Archive for the tag 'history'

Royal Bay Restaurant In Sheepshead Bay

Photo by Ned Berke

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) will sponsor a free talk and slide show tomorrow by official Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger:

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2014
2 P.M. – 3:30 P.M.
ROYAL BAY RESTAURANT
1794 SHEEPSHEAD BAY ROAD

Schweiger will speak about the history of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.

An accompanying photo exhibit is being displayed in the window of Assemblyman Cymbrowitz’ district office, 1800 Sheepshead Bay Road, all summer long.

Commisioner Nigro with NYPD Detective William O'Connor, Jr., the son of one of the fallen firefighters.  (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

Commisioner Nigro with NYPD Detective William O’Connor, Jr., the son of one of the fallen firefighters. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

Friends, family and FDNY colleagues gathered at Saint Brendan’s Church in Midwood on Saturday, marking the 36th anniversary of an historic blaze at the Sheepshead Bay Waldbaum’s that claimed six lives.

The August 2, 1978 fire broke out at Waldbaum’s, then located at Ocean Avenue and Avenue Y (now the site of Staples). As the blaze ripped through the building, area firefighters wrestled to bring it under control. At approximately 9:02 a.m., the roof gave in, plunging at least a dozen of New York’s Bravest into the inferno.

Attendees gather in front of the church after the service. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

Attendees gather in front of the church after the service. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

In all, six firefighters died and another 34 were injured in what became the largest loss of firefighters in a single fire in Brooklyn history.

In 1999, the city renamed the corner “Firemen’s Corner.” A street sign and plaque continue to honor the fallen.

FDNY's Emerald Society Pipes & Drums performed at the service  .(Photo by Mike T. Wright)

FDNY’s Emerald Society Pipes & Drums performed at the service .(Photo by Mike T. Wright)

The heroic firefighters who died in the blaze on August 2, 1978, are FF George Rice, 38, Ladder 153; FF James McManus, 48; Cov. Lt. James Cutillo, 39, 33rd Battalion; FF Harold Hastings, 39, 42nd Battalion; FF Charles Bouton, 38, Ladder 156; and William O’Connor, 29 of Ladder 156.

The service in Midwood this weekend was attended by newly appointed FDNY Comissioner Daniel Nigro, who said that the event spurred additional training regimes to protect future fire-eaters, and that the department will continue to come together every August 2 to recognize the victims of the Waldbaum’s blaze.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.  (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. (Photo by Mike T. Wright)

For the 2010 anniversary, John Dwyer of JGDwyerPhotography put together the below slideshow. Dwyer has been photographing the FDNY in action since the 1970s.

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Twitter user @RealTimeWWI alerted us to the photo above this morning, showing the “Start of women’s race” here in Sheepshead Bay exactly one hundred years ago today.

The photo itself comes from the Library of Congress Bain Collection, an enormous set of photographs from “one of America’s earliest news picture agencies.” Although it was a global agency, they emphasized capturing life in New York City from the 1860s to 1930s.

The collection has a number of other photos from the event, like this one, showing the crowd greeting the winner:

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t dig up much about the Sheepshead Bay women’s race, so we can’t identify the winner or give much context. But this abstract from a New York Times report on it gives some detail:

Forty girl swimmers competed for aquatic honors yesterday afternon at Thall’s Pier, Sheepshead Bay, in a special carnival under the auspices of the Women’s National Life Saving Society. Close finishes featured a majority of the events, and unusually skilful work was shown in the fancy diving contest, the feature event of the programme.

We’ll have to do more digging into Thall’s in the future, but for now Brooklyn Eagle gives us this nugget:

Even Sheepshead Bay had a beach in the 19th century before it was dredged for yachts. Thall’s Bathing Pavilion on the west side of the bay provided a private pool and diving platform for swimmers. On the shore stood Dominick’s Hotel for longer staying guests.

That’s probably the structure in the background of the photo above.

The most information regarding the actual contestants comes from the data for the photo below, of Mrs. Lillian Howard, who appears to be one of the organizers of the event:

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Here’s what the collection’s notes had to say about her: “Photograph shows Mrs. Lillian Howard, an officer in the Women’s National Life Saving Society/League from 1913-1914 at a women’s swimming contest at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York City, July 16, 1914. “

She’s in this shot, too:

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Anybody recognize the names? I’m sure there are some descendants of these folks living in Sheepshead Bay, and we’d love to know more.

Here are some more names for you:

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Can we presume these three were the winners?

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Action shot!

