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To Brooklyn and Back

Nov 30, 2011 3:22 PM | 1 comment

Join us this evening as Aziz Rahman of the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival presents the film, "To Brooklyn and Back - A Mohawk Story"  In this hour-long documentary filmmaker Reaghan Tarbell traces her roots from the close-knit community of Kahnawake in Quebec to the bustling community of Mohawk steel workers in Boerum Hill Brooklyn.


The wine and cheese reception begins at 6:30. Seating is limited to 40 people, with tickets being given out at 6:30. The film will begin at 7:00 p.m.


Calling all Teachers!

Nov 29, 2011 11:01 AM | 0 comments

Photograph for BPL by Al Pereira

This winter, our Brooklyn Connections program is proud to present two professional development workshops for NYC teachers.  These events are the first in a new series of teacher workshops to be held at the Brooklyn Colleciton during the academic year.  Our workshops are open to all teachers in the five boroughs and offer the unqiue opportunity to explore the Brooklyn Colleciton in a small group with our dedicated staff and favorite guest historians.


Local History 101:  Brooklyn's Past (and Present) in the Classroom

December 15, 2011, 9:00am-3:00pm

A one-day workshop on bringing local and community history into the classroom.  Work with original archival documents; practice using our materials to fulfill Common Core standards; and develop new methods for increasing student engagement using Brooklyn history.  Breakfast will be included and teachers will receive a packet of resources to use in the classroom.


Brooklyn and the Civil Rights Movement

January 5, 2012, 9:00am-3:00pm

Teachers are invited to this special one-day workshop on Brooklyn's role in the Civil Rights Movement.  We will be joined by expert historian Dr. Brian Purnell, who will guide teachers through our collection of original Civil Rights materials.  Teachers will gain both content knowledge and techniques for teaching Civil Rights from a local perspective.  Each teacher will take home a packet of Common Core-based resources at the end of the day.  Free breakfast and lunch will be provided. 


More information about both sessions can be found on our Teacher Page.  Reservations are required and space is limited for both events, so don't delay!

We hope that all of Brooklynology's teacher readers out there will join us.  And if you aren't a teacher, we ask that you help us to spread the word!  Thanks!

For more information about all of our Brookyln Connections services, visit our program page

New Exhibit Opening and Film Program, Weds. November 30th at 6:30pm

Nov 25, 2011 10:38 AM | 0 comments

Please join us on the evening of Wednesday, November 30th for the opening of a new exhibit in our display space and a screening of the documentary To Brooklyn and Back: A Mohawk Journey.

The exhibit, Brooklyn, Then and Now, is the culmination of the efforts of our summer interns, Kristi and Anastasiya, who worked with us through the Multicultural Internship Program (MIP) for Brooklyn teenagers.  After gaining familiarity with our photograph collections, Kristi and Anastasiya picked historic images depicting their own neighborhoods as they were thirty, fifty, or even a hundred years ago.  Armed with a digital camera, a keen sense of direction, and their own avid curiosity, the interns set out to re-shoot those old photographs in today’s setting. 

The Sheepshead Bay footbridge connecting Manhattan Beach to the mainland in the 1950s and...

...the same bridge, as it appears today.

Several of their images are now on display in the Brooklyn Collection, and more of their work on comparing Brooklyn's past to its present can be seen at the historic photo website

Presented by Aziz Rahman of the Brooklyn Film & Arts Festival, the film, To Brooklyn and Back, is the personal story of Mohawk filmmaker Reaghan Tarbell from Kahnawake, Quebec as she explores her roots and traces the connections of her family to the once legendary Mohawk community in Brooklyn through the stories of the women who lived there.  For over 50 years, the Kahnawake Mohawks of Quebec, Canada occupied a 10 square block hub in the North Gowanus section of Brooklyn, known as Little Caughnawaga. The men, skilled ironworkers, came to New York in search of work, and helped to build iconic New York structures such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the George Washington Bridge, and many others. They brought their wives, children and often, extended family with them.

The Brooklyn Collection is located on the 2nd floor of the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza, and will open to visitors at 6:30pm for a wine and cheese reception.  The film screening will commence at 7:00pm.  Seating for the screening is limited to 40 people; tickets will be handed out at 6:30.

