Map of the Month–October 2014

Railroad terminal map of New York Harbor, 1933. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Railroad terminal map of New York Harbor, 1933. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

October’s Map of the Month, “Railroad terminal map of New York Harbor” created by the Port of New York Authority in 1933, shows New York Harbor in all its early 20th century might. According to The Encyclopedia of New York, New York Harbor became the busiest port in the world around 1912 and remained so for the next 50 years.

This map is large at 44” x 37”, too large to include a reasonably good snapshot of the entire map online. Even so, I could not keep from sharing this map–it is too striking. This portion shown above can gives a sense of its visual impact.

The entire map shows railroad lines and waterfront terminals from Staten Island to the Bronx, and from East Orange, N.J. across Newark and Jamaica Bays to Flushing. The legend shows the industrial focus of this Port Authority map: waterfront terminals, types of rail yards, railroad stops and their load limits, tubes (i.e. railroad tunnels), ferries, and float bridges.

Here is a close-up showing Jersey City, lower Manhattan and Brooklyn:

Railroad terminal map of New York Harbor, 1933, detail. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Railroad terminal map of New York Harbor, 1933, detail. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The Jersey City waterfront is nearly solid with rail terminals, with rail lines funneling in from the every part of the mainland, and the lower Hudson is crisscrossed with ferries between New Jersey and Manhattan.

So why is it that Brooklyn’s many waterfront terminals are not near rail yards? These terminals were rail-marine terminals which used a car-float system to transport railcars across the Harbor. If you look closely at the pier labels for the Wallabout, Jay Street or Fulton Terminal, you will see one labeled ‘FB,’ indicating the location of the float bridge. Cargo was unloaded into rail cars, and then driven rail cars over these bridges onto the car float and ferried across the Bay by tugboat to a another terminal directly connected to a rail line. Although Brooklyn’s terminals were predominately rail-marine terminals, the map shows all of the waterfront terminals had float bridges. The Harbor was busy with car float operations at this time.

Railroad terminal map of New York Harbor, 1933, detail. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Railroad terminal map of New York Harbor, 1933, detail. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The rise of trucking for transport after World War II led to the demise of car float operations in the Harbor, and the shift to container shipping in the 1960’s meant the hub of operations would move to New Jersey with its spacious port facilities. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey runs the last float operation (now ferrying containers rather than rail cars) between Greenville Yards in Jersey City and the 65th Street Yard in Brooklyn. The Port Authority’s plan to develop the sites and increase capacity has recently been granted a fresh infusion of funding for its next phase. Who knows—perhaps one day the Harbor will recapture a tiny bit of its former industrial might.

Interested in seeing more maps? You can view the BHS map collection anytime during the library’s open hours, Wed.-Sat., from 1-5 p.m. No appointment is necessary to view most maps.

This map was cataloged with funding provided by a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) “Hidden Collections” grant.


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Brooklyn Bounty 2014 Taste Spotlight – Brooklyn Winery

In anticipation of Brooklyn Bounty, BHS’s premier fundraiser at 26 Bridge on October 22nd, we are profiling our participating restaurants and honorees of the Food & Heritage Awards. Below is a profile of Brooklyn Winery, one of the delicious participants in our evening’s tasting menu.

Photo by Rina Brindamour

“Our job is to make people happy.”


Co-founders and wine entrepreneurs Brian Leventhal and John Stires have been working with grapes since 2010, when they opened one of the first hybrid winery and event spaces in Brooklyn, NY. Their interest in wine- making bloomed when John and Brian attended workshops in New Jersey, and eventually started making their own wines there. They were determined to bring the fun and detailed process of wine-making to Brooklyn, and have been successfully passing on their passion for wine for 4 years at the Brooklyn Winery. Not only do they make their wine on site, they also serve it at their wine bar, pair it with delicious food on their seasonal menu, and share it at celebrations when guests use their private event venue or take a wine class. Brian and John came into the wine industry from two very different backgrounds far from aged grapes. Who would have thought John and Brian would find their niche in wine after coming from the comic book world, finance industry, and as tech-start up partners?

