An attendee at the Be Proud Foundation’s Victory Day dinner last week.
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union celebrated Victory Day on May 9, honoring those who fought in the Great Patriotic War – better known to Americans as World War II – with uniformed veterans sipping vodka and chowing down at events throughout Brighton Beach.
Victory Day marks the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union on May 9, 1945, nearly four years after Adolf Hitler’s forces invaded during Operation Barbarossa. It remains an important holiday in Russia and the former Soviet states. Historians estimate that between 9 million and 14 million military personnel perished in the fighting, along with between 12 million to 17 million civilians – the highest count in both categories of all nations involved in World War II.
Organizations including the Be Proud Foundation and Shorefront Y of Brighton/Manhattan Beach held events in honor of the holiday last week, and auto clubs toured Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods honking horns and flying flags from former Soviet nations.
Taken in 1904, the photograph reveals the level of total commercial industrialization and development that has occurred in the area over the last century and change.
Daniel Hotaling, the guy who provided the photograph, gave some interesting information on Facebook as to what exactly we are looking at.
So it is basically looking down Knapp St towards Ave U from Plumb Beach. The cedar groves in the upper left hand corner were behind the sewage treatment plant on Knapp St. They were known as the cedars; my grandfather was born in the cedars 1905.
Flavorpill published this great piece yesterday, listing some of the worst development ideas for New York City that never materialized. One of them was this nifty little amusement park, a Coney Island on the islands of Jamaica Bay, and boasting a Venetian theme.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Apparently, in the years around 1910 the government was spending boatloads of money “erecting piers around the shores of this great natural harbor,” the blurb above the caption states. “It has been suggested that the numerous low, marshy islands in the centre of the bay will not be required for commerce for half a century at least.”
And, shoot, if no one else is using it other than some pesky birds, fish and other wildlife, why the heck not turn it into an opulent resort and amusement park, a la Coney Island?
That was the thinking of these planners, who envisioned “something like a modern New Word Venice, at a cost not at all prohibitory.”
At least according to the illustration, the plan would have built up a dozen or so of the marsh islands, connecting them with footbridges and spurring what I assume is the world’s second largest gondola industry. And, hey, two or three phallic structures just for the heck of it.
Have we mentioned that many of these islands have eroded away over the last 100 years, and the Army Corps of Engineers is routinely shoring them up for both coastal storm protection and wildlife habitat?
I can’t help but wonder what Sandy would’ve done to something like this if it was built.
Our friend Dan Hendrick was the first to point it out to us on Twitter:
The tale of Topsy the Elephant is sad and cruel, and today marks the 110th year since her grisly demise at the hands of Thomas Edison’s staged electrocution on Coney Island at Luna Park.
Topsy was a female circus elephant who never was comfortable with her captivity. Over her 28-year lifespan, she killed three men including a sadistic and abusive trainer who tried to feed Topsy lit cigarettes as food. Because of Topsy’s infractions towards her brutal masters, she was deemed too dangerous to live.
Originally, Topsy’s Luna Park owners wanted to kill her by hanging, but according to Wikipedia, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stepped in and prevented that from happening. Although, quite frankly, in today’s world the logistics of hanging an elephant seem far more amazing than any of the alternatives.
But that’s today’s world. One hundred years ago, the alternative offered by famed inventor Thomas Edison was nearly magical. Edison stepped up and had the bright idea of electrocuting Topsy to death. Why that wasn’t considered cruel is beyond me, but everyone was willing to go along with it. It was just that kind of world.
Edison’s motives were to use poor Topsy as a prop in his ongoing war against Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla’s far superior Alternating Current electrical system. Edison, the inventor of the clearly inferior Direct Current method, juiced Topsy with 6,600 volts of Tesla’s AC, dropping her in seconds.
More than 1,500 spectators gathered at Luna Park on January 4, 1903, to witness the grim spectacle, and Edison filmed the execution as “evidence” of AC’s unsafe nature.
Edison distributed his short film throughout the United States, providing one of the earliest examples of filmed corporate propaganda. Ultimately, DC won the battle for America’s infrastructure in large part because of this flick.
While Topsy’s fate was tragic, her memory lives on in the form of a memorial erected at the Coney Island Museum on July 20, 2003.
Our friends at Friends of Ocean Parkway via the twitter feed of NYC EMS Website, turned us onto this beautiful archival photograph of an old-timey Coney Island Ambulance from the early 1900s. This horse drawn ambulance probably had to deal with patients suffering catastrophic emergencies stemming from tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrhea, the three most fatal diseases of the era. Thank the lord that last one rarely kills, or our esteemed editor would go through several lives a day.
