A Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College Project

Category: 1850-1920 (Page 2 of 2)


Developing Flatbush was also a prime area for disturbances. On August 13, 1856 a small frame building that was working on manufacturing patent cement for making roofs fireproof caught fire, consuming $5,000 worth of contents with no insurance.[i] In another incident the next year, seventy horses burned to death, apparently due to an arsonist dressed as a sailor. He escaped into the Flatbush Woods.[ii] Two years later a house occupied as a hotel, uninsured, was taken by fire and cost approximately $100.[iii] Between June 10, 1853 and July 27, 1854, fourteen convicts escaped Kings County Penitentiary at Flatbush. Only two of these individuals were recaptured.[iv] In 1860, a river pirate, John Minch, was convicted for stealing thousands of dollars in grain from the Atlantic Basin. He was the head of a gang and the schemer for these robberies. He was sent to Sing Sing Prison for five years.[v] Also during this year, Alonzo Lewis was stabbed in the arm, neck, and head by Mr. Martin and his sons John and Edward.[vi] The next year, Peter Lynch was robbed of a pistol and $2 when he was walking home. The robbers were committed for trial.[vii] In 1862, flues in a boiler at the country Almshouse exploded, injuring the engineer and his assistant, later killing them.[viii]

[i] “Fires in Brooklyn–Accidents.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 Aug. 1856.

[ii] “LONG ISLAND.; Incendiary Fire–Seventy Horses Burned to Death. Indignation Meeting at Jamaica—No Water for Brooklyn If Steam on Atlantic-street Is Abolished.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 July 1857.

[iii] “Brooklyn.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Jan. 1859.

[iv] “Long Island,” New York Times, July 28, 1854.

[v] “City Intelligence; A Raid on the River Thieves. Extensive Robberies of Grain at the Atlantic Basin Movements of the Pirates Shrewdness of the Detectives Arrest of the Chief Operators, and Recovery of a Part of the Stolen Property,” New York Times, April 7, 1860.

[vi] “Brooklyn News,” New York Times, August 13, 1860.

Parks and the Suburban Ideal

This meant that there were some suburban ideals, even as development grew. In 1834, Garrett L. Martense opened Erasmus Street, and Matthew Clarkson, Clarkson Street. Two years later portions of the Michal Neefus and Schoonmacker farms were developed by Willinck and Vanderveer, and Vernon Avenue was opened. The stage-line transit available at the time did not allow for much suburban movement.

            The development of parks stirred great movement in real estate. Prospect Park caused the opening of Diamond Street (Lenox Road), between 1868 and 1872, “with asphalt pavement, curbed gutters, and sidewalk laid between double rows of shade trees.” This was developed on the John Lott farm by Aaron S. Robbins. In 1868 William O. Mills bought the Helen Martense farm and opened Linden Boulevard. Then, on the Samuel G. Lott farm, William Matthews developed Waverly Avenue and Matthews Park. Winthrop and Hawthorne Streets opened the following year after much of the Isaac Cortelyou farm was bought by Robert S. Walker and others. In 1872, Kings County purchased land from the estate of Susan Caton and opened the Parade Grounds, a stretch of land south of Prospect Park that was used for many purposes, including military and athletic. Dr. Homer L. Bartlett opened Fennimore Street in 1877 and purchased the Melrose property from Dr. Johnson Robinson in 1883. Avenue A was opened by the John C. Bergen estate in 1885. In 1886 the Tennis Court section, which included parts of Ocean Avenue, East 18th and 19th Streets, and the Knickerbocker Field Club grounds were improved by Richard Ficken.[i]

[i] Ibid., 82

Real Estate Development

Permission Germania Real Estate and Improvement Co.

