After the Races

The New York State Legislature banned betting in 1910, forcing Brooklyn’s three major horse racing tracks — at Gravesend, Brighton Beach, and Sheepshead Bay — to close. Once the quadrupeds were gone, the turf turned to legal sporting events, such automobile racing and stunt flying. In this real photo postcard, a high-hatted spectator at one of the Police Honor Roll Relief Fund Games (possibly this meet from 1916) smiles at us against the backdrop of the grandstand at Sheepshead Bay. Is that Hamilton B. Urglar to the left, in the black and white stripes?

Real photo postcard: "POLICE MEET" / SHEEPSHEAD BAY / RACE TRACK / By Bowman {Collection of Joseph Ditta}

Real photo postcard, circa 1916: “POLICE MEET” / SHEEPSHEAD BAY / RACE TRACK / By Bowman {Collection of Joseph Ditta}


Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

 

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The Curious Case of Quentin(e) Road

This is the tale of how Brooklyn’s Quentin Road was originally called Avenue Q but almost became Quentine Avenue. Bear with me.

When the Town Survey Commissioners of Kings County laid out the streets of Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht, and Gravesend in 1874, in advance of the eventual expansion of the city of Brooklyn, they kept simplicity in mind:

The disadvantages of giving, over so large an area as this, ordinary street names, were so obvious, and the convenience, in the future, of a more simple and regular system was so evident, that the use of names, except in local cases, was rejected, and numerals or alphabet-letters substituted.

The streets and avenues in South Brooklyn [i.e., today’s Red Hook and Gowanus neighborhoods] being known by numbers, these were continued southerly and easterly, down to 113th street at Fort Hamilton and out to 28th avenue. Along Gravesend Bay the streets are respectively “Bay First,” “Bay Second, &c., up to “Bay 50th.” For the central and eastern section, West street [i.e., Dahill Road] was taken as a starting point, and the streets named “East First,” “East Second,” &c., up to “East 109th” ; the avenues being named “Avenue A,” &c., southerly to “Avenue Z.” In this way we avoid an endless confusion of names; we furnish a convenient key to find the relative location of a given street or avenue; and we simplify very much the future house numbering, so long a vexed problem in Brooklyn.

[Town Survey Commission of Kings County. Report of Samuel McElroy, C.E., Superintendent of Survey. Submitted, October 31st, 1874 (Brooklyn, N.Y. : Rome Brothers, 1874), 12-13. View a copy of the accompanying map in the collections of the New York Public Library.]

We have lived with that run of alphabet-avenues ever since: Avenue P, Avenue T, Avenue X, Avenue Z. Most names bestowed by the Town Survey Commission survive unaltered. Some, though, have been gussied up over time: Wouldn’t you rather live on “Albermarle Road” than plain old “Avenue A?” Or the tonier-sounding “Glenwood Road” instead of “Avenue G?” How about “Quentin Road?” That’s surely an improvement over “Avenue Q,” which sounds like a sneeze!

Deed Realty Company advertisement for 2216 "Avenue Q." [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Deed Realty Company advertisement for “2216 Avenue Q.” [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Real estate developers were behind most of those English-inspired name switches (“pip pip, cheerio, and all that rot”), but those of us in southern Brooklyn have heard, repeatedly, how “Avenue Q” was renamed in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin Roosevelt (1897-1918), a World War I pilot shot down over France on Bastille Day, 1918. Few know that the idea to change “Avenue Q” to “Quentin Road” was afloat as early as 1910, when Quentin Roosevelt would have turned 13 years old! Back then, members of the Flatbush Board of Trade suggested giving “real” names to all the letter avenues: not only would “Avenue Q” be called “Quentin Road (after young Roosevelt),” but “Avenue R” would become “Roosevelt Road.” (For a full list of their proposed changes, see Daniel Frazer’s story at Ditmas Park Corner, which comes from a report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of February 16, 1910).”

One might guess that after Quentin Roosevelt’s death a proclamation went forth from the City Fathers (sound the trumpets!) that HENCEFORTH, the street formerly known as Avenue Q, in the Borough of Brooklyn, would hereby be called Quentin Road in honor of our fallen hero. But one would be wrong.