A Day to Give Thanks

Nov 18, 2011 10:34 AM | 1 comment

Klepner at the Nevele Country Club annual Turkey Chase

Ronald Klepner, 1950

Thanksgiving, a favorite holiday among the Collection staff, is this week.  Thanksgiving dates back to colonial times as a day for religious observance and celebration of the season's harvest.  In 1817, it became a legal New York holiday and in 1863, it was proclaimed "a day for national thanksgiving praise and prayer" by President Lincoln.  While Thanksgiving was typically observed in November, there were some years in the 19th century where it was held in December.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 28, 1883

Since FDR's presidency, it has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.


The dinners served undoubtedly have changed over the years.  The festive supper in the mid-1800s would have consisted of roast turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and turnips, chicken pot pie, cold roast pig, boiled onions, baked Indian pudding, and oysters.  The latter were common, especially in New York and Brooklyn, with an abundance of the mollusk found locally in New York Harbor.

A Thanksgiving menu in 1899 might have looked like this:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 26, 1899

The essential items according to the Eagle included--among many--roast turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and mince pie.  While some of us may no longer consider mince pie a Thanksgiving necessity, the recommended recipe for the pie, according to the Eagle is:

  1. Two pounds beef
  2. Two pounds layer raisins
  3. Two pounds citron
  4. Two nutmegs, grated
  5. 1/4 ounce clove
  6. One quart sherry wine
  7. Two pounds beef suet
  8. 1/2 pound candied lemon peel
  9. Four pounds apples
  10. Two pounds sultana raisins
  11. Two pounds sugar
  12. 1/2 ounce cinnamon
  13. 1/4 ounce mace
  14. One teaspoon salt
  15. One quart brandy
  16. Juice and rinds of two oranges and two lemons

"Cover the meat with boiling water and simmer gently until tender, then stand away until cold.  Shred the suet and chop it fine.  Pare and chop the apples, stone the raisins, shred citron.  When the meat is perfectly cold, shop it fine and mix all the dry ingredients with it, then add the juice and rinds of the lemons and oranges.  Mix it well and pack in a stone jar; pour over the liquor and cover closely and stand in a cool place."  Place the filling in a pie crust and bake.

The article also suggests recipes for mushroom soup, turkey, pumpkin pie, oyster patties, cranberry jelly, and lettuce salad with dressing.  If you are looking to cook a 1940s style roast turkey with oyster stuffing, check out a previous post, supplied again by way of the Eagle.

Fred and Aaron Grant at the Parade, 1953

Besides the food, I also look forward to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  It began in 1924 with marching bands, clowns and twenty-five live animals from the Central Park Zoo.  Since then, the likes of Spider Man, Bugs Bunny, Kermit the Frog and many more have graced the skies as massive floating balloons.

And although many go out to eat...

...some are mandated to stay in.


What I enjoy most about Thanksgiving is taking the time to reflect and give thanks, spending time with friends and family, and passing out due to an overload of tryptophan.

McGuire, 3, Bay Ridge nusery

Wayne McGuire, 1951

Welcome Home, Soldier.

Nov 17, 2011 11:24 AM | 0 comments

As World War II came to an end, the Eagle pointed out that "war is not ended with the defeat of the enemy's arms."  Life in Brooklyn would continue, but it had to adjust to the return of its brave soldiers.  326,000 men had served in the war, 12% of Brooklyn's total population and, more staggeringly, 58% of Brooklyn's males between the ages of 18 and 37.  While Brooklynites were thrilled to have their boys back home, there was a question as to where all of these returning citizens were going to live.  

The Crosby Family and their new home in Manhattan Beach, March 1946

Demand for housing was high across the city, but particularly among veterans.  In February 1946, the Times reported that on a single day 500 families applied for housing when only 5 single rooms and 2 apartments were available.  Mrs. William H. Browning, the wife of a veteran and a former Red Cross worker told the Times, "I'm so discouraged.  I wish I had stayed overseas."

Young newlyweds and expanding families found themselves living in hotels, basements and friends' spare bedrooms.  Some families resorted to sharing single-family homes because alternatives were simply not available. 

