Killing history

erasmushall

Erasmus Hall photo by Ramsay de Give for the NY Times.

There is a building in Brooklyn called Erasmus Hall, erected in 1787 with contributions from Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, John Jay and Robert Livingston, it was the first secondary school in New York State and is considered a grand example of Georgian-Federal architecture and an ambitious vision of education.

It’s in danger of being destroyed. Story in NY Times here.

Recently, Admiral’s Row, also in Brooklyn, was torn down, this was a bunch of Civil War period houses built between 1864 and 1901 which stood on Flushing Avenue for all these years. See what’s left here.

Now with the the new gentrification of Brooklyn, they are killing history.

Rare films of the Old Masters

I forgot a lot of the times that so many of our great masters were alive 100 years ago or less. A French actor and director named Sacha Guitry took home movies in 1915 of some our greatest artists like Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

I have to laugh when seeing Monet, the coloring and the way his beard looks makes him look like he’s sticking his tongue out. The short film shows him painting in his garden in Giverny. Amazing.

Degas is shown in 1915 walking down a Paris street in a very short film, really just seconds, sort of snapping a quick pic of someone famous today as they walk by.

Rodin is shown on the street and also sculpting in his studio in 1915, two years before his death.

Renoir is filmed in 1919 at his home, smoking, a lot, and painting.

John Hall posted these on his YouTube page.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

I found this cool site, the Brooklyn Newsstand by the Brooklyn Public Library where you can see all of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s issues from 1841 through 1955. I was randomly reading something online and one thing lead to another and this site appeared.

I love reading old newspapers and this seems to be complete. The newspapers from the 1800s are a bit boring, as they are usually about four pages long with small type and boring stories, but as you go on from the 1900s and on, it gets quite interesting.

The first thing I always look for in old newspapers is the comics section and they had quite a few good comics from Mary Worth, Steve Roper to the Bumble Family.

You can look through some interesting old stories and advertisements. Look up any date and it’s there – the Titanic sinking, World War I and II, presidential races . . . whatever.

Of course there are many other sites with old newspapers, but for some reason, I don’t know why, I have always been fascinated by the Brooklyn Eagle. I read that it was once the largest daily afternoon newspaper in the country and perhaps I like it because I picture my parents and grandparents reading it during its heyday since their whole life was Brooklyn at that period. Sort of like the L train (I did a story on that here called “Ghosts of the L Train“).

The name Brooklyn Daily Eagle went into public domain and now is being used as a new digital version of the Eagle. You can see that here.

brooklyn-eagle1

Friday, July 5, 1946

brooklyn-eagle2

Tuesday, April 5, 1927

brooklyn-eagle3

Monday, July 7, 1924

brooklyn-eagle4

Saturday, June 8, 1935

This is the oldest melody in existence

I saw this on the Classic FM website. A hymn was discovered on a clay tablet in Ugarit, now part of Syria, and is dedicated the Hurrians’ goddess of the orchards Nikkal. This is the oldest melody in existence. It is over 3400 years old.  You can listen to it right here. More on this find at Classic FM.

Musical Score from Ugarit (Clay tablet from Ugarit) with the Hurrian hymn, 13th cent

Musical Score from Ugarit (Clay tablet from Ugarit) with the Hurrian hymn, 13th cent. BC. Found in the collection of Musée du Louvre, Paris. Artist : Ugaritic Culture. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

A trip back in time

I think I may have found a new favorite place in New York City; in Brooklyn, to be exact.

I was wandering around the other day and I checked Google Maps on my iPhone and as I was navigating my way around, I noticed that the New York Transit Museum was highlighted on the map. I was right around the corner, so I walked over. The funny thing is that I couldn’t find the entrance to the museum until I realized that it’s the actual subway stop at the Court Street station. You literally walk down the subway steps and there is the museum. It’s two floors below street level.

On the first level there are lots of items from the past including turnstiles from almost every decade, there are old buses that are deconstructed and you can sit in them and get the feel of driving them.

