Gravesend, Brooklyn (Then and Now)
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Permanently settled in 1645, the farming town of Gravesend, Long Island, was annexed to the city (now borough) of Brooklyn, New York, in 1894. Few reminders from Gravesend’s rural days survive around the urban landscape it has become. Even its more recent past is quickly disappearing.
Brooklyn span the years 1879 to 1949, with a focus on 1900 to 1930, the period of Gravesend’s greatest development. They come from postcards, photographs, prints, lantern slides, stereoscopic views, and one map and are divided geographically into three chapters. While this book is meant as a guide to the changing sights of Gravesend, it is not an invitation to trespass. Please respect private property by keeping to the sidewalk or street when contemplating present and past. CHAPTER 1
photograph, at 28 Village Road North, was demolished in 2004. The Culver Line Elevated, today’s F train, first rumbled above McDonald Avenue in 1919. About 12 years earlier, the row of flats with ground-floor shops at 2271–2281 went up on the northeast corner of Village Road North. During the 1920s, John Van Kuyk’s bakery at 2273 McDonald Avenue (second store from left) catered to Gravesend’s Italians, who stopped in craving coffee and buns after fasting for Sunday mass at SS. Simon and Jude
Roman Catholic Church. Cornelius and Mary (Van Sicklen) Suydam are seated far right and far left in this c. 1910 photograph of their home at 98 Village Road North. They inherited the house from Mary’s widowed aunt, whose husband, Stephen J. Stillwell (1836–1882), likely built it around 1857. The Suydams ran an informal garden nursery and each Sunday decorated the Gravesend Reformed Dutch Church with colorful blooms. Their house was demolished about 1971 for the brick row numbered 6–14
included courtesy of John Antonides, Albert C. Simmel Jr., Michael V. Susi, the Varacalli family, and the New-York Historical Society. Excepting these, all archival images are from the author’s collection. All contemporary photographs were taken by the author. The opportunity to visit their historic properties was graciously provided by Dr. Justin L. Anderson, John Antonides, Annette and Stuart Mont, Armond Sorrentino, and Dennis Ferrara of the Varuna Boat Club. Ceil Kaufman welcomed me into her
temporary access while the rickety walkway was restored. By the last quarter of the 19th century, Gravesend’s quiet seaside village of Sheepshead Bay (named for the sheepshead, a fish once common in its waters) attracted wealthy residents. They built lavish summer “cottages” like those in the pre-1907 photograph. Part of so-called Millionaires’ Row, these four houses lined the shore between East Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Streets. Just one survives: 2806 Emmons Avenue (at far left), now