Postcard view looking north up East 21st Street to "Ave. Q," now Quentin Road. The house behind the trees is still standing at 2023 Quentin Road. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Postcard view looking north up East 21st Street to “Ave. Q,” now Quentin Road. The house behind the trees is still standing at 2023 Quentin Road. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

The official switch to “Quentin Road” came about far more prosaically. On January 22, 1922, Francis P. O’Connor of Brooklyn petitioned Alderman Cox on behalf of the residents and property owners along “Avenue Q” (he lived at no. 2215) to change the name of the street between East 16th Street and its eastern end at Jamaica Bay to “Quentin Road.” The reason for the request, O’Connor explained, was that the letter “Q” was so hard to write and equally difficult to decipher that mail addressed to “Avenue Q” constantly went astray. And, to bolster his argument, he added that some of southern Brooklyn’s crosstown avenues had already dropped their alphabetical monikers for fuller names: Avenue C = Cortelyou Road; Avenue F = Farragut Road; etc. Alderman Cox referred O’Connor’s petition to the Committee on Public Thoroughfares for consideration. [1]

The Committee met on March 1, 1922 and resolved “That the name of Avenue Q, between East 16th street and its easterly terminus at Jamaica Bay, in the Borough of Brooklyn . . . is changed to and shall hereafter be known as ‘Quentine [sic] avenue [sic].'” Yes, Quentine Avenue! A simple typo, surely, but it gets better. The resolution was laid over until the Board of Aldermen next met. [2]

On March 7, 1922, a member of the Board must have noticed that the language of the proposed resolution applied only to the eastern length of Avenue Q; the section between Stillwell Avenue and East 13th Street would continue to be called by its old name, so far as anyone was concerned. So the Board recommitted the resolution for correction to the Committee on Public Thoroughfares. No one had yet caught the “Quentine Avenue” goof. [3]

Deed Realty Company advertisement for 2118 "Avenue Q" (house at right). [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Deed Realty Company advertisement for “2118 Avenue Q” (house at right). [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

At the Committee’s next meeting, on March 14, 1922, the resolution was amended to correct the omission of the western half of Avenue Q, and switch “Quentin[e] Avenue” back to “Quentin Road”: “[T]he name of Avenue Q, running from Stillwell avenue to East 13th street and thence from East 16th street to Flatbush avenue, in the Borough of Brooklyn . . . shall hereafter be known and designated as ‘Quentine [sic] Road.'” Now the entire three-mile-plus length of the street would have one name. The wrong name, mind you, but one name. This decision, too, was laid over until the Board of Aldermen next met. [4]

On March 21, 1922, the Board voted to adopt the resolution “That the name of Avenue Q, running from Stillwell avenue to East 13th street and thence from East 16th street to Flatbush avenue, in the Borough of Brooklyn . . . shall hereafter be known and designated as ‘Quentine [sic] Road.'” Still, no one had caught the “Quentine” typo. “Avenue Q” was now officially “Quentine Road.” [5]

Finally, at the meeting of April 25, 1922, the resolution was amended “by striking out the letter ‘e’ at the end of the word ‘Quentine.'” [6]

At last! Quentin Road! Not Quentine Road. Not Quentine Avenue. (Are you dizzy yet?) Just Quentin Road, as we’ve come to know it these past 90-odd years. Note, though, that in all the preceding red tape, not once was the word “Quentin” linked to “Quentin Roosevelt,” the supposed namesake of the change.

We can only hope the residents of the former “Avenue Q” have been receiving their mail regularly since. They might not be, especially if their letter carriers have relied on the map of Brooklyn below; originally issued in 1911, it was hastily updated in August 1922 to reflect the newly renamed street. The publishers got it wrong, of course. Note the circled “Quentine Rd.” Sigh . . . .

Quentin.Road.map.1922

Detail from Map of Borough of Brooklyn (Williams Map and Guide Co., 1911; corrected August 1922; issued as a supplement to the Brooklyn Eagle Almanac for 1923. [Collection of the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/item/2005625362/]

(Many thanks to Lisanne Anderson for bringing this map to my attention!)


Notes.

[1]​ Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York From Jan. 2 to Mar. 28, 1922, vol. 1, p. 117, January 24, 1922, No. 144, “Residents and Property Owners — Petition for Change of Avenue Q to Quentin Road, Borough of Brooklyn.”

[2]​ Ibid., p. 439, March 1, 1922, No. 144 (G. O. No. 11), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Resolution Changing Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentin Road.”

[3]​ Ibid., pp. 494-495, March 7, 1922, Int. No. 144 (G. O. No. 11), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Resolution Changing Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentin Road.”