Photo by Rina Brindamour

“We stay as true to the grapes as we can.”


Brian and John get excited when the harvest season begins around September/October. A new shipment of grapes had just arrived the day before, and they were being washed and de-stemmed. A few days in the huge vats, and the grapes will be ready for yeast and more fermented love to transform them into a complex glass of wine.

I spoke with Brian and John about the interesting adjectives that wine tasters often use to describe their sip: “pencil shaving after taste, woody qualities, fruity tones, wet stone notes.” These descriptions are so specific to the taster and say a lot about the journey those little grapes took to become wine.

Brian explained that one element in changing the taste of your wine is the barrels used to age them. Similar to a well-loved cast iron skillet that changes the taste of food, a wooden barrel that has been used for many harvests past won’t give as much oak flavor to the grape as a barrel that is brand new. Brian, John, and their passionate wine maker Conor McCormack want to stay as true to the original identity of the grapes they harvest as they can. They support local NY farmers and want to let the farmers’ grapes shine through in that final bottle of wine.

“I remember when the first grapes arrived…”


Brian and John shared with me that moment during the creation of Brooklyn Winery when they first stepped back and realized that all of their hard work had paid off: they had developed a successful company that was exactly what they wanted it to be. Brian still remembers when they got their first shipment of gbkwinery2rapes, “they were Finger Lakes chardonnay grapes,” and he could not wait to make the first batch. John fondly remembers the first bottle of wine they opened that was made from start to finish at Brooklyn Winery, and another favorite moment would have to be the first ever sale they made. Seeing the transaction and actually having a bottle leave the winery and go into the hands of a thirsty and happy customer was such a rewarding experience.

From 2010 to now, Brooklyn Winery has hosted hundreds of heart-warming weddings, gone through four sweet seasons of harvest, and opened thousands of bold bottles of wine. Brooklyn Winery’s small batch wines and big cases of dedication are an inspiration to the rich food culture that is growing in Brooklyn. We are thrilled to have them featured at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Brooklyn Bounty on October 22nd, pouring wine and serving a custom dish inspired by their seasonal menu just for us. They are constantly working to encourage a healthy work environment, to stay true to the original fruit foundation of wine, and to develop a conversation between the wine maker and taster in their open space for lovely events, wine production, and culinary discovery.


- – – Tickets for Brooklyn Bounty are still available! – – -


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Photo of the Week: Transformation & Discovery

Cortelyou Road and Flatbush Avenue, 1916, v1973.2.106; Brooklyn oversize 19th century collection, v1973.002; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Cortelyou Road and Flatbush Avenue, 1916, v1973.2.106; Brooklyn oversize 19th century collection, v1973.002; Brooklyn Historical Society.

As we should expect of our climate these days, the weather has been all over the place.  While I’m not one to complain about warm weather, sunny skies, and a gentle breeze, I have to admit I’m eager to don a cozy sweater, perhaps some light gloves, and to reacquaint myself with my tights collection.  I’ve always looked forward to Fall for the fashion magazines, new school supplies, any sort of change.  It seems to be a time to reboot after an enjoyable summer and explore new things –instigated by a new school year and another set of curriculum goals.

The photograph above strikes me as a confluence of summer and discovery.  The tree on the right side of the photograph seems to have the steps of a tree house where the owner probably spent many an afternoon lazing about in it observing the world from that perch.  It could still be a lazy summer day or have the first whiff of cooler weather.  Nevertheless, let me be sure to point out that this is the corner of Cortelyou Road and Flatbush Avenue in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn.  We’ve all heard of Flatbush – crazy drivers, lots of stores, double parking, people everywhere.  Even my Great Aunt in Ohio heard of Flatbush and told me to avoid it.