The purpose of the museum is to “interpret and preserve the history, sociology and technology of land-based public transportation systems in New York City.” There are small replicas of stations from the past and rebuilt trolley models and the best part of all is down below. One platform below the main platform is a trip into the past. Old train cars from the past are right there on the tracks. The old cars are in almost perfect condition. There are cars from 1915 and 1925 and 1938 and so on. There are cars from the 1960s and the red cars you’ll remember from the 7 Line.

Vintage ads are all still in the cars, so you really feel as if you are going back in time when you enter the cars, ghosts of the past fill your mind, just seeing the worn seats and turnstiles makes you wonder and think of all the people who have used the mass transit so many years ago.

When I picture the past, I usually think of sepia tones, but the bright colors of the old cars are amazing.

The older the trains, the more comfortable they seemed to be. There were ceiling fans before air conditioning was introduced and as the years moved on, the trains became less luxurious and more plastic.

The older subway cars reminded me of the old trains you see on westerns, you know, the trains used for long distance travel across the country.

This red and blue car was quite striking.

The New York Transit Museum is located at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn and accessible by over 20 bus and subway lines. The entrance to the Museum is down two flights of stairs. A second wheelchair accessible entrance is located on the corner of Schermerhorn and Court Streets.

Hours

Tuesday-Friday: 10am – 4pm

Saturday & Sunday: 11am – 5pm

Closed Mondays and major holidays

Admission

Adults $7

Children (2-17) $5

Seniors 62+ $5, free on Wednesdays

Museum Members free

Children under the age of 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Ghosts of the L train

I just got off the L train. I met my cousins in Ridgewood, Queens, and took the L from Union Square to Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues. Ridgewood is the new up and coming neighborhood in New York. There was SoHo, then the Lower East Side, the Meat Packing District and Williamsburg and now it’s Ridgewood. The L train is the train into Hipsterland, but not so long ago, it was the link between Manhattan and a working class Brooklyn.

As  I took the train this time and usually when I take the L train, I think of days past, days before my time, and I think of the ghosts of the subway and the Brooklyn neighborhoods that we pass through. Bedford, Graham Avenue, Lorimar Street, Montrose Avenue and so on. They are names from my past, you see my father and his sister and their mother (my grandmother) and a lot of our relatives lived here so many years ago. I picture them in Brooklyn 1945 and thinking of them on this same subway line. The trains of course, were different and they called it the BMT, (Brooklyn Manhattan Transfer), my aunt told me Saturday – they changed it later to the LL, rather than L, to differentiate it from the EL, which was the elevated train. But it was the same route, the same stops and even the same tiles on the wall that spell out the stations. Those same exact tiles were seen and perhaps touched by my father and grandmother 70 and 80 years ago.

I had an old aunt, who in the 1980s, told me about the first day the line opened in 1905 and how that first week the rides were free to the public; they were a nickle after that. She told me of her first hand experience, remembering it vividly, she must have been seven years old at the time. I read a book once called “When Brooklyn Was the World.” That’s the time period I think of as I ride the L train today. To me the train is “The footprint of a lost world,” a quote I got from Anthony Bourdain.

Now as I ride the line I see hipsters who have taken over the neighborhood. There they are with their ipods and iphones and skateboards and beards and manbuns and fedoras; acting all cool and as if they have discovered something new. Do they ever think about the people who were there before them? Probably not.

It’s the same with all the train lines in the city, there is so much history, but visiting Graham Avenue and Lorimar Street and Bedford, as a child and hearing so many stories of my father’s childhood, it makes me think of all those ghosts of times past. My mother grew up near Coney Island, so those train lines have meaning too, but I don’t take them as often as I take the L train. I think of my father taking the train to Ebbets Field, or my grandmother taking him to the doctor’s office or visiting relatives, in a time that was much simpler.

People have come and gone, but the subway lines are still running, on the same routes on the same tracks, among all those ghosts of happy times past.

Here is an old film of the 1905 subway in New York. It isn’t the L line, but you can get the idea of the time period.