[4]​ Ibid., pp. 519-520, March 14, 1922, No. 144 (G. O. No. 29), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Amended Resolution Changing Name of Avenue G [sic], Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentine [sic] Road.”

[5]​ Ibid., p. 550, March 21, 1922, G. O. 29 (Int. No. 144), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Amended Resolution Changing Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentine [sic] Road.”

[6]​ Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York From Jan. 2 to Mar. 28, 1922, vol. 2, p. 177, April 25, 1922, No. 477, “Resolution Amending Resolution Changing the Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to ‘Quentin Road.'”

[Published copies of the Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York were consulted at the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library of the New-York Historical Society.]


Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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When the Sea Beach Line Was New

Work has begun on a four-year, 395-million-dollar project to revitalize the nine crumbling, open-air platforms and stations of the N line subway, still called by many the “Sea Beach Line,” after the Sea Beach Railroad, the late nineteenth-century Coney Island excursion route it replaced in 1914-15. Here is a photo of one of the N’s station houses (it is unidentified, but all the stations followed this basic design), taken when the line had just been completed in 1915. It comes from a publication showcasing the Associated Tile Manufacturers, who furnished the pattern of “reds, browns and greens on a ground of light tan.” Let’s hope the expensive and lengthy restoration returns us to this dignified past.

Sea_Beach_station_house_tiles_cropped_watermarked

“Station Building, N.Y. Municipal Railway, Sea Beach Line, Brooklyn, N.Y.” {Collection of Joseph Ditta}


Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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Everybody Dance!

The number of social clubs that proliferated in Gravesend — and every other small American town for that matter — at the end of the nineteenth century boggles the mind. Every young person belonged to every other young person’s club. Here, Annie Kreyer, daughter of hotel keeper John G. Kreyer, invited friends to an evening’s entertainment at her father’s establishment on the southeast corner of Kings Highway and Coney Island Avenue.

Invitation to the first annual masquerade of the Olive Social Club at Kreyer's Hotel, Gravesend, January 7, 1891. {Collection of Joseph Ditta}

Invitation to the first annual masquerade of the Olive Social Club at Kreyer’s Hotel, Gravesend, January 7, 1891. {Collection of Joseph Ditta}

I’ve not yet found a description of Annie Kreyer’s party, but it probably followed the pattern described by Gertrude Ryder Bennett in her Turning Back the Clock in Gravesend: Background of the Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead (Francestown, New Hampshire: Marshall Jones Company, 1982), 76:

Usually in the autumn, a group of young people appointed a committee which arranged for monthly dances to take place during the winter, and decided in whose homes these would be held. The women supplied the refreshments and the men furnished the music. The hostess tacked unbleached muslin over her ingrain carpets to make dancing easier and to preserve the original floor covering from the lively heels of her guests. How they enjoyed the Saratoga lancers, schottisch, Virginia reel, quadrille and the polka! Of course the waltz, with its romantic appeal, bid high for popularity. / . . . / Everyone liked games as well as dancing. “Throw the handkerchief,” “Going to Jerusalem” [better known as musical chairs], “Charades” and those “slightly naughty” ones which offered the opportunity to hold hands. During an evening the guests clustered around the piano or organ singing popular songs like “Asleep in the Deep,” “Alice, Where Art Thou?” and “Love Me and the World Is Mine,” interspersed with patriotic music and hymns.


Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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Der Koloss Elefant auf Coney Island

Most of you know of (and kindly indulge) my obsession for Elephantine Colossus, the giant tin-skinned, elephant-shaped structure that stood on Coney Island between 1884 and 1896. Here’s my latest find, which arrived today all the way from Germany (you’ve got to love eBay!). It’s a page from the Illustrirte Zeitung [or Illustrated News] for August 1, 1885, showing our Elephant in head-on and X-ray views. These are the same images that accompanied a Scientific American feature a month earlier. If anyone reads German, I’d love to have a translation of the article in the left column — “Der Koloss von Coney-Island” — though I suspect it’s the same recitation of hyperbolic statistics that followed the Elephant wherever he went!

"Der Koloss von Coney-Island," Illustrirte Zeitung, August 1, 1885, p. 119. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

“Der Koloss von Coney-Island,” Illustrirte Zeitung, August 1, 1885, p. 119. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Scientific.American.1885.07.11

“The Colossal Elephant of Coney Island,” Scientific American, July 11, 1885. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]


Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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