The Brighton Beach Hotel, birth scene of Chicken a la King.
An interesting column in Capital New York delves into the history of the once great culinary classic that defined an era of fine dining in New York City over 100 years ago, a history that has its roots in Brighton Beach.
Chicken a la king, a dish that’s a mix of mushrooms, peppers, diced chicken, and creamy sauce over toast, was the number one dish for haughty New Yorkers obsessed with all things French.
Legend has it that the dish was created in honor of E. Clara King II, owner of the Brighton Beach Hotel in the early 1900s, then one of the fanciest resort destinations for rich Manhattanites looking for fun and sun. King and his wife were blown away by the dish, and the next day it appeared as a regular item on the hotel’s menu before spreading across the city as a menu staple for decades.
The dish got so popular that it morphed into a wedding and banquet hall staple, before being relegated to a cheap TV dinner, losing all of the mystique and panache the dish enjoyed for years. Like Elvis, the King had died (as a popular restaurant choice, anyway) by the late 70s.
Students excavate an old well at the Lott House (Source: brooklyn.cuny.edu)
The famous and historic Lott House of Marine Park has been invaded by teenagers and an eager Brooklyn College Ph.D. student looking to unearth the treasures of 18th century Brooklyn. BC News chronicles the archaeological expedition with panache, detailing the story of biology teacher Marcus Watson and his class of college credit-seeking Erasmus Hall High School students and their efforts to uncover any long buried secrets that the Lott House might be hiding.
Lott House, built in 1719 by early Dutch settlers, is one of the oldest homes standing in New York City. At its pinnacle, the homestead, owned by the wealthy Lott family, used to lay host to 2oo acres of farmland spanning the distance between Kings Highway and Jamaica Bay. The property has since retreated to the one acre space surrounding the house in Marine Park.
H. Arthur Bankoff , head of New York City Landmarks and Preservation Committee, is the overall supervisor of Watson and his group of students. The team has been going through the rough rigors of digging trenches, laying guide lines, and carefully excavating the property in and around Lott House.
“The students are receiving hands-on experience in science and local history. It’s discovery learning at its best,” said Watson.
The students who volunteered for the project seemed leery at the prospect of all the hard work at first, but dismissed those concerns once the thrill of discovery took hold. The article describes when the students hit the foundation for Lott House’s old well, all their tedious work had begun to pay off.
“I didn’t think about work after that. I just felt proud,” said Enrique Spencer.
The historic property, which is also undergoing an extensive restoration project in combination with the archaeological research, is currently closed to the public. For more information on the history Lott House, and its current renovation, visit lotthouse.org.
If you’re a bicyclist or pedestrian who makes Ocean Parkway a part of your routine, you’ve probably noticed how nice the pavement is above Avenue O. And you’ve probably noticed how cruddy it is south of that spot. That’s because the Parks Department, which oversees the Ocean Parkway malls, rehabilitated the malls with fresh pavement, benches and plantings several years ago, but halted construction when funding dried up in 2010.
But that work is scheduled to resume in 2014, according to Councilman David Greenfield’s office.
We first got word of the expected renovations from Friends of Ocean Parkway. According to the group’s website, both the east and west malls are slated for repairs from Avenue O down to Avenue Y. They say the area is “extremely hazardous for pedestrians and bicyclists and require immediate attention.”
Greenfield’s office confirmed the information for Sheepshead Bites, and sent us information from the Parks Department saying that the project is currently in the design phase, which will wrap up by December. It will be put to bid in the spring, and construction is expected to begin in spring 2014.
We asked the councilman’s office if they were aware of the 130-year-old historic milestone that sits near Avenue P on the western mall. It’s the last of 11 markers that once guided tourists and early commuters, starting at the circle at the southwest corner of Prospect Park and ending just before the ocean at Brighton Beach. The second to last stone is believed to have been ripped out by Department of Transportation or CEMUSA contractors when they built a new bus stop at Neptune Avenue, and preservationists fear that the same may happen during Ocean Parkway rehabilitation.
The councilman’s office said they’re looking into the issue and will report back.
A Budd R-11 car stops at Grand Street on the Chrystie Street connection on November 18, 1967, a week before service was to begin. Source: David Pirmann collection / NYCSubway.org
THE COMMUTE: In Part 4 of my “A Brief History Of The Subway System” series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), we discussed the decline of the subways and its renaissance. Today we discuss the merger of the BMT and IND, the history of subway nomenclature and the dawn of florescent lighting.