A Weekly Column of Trivia and Observations By David Ansel Weiss
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Did you ever hear of an all-metal house constructed entirely of cast iron? Well, there is one in Bay Ridge built by a man named Niels Paulson who headed the Hecla Iron Works factory in Williamsburg.
Until 1895 it was forbidden to play baseball on Sundays in any city park. The man who changed that was Judge William J. Gaynor who went on to become mayor of New York City. Gaynor not only lifted the restriction, but made the police give back to previous offenders the bats and balls they had confiscated. Said Gaynor about the ballplayers, “Baseball is a lot better for them than temptations I need not mention.”
The reason for the success of Charles Pratt’s Astral Oil was that it was an improved type of kerosene that had a high flash point of 150 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that under normal conditions it would not easily burst into flames.
There was another historic fort at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street (where Trader Joe’s is now) besides the one built during the American Revolution. In the War of 1812 a new fort was constructed there (the British tore down the first one) named Fort Swift for Joseph Gardner Swift, who the U.S. Army appointed to head New York’s defense against a possible British attack.
If anyone asks you which subway station is the highest in the system, you can tell them it’s the Smith-Ninth Street station on the F line. Its height: 91 feet above the ground.
Did you know the first bicycle path in the United States is the one on Ocean Parkway, which dates back to 1894?
In the 1920s there was a plan that seemed a fait accompli to eliminate King’s Highway, but at the last minute the city fathers reversed themselves, and they not only left it standing but also widened its streets.
In the days before World War II the Brooklyn Navy Yard had duties far and above those of building and servicing warships. One was being the headquarters of a special unit designed to recover sunken submarines of the U.S. Navy.
Not all the Hessian soldiers who fought for the British during the American Revolution went back to Europe after hostilities ended. Many settled in Brooklyn, particularly in Bushwick, where they had been quartered during the war.
There was once a 150-acre island to the east of Coney Island called Plum Island on which the U.S. government planned to build a fort. When that plan failed to materialize, the island was sold to a New York judge who tried to turn it into a personal fiefdom. Then, after the city repurchased it, the island was settled by squatters who were eventually removed by Robert Moses, who filled in the channel separating it from Coney Island and buried it under the Belt Parkway. Its location: to the east of Exit 9B on the Belt.