it with what it 
was fifty years ago, it would seem to have risen up as by enchantment. But 
what might it have been had the iron horse been permitted to stay? 

    East of Catherine Ferry it was less populated than west of it. Scarcely 
any buildings along the shore except one tavern, which stood on quite a high 
hill about midway between the ferry and Navy Yard.  There were not many 
streets cut through to the water.  At the foot of Washington street there was 
an extensive lumber yard, kept by one John Moon, whose children are still 
living in Brooklyn.  Adams street came next, and but few others until Navy 
street was reached, running alongside the Navy Yard.

    From Fulton Ferry to what is now called the City Hall there was not one 
building where there are now ten.

was the residence of Henry Waring, Esq. (the founder of Waring's 
Storehouses), in close proximity to which there was a beautiful burying 
ground. This was in the vicinity of what is now called Clinton Street.

    Where the Court House now stands was a very pleasant resort known as 
"Duflon's Garden." Between this point and the Jamaica turnpike (where Fulton 
street then ended), was another familiar resort, known as the Black Horse 
Tavern, or half way house to Jamaica. Not far beyond this, at the junction of 
the Jamaica turnpike and Flatbush road, was a large nursery and magnificent 
garden, kept by one Parmentier.

    To the right of the garden an ordinary country road passed over Prospect 
Hill and on to Flatbush.  From the left side of Parmentier's the Jamaica 
turnpike went through Bedford now almost "lost and swallowed up" in the heart 
of Brooklyn.  Stages then left Fulton Ferry about three times a week for 
Flatbush, Flatlands, Canarsie, etc.

    From Catherine Ferry, up Main street to Sands, and up Sands to the 
Wallabout Bridge, buildings were anything but numerous, and mostly frame. On 
one side of this bridge was a large pond full of timber, seasoning for Uncle 
Sam to build his ships.

    Crossing the Wallabout Bridge, which was at the head of Sands street, an 
ordinary country road wound its way to the Cross Roads and Bushwick.

    A great portion of the land in the vicinity of the Navy Yard, now so 
compactly built on, was then sal(t?) meadow, and there is now an old house in 
Adelphi street, near Park avenue, that they stood on the edge of the 
Wallabout, and from which its occupants frequently went in a "boat" out to 
the Cob Dock.  (The word "sal" was at the end of the column)

    From the bridge, along the East River, to Grand street, there was only a 
footpath and some half dozen farm houses.  From the Ferry up Grand street, 
until Bushwick avenue was reached, the houses were few and far between.

                THE OLD DUTCH CHURCH
    (Meeker's) was then in Bushwick avenue' and is now hid away among the 
hundreds of surrounding habitations.

    Adjacent to what is now called Broadway, E. D., there was a long row of 
Lombardy poplars, doubtless remembered by many of our readers from which many 
of the farmers started for New York in skiffs with milk, carrying it from 
door to door with a yoke on their shoulders.  Milkmen also went from Red Hook 
to New York, crossing Buttermilk Channel, and sometimes they would get upset 
from their skiffs in the ice during the Winter season.

Then it was that the nursery maid's sang to the little 'uns:
            Milkman, Milkman,
                Where have you been?
            Buttermilk Channel
                Up to my chin
            Spilled my milk
                And spoiled my clothes
            And got a great icicle
                Hanging to my nose.

    Crossing to New York and passing along the river front and the Seventh 
and Fourth Wards, the contrast is most remarkable. Then from Corlaer's Hook 
to Pike street the river front was mostly used for shipbuilding. Bergh's yard 
was at the foot of Scammel street.
    The water front then was at Water street, and all the slips from 
Gouverneur to Roosevelt street, viz: Rutgers, Pike, Market and James, run up 
to this street.
    From the foot of Walnut street (now Jackson) there was a ferry, 
principally used for getting to the Navy Yard.
    Walnut street in those days and for years after was almost a 
pandemonium----worse, if needs be, than the well known Five Points.
    Banker street (now Madison) with its one story shanties, occupied 
promiscuously by whites and blacks, was not far behind Walnut street.
    Georges street (now Market), was another emanation from the lower regions.
    Lombardy street (now Monroe), lined with Lombardy poplars, was a 
comparatively quiet street.  At Jefferson street it was intercepted by 
country bars.  Old Colonel Rutgers at that time occupied about two blocks, 
his mansion being in the centre, and not far from where Monroe street was in 
later years cut through and continued on to Corlaer's Hook.  On the opposite 
side of the Rutger's mansion a splendid row of brick buildings was put up, 
but they and the mansion house have wonderfully retrograded.  The millionares 
have gone to the Fifth avenue, and the mansion and grounds are now used as a 
large cooperage.