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Ah, the heady days of the 1960s. I’m told if you remember it, you weren’t there.

So we’ll forgive you if you forgot all about that time – May 9, 1965 – when a bunch of teenagers swiped a penguin from the New York Aquarium in Coney Island.

Why would they steal a penguin, you ask? Because, man, why not?

The story goes like this: an MTA detective was on the subway at Stillwell Avenue, minding everybody’s business like he ought to. He spots a group of teens hop on his subway car carrying a cardboard box. The kids leave, but leave the box behind.

Then the box moves.

Figuring it’s a seagull – because, man, why not? – he goes to grab the box to take it outside and release it. Only after getting bit on the thumb does this detective decide to get a little more inquisitive, and takes a look inside the container.

Bam, penguin.

He called up the aquarium and they confirmed they were a penguin down, and it was returned safely.

Oh, yeah, then it happened again in 1967.

I learned all this after stumbling across the New York Historical Society video above, first released in 2012.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I bet those folks back in 1938 would’ve expected a lot of change to happen over the course of 76 years. I can just envision them, chomping on their cigars, flipping their derby hats in their hands, and saying, “Boy, oh, boy, in that there 2014, this here Sheepshead Bay Road will just blow your wig. Make no brodies about it, pally, there’ll be big ol’ skyscrapers everywhere, and clocks as grand as the sultan’s suds. I bet all the walls will have talkies showin’ all these tomatoes, and all the boys will be dizzy with dames on this here stretch.”

Well, they were wrong. This 1938 photo, taken from the elevated platform of what is today the Sheepshead Bay subway station, pretty much shows what a bunch of twits my imagined 1930s neighbors were. This road looks almost exactly the same now as it did then. Who would’ve thought it?!

Of course, there are some obvious differences. The building in the distance was torn down to make way for a bank (now Popular Community Bank), but that’s the only architectural change; all the other buildings still stand.

A real notable difference between the storefronts? They’re occupied in the photo. Also, the streets are clean and there aren’t 1,000 livery cabs threatening to bring a crushing end to your miserable life.

Anyway, just a side note: I found this photo up for auction on eBay. It lacks any description indicating the photographer or copyright holder. I wouldn’t normally do this, but old photos like this have a way of coming and going, and never being seen again – so I wanted to have it saved somewhere (thus the purpose of our Postcard series). If you’re the copyright holder, it’s not our intent to infringe, and you can contact me here.

The Mengels shooting gallery now in operation at Coney Island USA (Source: CIUSA/Facebook)

The Mangels shooting gallery now in operation at Coney Island USA (Source: CIUSA/Facebook)

Green-Wood Cemetery historian Jeff Richman is using Kickstarter to raise money for an exhibit on William F. Mangels, a German immigrant and inventor based in Coney Island who was a leading developer of America’s amusement parks at the turn of the last century. The project goal is to raise $17,500 by July 27, of which $3,291 has been donated so far.

Here’s the video for the project:

The proposed exhibit, titled “William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond” will be installed at Green-Wood’s Historic Chapel, and will feature “real pieces of Mangel’s rides and games – a carousel horse, a 22nd-foot-long shooting gallery, and actual Whip cars and original sketches, in Mangels’s hand, of The Tickler,” in addition to historic photography, video, and written correspondence.

If the Mangels name sounds familiar, it’s because we wrote about him last year when carnies unearthed a World War II-era shooting gallery behind one of their booths while cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy. The gallery has been restored and now sits next to Coney Island USA as part of their living museum. For $5, you get 100 shots at nailing metal tanks, airplanes and soldiers as they zip around the booth.

The Daily News reports that Richman spent the last 10 years collecting materials from all over the country for the exhibit—and although Green-Wood Cemetery has been curating exhibits since 1998, this would be the first ever dedicated entirely to one person.

The funds raised would offset the costs of graphics, lighting, monitors, framing, shipping, and video necessary to give Mangels his much-deserved tribute—and as is customary with Kickstarter fundraisers, backers will be rewarded with a variety of handsome prizes, including exclusive merchandise and even private tours for the most generous supporters.

- Sam Shokin

Timpano in front of her home beneath the Thunderbolt.

Timpano in front of her home beneath the Thunderbolt.

Test cars have been running on the Thunderbolt ahead of its public opening sometime next week, and a new generation of riders are preparing themselves for the $10 thrill on the resurrected, reimagined ride. But how many of those riders will remember the original Thunderbolt? And how many of those will remember the home beneath the coaster?

