Category Archives: localities

Blue Christmas

You might say I’m a sucker for a cyanotype. If you don’t know that word, it’s pronounced “sigh-AN-o-type,” with the accent on the “AN.” Cyan is really just a fancy name for greenish-blue. A cyanotype is a photograph printed using the same process for blueprints, those white-line architectural drawings on blue paper. But I don’t really care about the science involved. I just love them because cyanotype photographs are hauntingly beautiful. Sad, even. Or maybe that’s just me giving too much weight to their melancholy blueness. Take a look at these Gravesend beauties and you decide. The first three were taken by the artist Charles William Bauhan (1861-1938), or, possibly, his wife, Agda (also an artist), who lived in Gravesend, briefly, during the summer of 1893.

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“Summer 1893 at Gravesend L.I.” The Bauhans rented rooms in this Dutch farmhouse from Homer Wiltse (that’s him, leaning on the gate). It stood on the north side of Gravesend Neck Road just east of P.S. 95, and was demolished around 1930 when the schoolyard was expanded.

Blue_Christmas_Hicks_1893_watermarked

“1893 | View looking east from window of above house. This house is said to be between 200 & 300 years old.” This is the so-called “Lady Moody House” at 27 Gravesend Neck Road. When the Bauhans lived next door, the Moody House was not quite 200 hundred years old; today it is in the ballpark of 300 and finally an official New York City landmark. The tower just beyond belonged to the Gravesend Reformed Dutch Church on McDonald Avenue, dedicated in 1834 and demolished late in 1893, not long after this photograph was taken.

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“Coney I. Creek. | Gravesend | 1893.” That is probably Charles William Bauhan sailing on Coney Island Creek. He painted a small watercolor of the rear of the Coney Island Elephant (see the building below) from that vantage point on June 18, 1893, so perhaps this cyanotype was snapped the same day, possibly by his wife, Agda.

Blue_Christmas_Elephantine_Colossus_watermarked

“West End at Coney Island.” This, my favorite cyanotype of all, shows Elephantine Colossus on Coney Island, near the intersection of Surf Avenue and West 12th Street. The Shaw Channel Chute went up around the Elephant in 1889, and both burned to the ground on September 27, 1896. This image probably captures the forlorn structures in their final years.

May your holidays be warm and bright! –Joseph


Copyright © 2017 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

[I am sorry for the obnoxious watermarks, but these are unique images, and I’d rather not have them copied without attribution.]

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Filed under Charles William Bauhan, Coney Island, Elephantine Colossus, Gravesend Neck Road, Gravesend Reformed Dutch Church, Lady Moody House

Coney Island Palimpsest

Looking west through the temporary arch over Surf Avenue at West 8th Street, Coney Island, August 1893 {Collection of Joseph Ditta}

Looking west through the temporary arch over Surf Avenue at West 8th Street, Coney Island, August 1893. {Collection of Joseph Ditta}

Twenty-seven thousand firemen descended on Coney Island in August 1893. No, the place wasn’t burning, for once! They came for the 21st annual convention of the New York State Firemen’s Association and a week of dinners, speeches, boxing matches and parades. As the New-York Tribune described the setting on Monday 14 August 1893 (p. 10, col. 1), Coney Island “was one mass of flags and bunting. It looked as if . . .

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. . . every one tried to outdo his next-door neighbor, and the result was the most lavish display of decorative material ever seen at the Island. The preparations for the firemen’s convention ended with these decorations, and yesterday was given over to welcoming the delegates. The line of march for the big parade next Friday is covered with flags, and across Surf ave., near Eighth-st., a big arch has been erected, decorated with pictures of engines, hose carts and hook and ladder wagons. Across the top, in big letters, are the words ‘Welcome to Coney Island’.”

It’s easy to imagine this fanciful arch stood where the pedestrian bridge would later span Surf Avenue connecting the West 8th Street subway station to the New York Aquarium. The arch is long gone, of course; it probably came down right after the convention. The bridge went up in the mid-1960s and served for half a century. Safety concerns prompted its overnight demolition in August 2013.

The New York Aquarium's pedestrian bridge spanning Surf Avenue as it looked in June 2011 {Courtesy of Google Street View}.

The New York Aquarium’s pedestrian bridge spanning Surf Avenue as it looked in June 2011. {Courtesy of Google Street View}


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

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Summering in Sheepshead Bay

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Jones’ Cottages, circa 1910. The four houses to the left in the main image (nos. 2631-2639 East 19th Street) and the bungalow (no. 1908 Jerome Avenue) survive as private houses. Another house (not shown) stood next to the bungalow, near the southwest corner of Jerome and Ocean Avenues.

Not sure where to beat the summer heat? A century ago you could have taken rooms at Jones’ Cottages, a compound of seven boarding houses in Sheepshead Bay clustered around the southeast corner of Jerome Avenue and East 19th Street. The houses — furnished by proprietress Mrs. J. C. Jones-Moneuse in mahogany and Circassian walnut furniture — enclosed a communal “rustic garden” of “peaceful delights for those seeking a cool, quiet evening.” Covered walks connected each cottage to a dining hall, where guests devoured home-cooked Southern fare — fried chicken, sweet potatoes, corn bread, and sour milk biscuits — before sinking into hammocks to the strains of nightly music. Every room had hot and cold running water, with valet, manicurist, and Lady’s maid services available at all hours. All this for $2.00 a day and up. Five of the Jones’ Cottages stand today as private houses.

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

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Father’s Day on Gravesend Bay

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“Gravesend Bay, near New York, Sep. 5, 1884,” signed “R. O’B.” {Collection of Joseph Ditta}

I like to imagine the figures in this little watercolor of Gravesend Bay are father and son, wading on the rocky shore, watching the small moored ships and seagulls wheeling by while the scrubby hook of Coney Island dips into the sea at Norton’s Point. My father had no real interest in history, but to humor me he’d drive us around the neighborhood exploring. We “found” Coney Island Creek this way. I never tired of gazing across it with him.


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

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After the Races

Coney.Island.Jockey.Club.Police.Meet.recto.watermarked

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

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?


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

 

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