A Weekly Column of Trivia and Observations By David Ansel Weiss
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum can boast of another “first” besides being the first children’s museum in the United States and possibly the world. As a result of a 2008 renovation it is the first museum in New York City to be heated and cooled by geothermal wells.
When you walk on the boardwalk at Breezy Point you are walking on wood from the fabled Manhattan Beach Hotel that was torn down in the early part of the 20th century.
William M. “Boss” Tweed wasn’t all bad even though through fraud and kickbacks at taxpayer expense he accumulated a fortune estimated to total $200 million. Among other things, he founded the Manhattan Eye and Ear Hospital, raised funds for orphanages and public baths, and fought to get the land the American Museum of Natural History was built on. He was also the man the city fathers of Brooklyn hired to convince the New York state Legislature to grant the initial funds to start building the Brooklyn Bridge.
According to one account, the number of soldiers who served in World War II from Brooklyn (not even a city but just a borough) was greater than the total contributed by 38 other U.S. states.
Not everyone was thrilled to hear Henry Ward Beecher preach. Like all famous men he had his detractors, one of whom described him as the “The Gospel of Gush,” and another whom complained that he “screeched” instead of “preached.”
The last Brooklyn Dodger to retire from the Los Angeles Dodgers was Don Drysdale. The date: 1969.
Did you know some of the inhabitants of Sheepshead Bay are descendants of the stable boys and jockeys who once worked at the Sheepshead Bay Racetrack?
There are more than 25 miles of pedestrian paths and paved roadways in Green-Wood Cemetery.
Although tourist guides and guidebooks often say that the Commandant’s House at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was possibly designed by Charles Bulfinch, the architect for part of the U.S. Capitol building, most of today’s historians seriously doubt that.
In case you want to see what Coney Island’s Elephant Hotel looked like (and not just by looking at an old photo), you can go to Margate City, New Jersey, and see Lucy the Elephant, a surviving 19th-century elephant-shaped building constructed by the same man as the hotel and exactly similar in design, except that it is half the size of the Coney Island Elephant Hotel. Always used as a tourist attraction and never a hotel, the New Jersey elephant was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2007.
In retrospect, the great achievement of Brooklyn-born William Van Alen, chief architect of the Chrysler Building, was a mixed blessing for the man. When he submitted the bill for his services, Walter Chrysler considered the amount too high and refused to pay on the grounds they had no written agreement. Van Alen had to sue to get his money and although he won the suit, the fact that he had to litigate limited any chance of future assignments as an architect and he ended up a teacher of sculpture.