Dutch settlers began purchasing tracts of land in the area now known as Flatbush from the Lenape Indians by the end of the 1630s. In 1652, Peter Stuyvesant granted inhabitants a patent, and the town of Vlacke Bos or Midwout (later Anglicized to Flatbush), was established, becoming one of the six original towns in what would later becoming the borough of Brooklyn (the other five are Flatlands, Bushwick, Brooklyn, New Utrecht, and Gravesend).  In 1683, the six towns became part of Kings County, established by the British after taking over New Netherlands from the Dutch. In 1898, Brooklyn consolidated as a borough within New York City.  For most of that time, Flatbush was a prosperous farming area. Over the twentieth century, it transformed into one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

Interested in more Flatbush facts?  Check out our many archival collections on the topic and our online exhibit An American Family Grows in Brooklyn.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here.  To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

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Education at BHS: CASA/Young Curators at P.S. 276

The Young Curators is an after-school program led by Brooklyn Historical Society educators guiding students through a themed investigation of their school’s neighborhood using primary sources from BHS’s collection and other resources. Based upon their given theme, (i.e. Colonial Brooklyn or the Evolution of East New York), students create a three-panel exhibit that is eventually displayed at their school. Students write the text, recreate images through drawings, and choose images like maps and portraits to be included. They even work with a graphic designer for the colors, fonts, and design of each panel. This post is by BHS educator Rachel Serkin.

As an educator at Brooklyn Historical Society, I strongly believe that CASA/Yong Curators at PS 276my role is not only to educate young people about the history of Brooklyn, but also to instill a sense of awareness and pride in the communities in which they live and learn. The Young Curators program granted me the opportunity to explore this idea with a group of fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 276 in Canarsie, Brooklyn. During our first session of the program, my students discussed what they knew about Canarsie and what things mattered to them most, such as holidays, traditions, family, and friends. I discovered right away that my students were passionate and caring individuals who had an interest in telling the story of Canarsie from their perspective.

In the sessions that followed, my students and I worked together to understand how historians think. At the beginning, my students were not sure about primary sources and how historians used them. Using resources from Brooklyn Historical Society’s library and archives, we were able to dig in and have first-hand experience with primary sources.

For the first two weeks my students explored artifacts, maps, photographs, and diary entries to better understand the neighborhood of Canarsie and how it has changed over time. While my students have always known that Canarsie used to be farmland, we were surprised to learn that according to nineteenth-century newspapers, Canarsie was known as one of the best places for catching bluefish. Because it was such a popular destination for fishing, Canarsie became renowned as a place of entertainment and leisure with hotels, resorts, and even an amusement park!

CASA/Young Curators at PS 276 Winter/Spring 2014

We also had a special opportunity to learn more about the people living in Canarsie today. Many of my students’ parents emigrated from the West Indies and they wanted to know more about why their families came to Brooklyn. To help us better answer this question we invited Ranger Andrea Boney of Ellis Island to our classroom. Andrea’s grandparents had emigrated from the West Indies through Ellis Island at the beginning of the twentieth century, and like so many of my students and their families, they came to the New York area seeking better education and economic opportunities.  My students experienced a little bit of what it was like to go through Ellis Island by exploring health inspection cards and mental competency tests. The students were shocked to learn that children as young as ten could be sent back to their countries alone if they did not pass the inspections.

As the West Indian community came to New York they also brought the tradition of Carnival with them. Many of the students had either participated or knew of the West Indian Day Parade, but wanted to know more about its significance. Looking at photographs and newspaper articles, we learned that the parade originally began in Harlem, but by the 1960’s the parade had moved to Brooklyn. Today many neighborhoods are involved in the parade and millions of people participate. For the students, Carnival represents pride in their culture and heritage.

I feel proud and fortunate to have worked with the students of P.S. 276. It was a great pleasure to work with such inquisitive and dedicated students. It is my hope that these students will come away from the Young Curators program with new ideas about the role they play in the shaping of their community’s history.

Rachel Serkin, Educator

PS 276
Winter/Spring 2014

Brooklyn Historical Society thanks the City Council members who have funded this program through the CASA program in the past, present and future. 

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Shop Talk with Brooklyn Makers: Build Your Block

Welcome to Shop Talk, our regular series highlighting some of the fantastic Brooklyn-made products (and their makers) available in the BHS Gift Shop, open daily from 12pm to 5pm!