That home, a modest looking shack wedged beneath the ride’s wood and steel beams, was made most famous by Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, where it was the childhood home of protagonist Alvy Singer. Many likely figured it was an artistic embellishment, that the actual building there was little more than a utility shack.

Timpano inside the home.

Timpano inside the home.

But locals knew better. The gritty looking home, surrounded by brush and a layer of paint that looked like it had been applied in Biblical times, was actually the home of Mae Timpano and Freddie Moran. While it wasn’t much to look at from the outside – except for its odd placement – many would be surprised to learn that it was well-kept on the inside, with six rooms and a grand piano, and a stock of Coney Island tea (a.k.a. beer).

The home and its two long-time residents became the subject of a short documentary, Under the Roller Coaster. Released in 2001, shortly after the coaster and home’s demolition, it  examined the home, and the couple’s, place in Coney Island history. Here’s a synopsis.

In 1946, while working as a waitress on Coney Island, Mae met Fred Moran, the owner and operator of the Thunderbolt roller coaster. They soon fell in love, and for forty years they lived together in Fred’s house — right under the Thunderbolt’s first turnaround.

Fred died in 1982, and the Thunderbolt carried its last thrill-seeker soon after. In 1988, Mae moved out, and the house was sold to a developer [Horace Bullard] who dreamed of building a new amusement park on the famed island. But the coaster was silent for twelve years, and in November 2000, with no warning, the city of New York bulldozed away one of its great urban treasures. Here, Mae tells the story of her years living in the house that the Thunderbolt rattled.

Timpano passed away in 2009.

When you ride the new Thunderbolt for the first time, make sure to take a moment to remember these two icons, and the long journey Coney Island has taken that the ride represents. And some wise words from the documentary:

“That’s the funny thing about Coney Island. It seems that once you get sand in your shoes, you never lose it.”

Here’s the full documentary:

Update: It looks like Curbed had a similar idea, and published a more in-depth piece about the coaster and home’s history.

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The rocket returns! Last night, the rocket was trucked into Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. (Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

For the first time in five years, the most prominent symbol of Coney Island’s Astroland – the amusement park’s iconic rocket ship – has returned to the People’s Playground for display.

The Coney Island History Project announced this morning that the Astroland Rocket Ship was trucked back into the amusement district overnight after the group assumed control of the relic several days ago.

The rocket is the only surviving space “simulators” that once proliferated in Coney Island between the early 20th Century and the space age, the Coney Island History Project said. The organization won their bid to repurpose the “Star Flyer” – as it was originally known – as the centerpiece of a new exhibit about Coney Island’s space obsession throughout history.

The Star Flyer debuted in 1962 as a three-minute, 26-seat ride that rocked and shook thrill-seekers as they watched films of rocket rides. It was taken offline years later, and was later placed on the roof of boardwalk restaurant Gregory and Paul’s where, along with the Cyclone, Parachute Jump and Wonder Wheel, it became a staple of the playground’s skyline.

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(Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

“Outer space simulators have played a prominent role in Coney’s amusement history,” said Charles Denson, director of the Coney Island History Project and author of Coney Island: Lost and Found. “It began when Thompson and Dundy brought ‘A Trip to the Moon’ to Steeplechase Park in 1902 and culminated in 1962, at the height of the space race, with Astroland’s Moon Rocket. The ride provided visitors with an exciting taste of intergalactic travel. The Astroland Rocket has now returned to a place of honor beside the landmark Wonder Wheel, where it will be restored as an exhibit showcasing Coney Island’s fascination with space travel.”

When Astroland closed in 2008 to make way for Luna Park, Carol and Jerry Albert, the former park’s owners, donated the rocket to the city with the promise of making the centerpiece of the new amusement district.

The city put out a request for proposals to reactivate the icon, and the History Project answered and won the bid. The rocket will be in the group’s exhibit center in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, and the cost of its move was covered by Carol Albert.

Wonder Wheel owners Steve and Dennis Vourderis plan to make it the centerpiece of their park’s annual celebration on August 9, and they’ll also oversee its restoration after it was seriously damaged during Superstorm Sandy. The rocket has spent most of the past five years in storage.

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(Photo by Charles Denson, Coney Island History Project)

Two hundred years ago this week, the now historic village of Gravesend was rocked by a violent and tragic outburst that may have been the town’s first murder-suicide.

The bicentennial was first noted by historian and friend of the site Joseph Ditta, who posted on his blog of Gravesend history about two gravestones in the 364-year-old Gravesend Cemetery at Gravesend Neck Road and McDonald Avenue.