Street in Vanderveer Park

Germania Real Estate and Improvement Company started to develop South Midwood, purchasing, developing, and selling farms. This included the farms of Vanderveer-Cortelyou, Antonides, Lott and Hubbard, Bay View Heights, Wyckoff and Voorhies, Lincoln Park, Kouwenhoven, and John A. Lott. In 1892, South Midwood became a very restricted residential area known as Vanderveer Park. This first section included Amersfort, Mansfield, Delmere, Elmore Place, Kenmore Place, Bedford Avenue, and Ocean Avenue. The “streets have been macadamized and curbed and rows of maple and poplar trees planted on side of the cosmocrete sidewalks. Flowers and shrubs giving a continuous bloom during the warmer months, with attractive evergreens for the entire year, are a feature in this as well as in others of the residential park improves in Flatbush.”[i]

In 1896, the Lefferts Estate developed the property to include Midwood Street, Maple Street, and Rutland Road. Because of its location in a now densely populated area, it included quality urban improvements such as the eight brick-and-stone houses that were built by William A. Brown on Midwood and neighboring streets. The farm of John and Henry S. Ditmas was developed at Ditmas Park to be a restricted district with wide parking strips, asphalt, and macadam streets. These characteristics were becoming recognized as necessary aspects of the suburban enterprise being created in that part of Flatbush In 1898 Dean Alvord purchased part of the John C. Bergen farm from the estate of Luther C. Voorhies and a tract from the Dutch Reformed Church. The forty-acre area, known as Prospect Park South, would include streets carrying the very British names of Buckingham, Marlborough, Rugby, Argyle, Stratford, Westminster, Albemarle, and Beverly Road. Albemarle and Buckingham Roads were asphalted and had “wide parking strips set with ornamental trees, shrubs and plants-the spruce, fir, and hemlock, the magnolia, rhododendron and azalea, or the holly, spirea and barberry. Many thousand bulbs are planted in various parts of the park, which assist in carrying out the plan of having something from early spring until late fall.”[ii]

[i] Edmund D. Fisher, Flatbush Past and Present (Brooklyn, NY: Flatbush Trust Company, 1901)., 85.

[ii] Edmund D. Fisher, Flatbush Past and Present (Brooklyn, NY: Flatbush Trust Company, 1901)., 82.

Flatbush Corporations

The development of Flatbush is also seen in the beginnings of corporations. These included the Flatbush Gas Company, the Flatbush Water Works Company, and the Flatbush Trust Company. In 1885, the Road Commissioners who had a contract with the Flatbush Gas Company refused to pay the $35 fee to light street lamps, causing the gas company to deny delivery of gas. “Total darkness at night will be the result, and disgusted townsmen say the town will lose more through suits for damages than it will make by not having to pay for gas.”[i] In February 1918, The New York Times published an article that stated, “[d]uring the four years from 1912 to 1916 the profits of the Flatbush Gas Company from the sale of electric current increased from $93,000 to $243,000.”[ii] This was the first public call for a reduction in rates. Later that month petitioners and civic organizations demanded that the gas company reduce its electricity fare from twelve cents, to ten, and then to eight. The company claimed it could not deliver the current for less than twelve cents. H.E. McGowan claimed that no profit was being made on gas business and little was being made on electricity due to increasing cost of labor and materials.[iii] Another article from 1920 will show the increase in gas prices to ninety-nine cents. When asked to reconsider this new rate, the company stated it was not possible.[iv]

An important sign that Flatbush was changing was the organization of the Flatbush Trust Company in 1899. This was the first banking system the area had seen. With the farming system, there was little need for a bank as most money exchanges took place out of town and over crops. As new residents and businesses began to arrive, money started to stay in Flatbush. The bank opened for business on July 20 and records show that the number of accounts opened within the first year was 646, with a total deposit amount of $639,569.17 in July of 1900.[v] John Lefferts, Jr. was known to be an organizer of the trust company and a director of the Flatbush Water Company.[vi]

Four Dollars

Four Dollars

Ladies' Room, Flatbush Trust Company

Ladies’ Room, Flatbush Trust Company

[i] “Darkness Threatening Flatbush,” New York Times, February 19, 1885.

[ii] “Flatbush Co. Must Cut Electric Rates,” New York Times, February 3, 1918.

[iii] “Fights Electric Rate Cut,” New York Times, February 27, 1918.

[iv] “Fights 80-Cent Gas Rate,” New York Times, May 6, 1920.

[v] Fisher, 68.

[vi] John Lefferts, Jr.,” New York Times, May 30, 1950.

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