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Entries in History (127)

Thursday
Mar212013

Then and Now Thursday: The Ebbets Field Flag Pole 

Not sure how I missed this when it was in the news back in December, but now's as good a time as any to bring it up: did you know that the flagpole that stood in right-center field for Ebbets Field's entire 45-year life span is currently holding court at the junction of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues?

This flag pole's history is actually a rather interesting one. It found its way to  a VFW post in East Flatbush after the stadium was demolished in 1960, and there it stood for about 50 years as the hall became a casket company and later a church. Marty Markowitz, in his infinite wisdom, knew the history of this flag pole the whole time, and happened to mention it to developer Bruce Ratner while the Barclays Center was under construction. Ratner then had the flagpole removed and replanted in a true place of honor, right in front of the arena, with a plaque to boot.

I can't help but find all this to be incredibly cool, and love the fact this this little bit of Brooklyn history was tracked down, preserved, and recognized for its historical significance. Ebbets Field now exists solely in the memories of those who had the privelige of seeing it in person, and in Brooklyn lore for those who didn't. To actually have a tangible memento of it, and such a prominent one, right there for all to see, makes you stop dead in your tracks.

Wednesday
Jan162013

Facelift for Newsstand on Fifth and Ninth

The tiny, ramshackle news stand that's held down the corner of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street since at least 1931 has gotten a glassy makeover.

I was always a fan of S&P's previous incarnation, which was brimming with newspapers, magazines, fading Spanish-language advertisements, cigarette ads, and even a couple old pay phones. The new version has been stripped of all character, the newspapers and magazines are gone save for a couple dailies and popular periodicals, and the interior is essentially wall to wall refrigerator cases full of soda bottles and chip bags.

While the old news stand was decidedly run down and "nothing special," at least it had a hint of that old-school New York character. And while its replacement is shiny and new, it's just a glass box. I sense a trend.

Wednesday
Nov072012

His & Hers Social and Athletic Club Gutted

One of the most oddball storefronts in the neighborhood has to be the long-abandoned home of the "His & Hers Social and Athletic Club" on Fifth Avenue near Carroll Street, an old gathering place where neighborhood folks used to hang out, drink, have social events, and do some betting on the ponies and football (hence the "Athletic"). I've never seen the front door open before, but when I walked by the other day it was wide open, and workers inside the space were putting the finishing touches on a complete gut job, seen below.

When I first wrote about the old storefront back in 2009, actor and local resident John Ventimiglia had expressed an interest in turning the space, which had recently been purchased (along with the old shoe repair shop next door) by the Fifth Avenue Committee, into an art gallery. That obviously never came to fruition, and now both of those ancient storefronts, remnants of an earlier era, have been gutted.

Thursday
Oct252012

O'Connor's to Reopen In Six Weeks, According to Owner

It was back in February of 2011 when the owner of legendary dive bar O'Connor's, which has been on Fifth Avenue between Bergen and Dean Streets since 1931, announced that the bar would be undergoing extensive renovations, more than tripling its size and bringing it into the 21st century with the addition of a back room, a second floor, a stage, food, and draft lines.The bar didn't close until this past June, and since then work has been sporadic as the site became more and more of an eyesore.

But construction has recently accelerated, and when I peeked through the doorway a couple days ago owner Mike Maher was on his way out. We chatted for a couple minutes, and he told me that while construction is obviously behind schedule, he plans to re-open in about six weeks.

I only had a brief look into the darkened construction site, but it wasn't pretty in there. We won't know the full extent of the reconstruction, and whether longtime bartenders like Chris and Matt (and the longtime regulars) will return, until the bar re-opens.

Wednesday
Oct172012

Restored Prospect Park Lakeside to Open Friday

Back in 1867, Prospect Park designers Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead designed a formal lakefront landscape in the northeast corner of Prospect Park. Meant to provide a tranquil area for families and musicians, it included a small cove with a little island near the edge of the Lake, surrounded by esplanades. Because musicians would row out to the island to provide entertainment to those out for Sunday afternoon strolls, it came to be known as Music Island, and the area surrounding it was called Concert Grove.

Then came Robert Moses. In 1959, he had the island bulldozed, filled in much of the cove, and built an ice skating rink in its place, below. What was left of Concert Grove and its ornate pavillions fell into a state of disrepair. Slowly, though, it began to come back. The pavillions were restored in the late 1980s, and on Friday, thanks to a $74 Million restoration, the restored Music Island, lakefront esplanade, and Concert Grove will open to the public once again. The ribbon-cutting will include the dedication of the Chaim Baier Music Island and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Esplanade, which will be open on weekends.

In order to return Music Island to Olmstead and Vaux's original vision, nearly 10,000 cubic yards of dirt had to be removed, and over 3,000 cubic yards were brought in to rebuild it, according to the New York Times. Below is how the area looks now, with Music Island at center. And this is only Phase 1: next year two skating rinks and a 25,000 square foot facility will open nearby.

Photos via Prospect Park Alliance