Tag Archives: Ulmer Park

School’s Out For the Summer!


Postcard view of P.S. 81, Ulmer Park, Brooklyn, published by S. Strauss, postmarked 16 July 1911.

The Town of Gravesend’s School District No. 3 was established 25 October 1870 to serve pupils in the village of Unionville, the waterfront settlement on Gravesend Bay later called Gravesend Beach or Ulmer Park, and now absorbed by Bath Beach. The schoolhouse on the postcard above went up shortly after, at what would become the corner of Cropsey Avenue and Bay 41st Street, the approximate site of 2550 Cropsey Avenue. When new it stood in a cedar grove. Inside it must have resembled another primitive schoolhouse in Gravesend, where Nellie May (Ryder) Bennett (1873-1951) recalled how “cold air blew up out of the wide cracks of the plank floor and, in bitter weather, [how] she would sit on one foot at a time, spreading out her woolen skirt, in an effort to keep warm.” A central stove threw heat on the students seated closest to it but barely radiated to the classroom’s far corners. Bennett remembered one sneaky boy who tossed Limburger cheese on the coals. Early recess, anyone?


“Antiquated and in the way of waterfront highway improvements, the old P.S. 81 building near Gravesend Bay soon is to be demolished.” Brooklyn Times Union, Sunday 2 February 1930.

In time District School No. 3 came to be called P.S. 81. The little wooden schoolhouse stood until early 1930 when the widening of Cropsey Avenue forced its demolition. It might have survived had it been moved back 15 or 20 feet, as a plan suggested, but by then the sixty-year-old structure had been surpassed by larger, modern, brick–and fireproof–schools erected in the neighborhood.

Incidentally, until last week I never knew this postcard of P.S. 81 existed. I almost didn’t bid for it, thinking its caption must be a printing error of the type sometimes encountered on old cards. But the newspaper image above, from the Brooklyn Times Union, definitely shows the same building, thus confirming that the postcard depicts what it claims to!

[Nellie May (Ryder) Bennett’s memories are recorded by her daughter, Gertrude Ryder Bennett, in her book Turning Back the Clock in Gravesend: Background of the Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead (Francestown, N.H.: Marshall Jones Company, 1982).]

Copyright © 2019 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)



Filed under schools

Gravesend Characters Past: The White Rats Picnic of 1910


“Band at White Rats outing Ulmer Park Aug 4th 1910.” Photography by Jack Rossley published in the New York Clipper on Saturday 20 August 1910 with the caption “The White Rats Band.” [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Is it finally spring? The calendar says so, but these fluctuating temperatures have yet to break free of winter. We’re all ready for outdoor activities sans umbrellas and boots. Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, my thoughts turn this time to long-gone Ulmer Park, at the foot of 25th Avenue on Gravesend Bay, the setting for countless warm-weather excursions, such as the picnic-cum-baseball game thrown by the White Rats in 1910. The White Rats was a short-lived labor union of male vaudeville performers founded by the monologist George Fuller Golden (who penned a 1909 history of the organization, My Lady Vaudeville and Her White Rats). Although the Manhattan-based White Rats were not technically residents of Gravesend, and thus outside my loose definition of “Gravesend characters,” they did visit for a day, and left this record of how they spent their time:

New York Clipper, Saturday 13 August 1910 (p. 649, col. 5).


The annual Summer affair of the White Rats was held at Ulmer Park, Brooklyn, N.Y., Thursday, Aug. 4, and proved to be a big success, despite the threatening weather early in the day. The White Rats Band led the procession, down Broadway to the Thirty-third Street station, where the members and their families took the car for Brooklyn. Mayor Harry Thomson headed the parade. As the train passed Greenwood Cemetery, the band struck up “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?”

1907 overview of William Texter's Ulmer Park. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

A 1907 overview of William Texter’s Ulmer Park at the foot of 25th Avenue, Gravesend Beach, Brooklyn. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

At the athletic grounds refreshments were served and two nines from the Rats played an exciting ball game, with the score 11 to 10 at the finish. The Freeport, L.I., Rats arrived in seven automobiles. They brought their baseball suits, and quickly challenged the New Yorkers for a contest on the diamond. The teams [lined?] up as follows:

Freeports: Cartwell[?], Morton [Sam Morton, Director], Smith, Pettet, Bailey, Austin, Castenbeer[?], Middleton and Kelm. New Yorks: McCree [Junie McCree, Vice-President], Platti[?], Felix [Geo. Felix, Director], Jerome, Klein, Barnes, Lorella [Colie Lorella, Trustee], Brockman and Jenkins. Umpires: Potts and Dody.

After a series of strike-outs, knock-outs and other laughable incidents, interrupted occasionally by some real ball playing, the score stood 9 to 1 in favor of the Out-of-Towners. Several photos were taken by Jack Rossley, who has favored THE CLIPPER with copies of them, which will appear in our next issue.

[Two of Rossley’s photos, the originals of which were found tucked inside a copy of Golden’s My Lady Vaudeville, are reproduced here. They were published in the New York Clipper on Saturday 20 August 1910, p. 671, col. 3.]


“White Rats Outing Aug. 4 / 10 Ulmer Park B’klyn NY.” Photograph by Jack Rossley published in the New York Clipper on Saturday 20 August 1910 with the caption “The White Rats Ball Team and the Rooters.” [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Mike Conkley[?] was a successful coach. Among the rooters were Major Doyle [Major James D. Doyle, Director], Joe Phillips, “Pop” Donegan, John World, Tom Lewis, who had got his second wind after playing in the first game; Harry Thomson, Harry Mountford [Secretary to Board of Directors], Tim Cronin [Director], Mattie Keene, Fred Buskirk, Frank Evans, Billy Hart, Mlle. Marie, Andy McLeod, Kelly and Ashby, and M. Keeler. The ladies enjoyed the fun immensely, and the band made a big hit. After supper the Freeporters automobiled homeward, and the Manhattanites trained it to Thirty-fourth Street, and from there paraded with the band to the clubrooms.

Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

Leave a comment

Filed under Gravesend characters, Ulmer Park