Build Your Block

Brooklyn is an ever-changing borough, and whether you’ve been here your whole life or are just now calling it home, I think everyone can agree that it is a very special and exciting place to be. While new buildings are sprouting up around every corner, it is important that we take the time to appreciate and preserve the essence of classic Brooklyn. Our maker for this month, Patrick Chirico, found a unique way to pull this off: he creates pillows that allow people to have Brooklyn neighborhood blocks in the comfort of their own homes. From bodegas and pizza shops to the Brooklyn Bridge, thanks to Build Your Block you can construct your very own 3-D pillow street to show off to your friends! A very artistic and creative approach to history if you ask us.

We caught up with Patrick to find out more about his company and why he creates…

Tell us a little but about yourself…

I grew up in Watertown, NY, where they invented the safety pin and where they make those tree-shaped car fresheners. I have a beautiful wife, a dapple dachshund, and a munchkin cat. Soon to have a baby boy in October. I went to FIT for fashion design, and just took over from there.

What do you make?

We make building-shaped pillows so everyone can build a neighborhood block on their bed or couch. You can buy the neighborhood you want and then add commercial property, like bodegas and pizza shops. To help complete the 3-D pillow city, we have sets of mini ATMs, garbage cans, phone booths, etc., to build the foreground. We offer a set of pillowcases of the Brooklyn Bridge that make a 60-inch-long cityscape background to your set. Now you can lay your head in the streets of New York or be your own urban pillow planner.

How long have you been at it?

I have been running my own business, Wrecords By Monkey, since 2003, and I created Build Your Block in 2011.

What’s the story behind how you developed your product?

For the pillow sets, I was inspired by the buildings around us, including the bodegas and brownstones, the modern apartment complexes popping up all over Williamsburg, as well as the classic and abandoned buildings. We wanted people to be able to express their love of architecture and their city by creating their own personal blocks in their homes. People can pick and choose the colors and styles that most inspire them, and make a street on their bed or couch that is all their own.

Walk us through a typical day…

Wake up and walk the dog with my wife at McCarren Park, then grab a coffee from a local spot and skate or drive over to my studio/store in Bushwick. Then start the day with a touch-base sesh with my senior designer for both companies, Will Haude, and then cruise through emails, eat lunch, and get into the physical part of the day. Then begins micro-managing the team to work toward all of our daily goals. It always ends with a, “You’re awesome,” to everyone on the team so I can head home to have a late dinner with my wife and talk her ear off about the day and all my ideas until we watch a movie and fall sleep with some dessert.

What do you do when you’re not “working”?

I have adventures with my wife and dog and eat good food, as well as try to visit family and friends as much as possible.

What art or design currently inspires you?

Everything is constantly inspiring me, and most of it is from non art or outside inspiration. A great local artist is Bäst, and also the entire Justseeds crew is amazing: Chris stain, Kristine Virsis, Josh MacPhee. I do love handmade zines, and related art like Chris Uphues, Killer Acid, Wizard Skull, Noah Lyon, Matt Crabe. I’m also always following the millefiori/glass blowing movement and the 3-D printing movement, specifically 3DBrooklyn.

How has the city inspired what you make and how you make it?

If you have something to offer the city, it has something to offer you. My inspiration comes from the people and fashion, the buildings and architectural details, even the industrial parts, and from seeing everything constantly changing.

What is your favorite NYC museum and why?

American Museum of Natural History for sure! Endless amounts of information, amazing handcrafted art/objects/artifacts. The rock and meteorite sections are a must see every time, as well as the dioramas. Each visit is a whole new experience and it’s so easy to learn so much.

What is your favorite part of Brooklyn and why?

Carmine’s Pizzeria and the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border, because you have access to everything!!

If not creating, what else would you be doing?

Teaching and inspiring.

For more Build Your Block products, visit the BHS Gift Shop, open daily from 12pm to 5pm! You can also learn more on their website,

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