was another old relic, being a large brick dwelling about fifty feet square, 
surrounded by spacious grounds, belonging to and occupied by Mr.Remsen. This, 
some thirty years since, had to succumb to progress, and in its stead stands 
Remsen Row. 
    On the corner of Clinton and Harman (now East Broaway), was a very high 
hill, which remained some years until the street was widened; and this 
street, as also Henry and Madison streets, became the most quiet and retired 
in the city.  In fact some of the oldest and most respectable merchants 
resided in these streets. Such, for instance, as Josiah Macy, of the firm of 
Josiah Macy & Sons, Samuel Judd, (now Samuel Judd's Sons;Preserved Fish, 
(said to have been picked up in a boat when a boy), once President of the 
Tradesmen's Bank; Jas. W. Barker, dry good merchant, once Know Nothing 
candidate for Mayor.
    The venerable Dr. Maclay, the eminent Baptist divine, and Wm. B. Maclay, M. C.
    Madison Holmes, Sr., of the firm of Holmes, Hawley & Co., once President 
of the Tradesmen's Bank, also.

            (In case any of the comments in the following transcript are
            upsetting to some people, as they were to me. please remember
            that this is from a newspaper that was published in 1874.)

                                OLD JOE HOXIE
    Joseph Hoxie, who was considerably mixed up in politics, and subsequently 
moved over to this city; also Wm E. Hoxie, his brother, once Captain of the 
packet ship North America, lost on Sandy Hook beach, and afterward Captain of 
the ship bearing his name.
    G. W. Brown, so long known as the keeper of a hotel in Water street, near 
    John J. Cisco, who once kept a clothing store on the corner of Market and 
Cherry street, and not many years since was connected with the United States 
Treasury, now a Wall street banker.
    Cherry and Water streets, then below Catherine, were comfortable streets 
to live in, but now what are they?
    Catherine street was a great thoroughfare from the Bowery to the ferry. A 
large market at its foot and almost every commodity being sold in this 
street, made it almost impassable on Saturday nights. Sunday morning was a 
gala day at this market for the "darkies" who came over from the Wallabout in 
skiffs to dispose of their perquisites.  The market was open till nine 
o'clock and they carried on quite a traffic in birds, berries, herbs, clams, 
crabs, eels etc., beside having a jolly time "wid dem New York niggers."
were frame buildings, the lower one being about half occupied by fishermen 
and hucksers.  Some years after they were replaced by brick ones, and an 
exclusive fish market built over the water.  Then, the butchers, with very 
few exceptions, butchered there own meat, and had their own slaughter house 
in the Tenth and Thirteenth Wards.  But they have all disappeared, the 
wonderful increase in population and the more fastidious ideas of the people 
demanded their removal.  Some of the most prominent butchers were the 
Varians, Winships, Andersons and Valentines.  A meat shop could not be found 
at almost every corner, and those in want had to go to market.  There were 
not more than a half dozen markets on the east side of the city and it was 
quite a journey for some people to go to them.
    The East River Savings Bank (now in Chambers street) was first located in 
Cherry street, at the residence of John Leveridge, one of the old time and 
much respected lawyers.
    Goodrich (the well known Peter Parley), fifty years ago kept a bookstore 
on the corner of Water street and Peck Slip, and it is only a few years since 
the old Dutch building was taken down, and a large tenement house erected in 
its place.  
    Old Johnny Pease, better known as the introducer of "PEASE'S HOARHOUND 
CANDY," once kept a fruit and candy store in Division street, opposite 
Chrystie, and was noted for his fine sprue, beer and mead. One of his sons is 
now living, and is of the firm of Pease & Murphy, boiler makers.    
                            CONGRESS HALL
where they could have the soft side of a plank for three cents per night, and 
it is said one of the most prominent citizens of the Seventh Ward once took 
these Congressmen to a clothing store and then to the poll, in order to help 
his cause.
    East Broadway was somewhat noted for physicians, such as Cockroft, Miner, 
Lindsey, Baldwin and James R. Wood (a student of the celebrateed Dr. Mott), 
the latter now a surgeon in the Bellevue Hospital.
    Now, we will suppose that that honest old Dutch groceryman, who once kept 
store in Fulton street, and never put sand in his sugar, or mixed old beans 
with new, should return (having been away fifty years), and be lifted to the 
top of the
                        BRIDGE TOWER
and "view the landscape o'er"; the forest of masts; the magnificent domes; 
the floating palaces upon the water; those inimitable public buldings on 
Blackwell's, Ward's and Randall's Islands; the innumerable number of cars and 
the multitudes that crowd them, and hear those screaching devils (the tugs) 
coursing to and fro; would he not be very likely to go mad and exclaim, "Mein 
Got, vat a countree and vat a peebles-----vy, te berry tuyvel moost pe in em!"


Transcriber : Marion Sinnott for the Brooklyn Information Pages