A Weekly Column of Trivia and Observations By David Ansel Weiss
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Did you know that there was once an outdoor tennis club called the Heights Tennis Club at Hicks Street between Grace Court Alley and Remsen Street?
Al Capone is usually associated with Chicago, but he had strong ties to Brooklyn. Not only was he born here, but he went to public school here, got his famous scar in a brawl in a Coney Island bar, and was married in a church in Carroll Gardens.
Edgar Allan Poe made no bones about his feelings toward Brooklyn. According to a new book — New York Diaries 1609-2009 — he wrote in his diary, “I know few towns which inspire me with so much disgust and contempt."
Military textbooks point out many similarities between the British evacuation of its troops from Dunkirk in 1940 and Washington’s retreat across the East River in the Battle of Brooklyn, one of the most important ones being the heavy fog that gave them cover.
Starting in the 1850s there were omnibuses that carried Brookynites from the ferries to various parts of Brooklyn and selected areas in Queens. Most were dilapidated and small, unable to carry more than 12 passengers, but a few were much larger and elaborate, like the Sewankhackney, which could carry up to 30 passengers, had silk draperies in its interior, and a team of 16 horses to drive it.
Most of those who remember Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park in the days before it closed in 1964 never realized that it was the second Steeplechase Park, a replacement for the first one, which opened in 1887 and burned down in 1907 only to be rebuilt the following year.
Did you know that Hart Island, New York’s Potter’s Field, is the largest tax-funded cemetery in the world?
If you want to know how many employed Brooklynites have jobs within the borough and don’t commute to Manhattan or any other borough or Long Island, the answer, according to a survey, is 44 percent.
Did you know that when the Admiral’s Row houses in the Brooklyn Navy Yard were actually inhabited by U.S. Navy officers, the area was a “gated” community?
The Colorama Ballroom of the St. George Hotel has another distinction besides its size and the fact it could change the color of its lights to create different moods: Because of its excellent acoustics, it served as a site for recording sessions. In 1957 Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra recorded Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” there, and two years later they recorded George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and “American in Paris.”
True, the glue factory that Peter Cooper set up in Newtown Creek at the beginning of the 19th century did create jobs for Brooklynites, but at the same time it also generated the same pollution and odors that forced its relocation from its original site in Manhattan.
The first president of the elite Crescent Athletic Club — which in the first half of the 20th century had a five-story clubhouse on Pierrepont Street, a yacht club in Bay Ridge and a golf course on Long Island — was Walter Camp, the “Father of Football.” A longtime football coach at Yale, Camp was not only responsible for inventing the forward pass and the position of quarterback, but he also codified most of the rules by which football is played today.