Ditta came across two stones, cracked and flaking with age, baring the names of 2-year-old Barnardus Ryder and his father, Jacobus Ryder. The Ryders died just 10 days apart, with the child passing on May 29, 1814, and the elder on June 8, 1814.

At first, Ditta writes, one might assume the two were killed by a “contagion [that] carried off multiple relatives, as [illnesses] did for eons before the advent of standardized sanitation and medical care.”

But on further research, Ditta discovered this wasn’t the case. He writes:

[A]ssumptions often prove dangerously wrong. On Monday, May 30, 1814, the day after little Barnardus Ryder died, readers of the Commercial Advertiser, one of New York City’s leading newspapers, stumbled across this shocking report from the otherwise tranquil reaches of southern Kings County:

New York, Commercial Advertiser, Monday, May 30, 1814

Newspapers up and down the eastern seaboard, from New Hampshire to Maryland, and as far inland as Ohio, recounted the tale of Gravesend’s “horrid transaction.” The version printed on June 1 in the Long-Island Star, Brooklyn’s leading weekly, managed to spell “Ryder” correctly, and added the detail that Jacobus — “long esteemed as a worthy and pious man, and . . . apparently in his right mind on the evening previous to the melancholy and dreadful act” — confessed in the letter to his father that he “imagined he heard a voice commanding him to execute the deed.” He lingered, sadly, until June 8, and died at the age of 44 years, three months, and 23 days.

Ditta doesn’t say in his post whether this was Gravesend’s first murder-suicide, but he told Sheepshead Bites that it’s quite possible.

“It very well could have been. It was a shocking story then, and even now, 200 years later,” he said.

By the time of the murder, Gravesend, one of the six original towns that later became Brooklyn, was already nearly 169 years old. But with a population numbering in the hundreds, it’s unlikely that a previous incident would have escaped the attention of record keepers.

The Ryders remain among the borough’s most famous residents, a founding family whose name still adorns streets, schools and libraries. The first Ryder, Barent Jurianz Ryder, emigrated from Holland in 1658. He later married Aeltie Van Voorhies, another familiar surname.

Check out the full story of these headstones and what came of Ryder’s descendants on Ditta’s Gravesend Gazette. You can also read our August 2009 Q&A with Ditta about Gravesend’s history, and check out his book, Gravesend, Brooklyn.

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Photo by Lisanne Anderson

Strolling by the 1605 Sheepshead Bay Road storefront recently vacated by Anatolian Gyro (which has moved around the corner to 2623 East 16th Street) will give you a little glimpse into Sheepshead Bay’s commercial history: a portion of the sign from the long-lived Izzo’s Barber Shop is now on display after Anatolian’s sign was pulled down.

I can’t find a certain date for when Izzo’s opened and closed, but it was there for a broad chunk of the mid-20th century, leading up to at least the 1980s, where the storefront (with updated signage) can be seen in a Department of Finance tax photo:

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I believe it was called Izzo’s Clippers, though it’s hard to say from the photo and it was long before my time.

I pinged reader and local history buff Lisanne Anderson to see if she could help pinpoint the timeframe. She wasn’t sure, but did confirm that it was owned by Peter Izzo, who lived from 1903 to 1984. The Izzos are one of Sheepshead Bay’s anchor families, having been involved in building much of the community throughout the 1900s, and Peter was uncle to the area’s most famous resident, Vince Lombardi.

There’s a plaque dedicated to Izzo, who was apparently known as Mr. Sheepshead Bay, at Bill Brown Square (too frequently incorrectly called Vince Lombardi Square, at East 17th Street and Jerome Avenue).

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Photo by Lisanne Anderson.

Lisanne added that in the shop’s later years, Izzo had hired younger help and only came into the shop to attend to long-time patrons.

Can anyone else fill us in on the history of Izzo’s barber shop? Let us know in the comments!

Update (12:19 p.m.): A little post-publishing research turned up this amusing article from the September 3, 1934, Brooklyn Eagle, in which the 64-member Izzo clan stayed at Peter’s house for a family reunion field day:

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Furthermore, Wikipedia notes that Vince Lombardi’s grandfather, and Peter Izzo’s father, Anthony, opened a barber shop in Sheepshead Bay before the turn of the century. While no address is given, a September 15, 1915, edition of the Daily Eagle notes that Tony’s barbershop was caught up in some illegal betting operations. It gave the address as Shore Road and Jerome Place, the former names for Sheepshead Bay Road and Jerome Avenue, pretty much exactly where the storefront is:

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