In response to growing demands, city, state and federal government funding was allocated for Emergency Temporary Housing for Veterans.  The bulk of this funding became available in 1946, providing a boom in veterans' housing in Brooklyn and beyond.  As the housing was viewed as "temporary," projects were developed simply and quickly.  The city rented large plots of land in areas such as Jamaica Bay, Manhattan Beach, Ulmer Park and Marine Park.  And each project included its own unqiue take on the single-family dwelling, including...

The metal, airplane hanger-esque Quonset house:

Jamaica Bay project, undated

The quickly-built frame house:

The re-purposed military barrack:

Marine Park Project, November 1946

And the renovated Coast Guard building:

Given the challenges of finding housing in the city, the new residents of these homes were thrilled to be selected.  The bare bones structures were a vast improvement on their previous living situations.  Many young families were particularly excited to have their own home, something that had seemed impossible.  And better yet, they were to be surrounded by other veteran families.  The Goldstein Family in their new home in Ulmer Park, December 1946

The Newmans tackle kitchen chores together in Sheepshead Bay, March 1947While the neighborhoods were not perfect -- many lacked paved roads and were not very close to public transportation -- the residents were willing to overlook these inconveniences in exchange for a roof over their heads.  Some units were even designed with disabled veterans in mind, providing an ease of living that was unavailble in other housing options.  Ramps, specialty closets and lower appliances made disabled veterans feel more comfortable in their own home.  The Newmans, at left, were thrilled that their new home allowed them to complete chores, like washing the dishes, together.  

Veterans demonstrate conveniences of disabled veterans' housing in Sheepshead Bay, March 1947

Frank Tranchia and son mop up rain water from inside their Linden Houses home, November 1947Unfortunately, it took less than a year for families to realize that their new homes were less than perfect.  By 1947, the Eagle began reporting that the veteran's homes were more temporary than originally thought.  In particular, the Quonset structures in Ulmer Parked were defenseless against rain and snow.  Tarps were used to cover the roofs and fathers spent more time cleaning up leaks than playing with their children.  

Tarps protect Quonset houses in Ulmer Park from the rain, July 1947

Within a few years, the families were continuing to grow, but the structures were looking more and more dilapidated.  The inexpensive materials of the houses could not hold up against the regular wear-and-tear of family life.

Dilapidated homes at the Linden Houses project, November 1952

While many families prospered and moved on to permanent housing, many, many families were unable to make that leap.  For them, city housing was not a temporary solution -- it was the only option. 

In the early 1950s, with less funding and a greater demand for housing beyond the veteran community, the city began to make changes.  Some projects were re-classified to fulfill general (not just veteran) housing needs.  Others were slated for complete closure.  Perhaps the most controversial was the decision to tear down the Manhattan Beach project for the creation of a city park in 1953.  Demonstration by Manhattan Beach families, August 1953

For the hundreds of families living in Manhattan Beach, this news was unwelcome.  Mothers and children protested (above) throughout the summer of 1953 and watched as abandoned houses around them were torn down (below), a sign that that city was not going to give in.  Demolition begins as protests continue, August 1953

The Clark Family lives without electricity, December 1953In December, the city took drastic measures against the final remaining residents by shutting off the electricity in the project.  On the left, the Clark family attempted to live by candlelight in the hopes that their home would be saved - sadly, they were unsuccessful and quickly moved.  The last resident, Leon Mitrany was finally forced out in January 1954. 

The era of veterans' housing was quickly coming to an end.  The city promised to continue housing veterans in need, but it was clear that their priorities were not the same as they had been in 1946.  Many of the veterans that had been eager to call Brooklyn home felt that the city had given up on them.  It seemed that they had failed to make the transition from temporary to permanent fast enough. 

In the summer of 1954, nearly 500 former residents of the Manhattan Beach project held a reunion.  The Eagle covered the event and noted that only 7% of the families that had once lived in that community still lived in Brooklyn.  Many of Brooklyn's brave soldiers could not afford to live in their own hometown.  And yet, despite their relocations, many were determined to keep their Brooklyn roots alive with annual picnics and gatherings.  "No matter how far apart they have settled, however," the Eagle reported, "their unity still remains."

Former Residents Gather for a Picnic, July 1954