The Brownstone Detectives

The Brownstone Detectives Historical research for your New York City property. We investigate its past and reveal its stories.
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The Brownstone Detectives is a "sleuths for hire" research team. We investigate the histories of buildings and the people who lived and worked in them. We do the gumshoe work of digging up the former owners (the live ones, that is), interviewing neighbors and residents, and researching official documents at City agencies and historical archives. We then produce the entire report in an attractive, hard-bound, colorfully illustrated, and engagingly written coffee table book. If you've got a house and it's got a history, give us a call and put us - "on the case."

The Old New York Page
11/27/2019

The Old New York Page

c1940

"Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden" (2919 24th Ave, Astoria) has been operating since 1910, the oldest beer garden in the City. Known for Czech beer and grilled bratwurst enjoyed on picnic tables, it has a large outdoor bar and live music stage serving up to 800 people.

Operating through Prohibition (1920-1933), it became a social center for Czech and Slovak immigrants in Astoria, who started arriving 1890s from Austria-Hungary. Astoria itself is named for German immigrant John Jacob Astor who claimed it in 1811.

The beer garden and hall - set up to maintain homeland traditions - is owned by the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society, founded in 1892, to support Czech and Slovak immigrants. Bohemia is now the Western part of the Czech Republic.

The site was originally a farm.The Bohemian Hall was first to be built, now the entrance. A larger facility was needed and the Sokol Gym (Main Hall) got added. The outdoor bar and park got finished in 1919, just in time for Prohibition.

A tree in 2000 was planted by Václav Havel, 1st President of the Czech Republic in 1993 after the 1989 Velvet Revolution was inspired by the Velvet Underground. He and Lou Reed were friends. Václav Havel stopped by here in 2000, moved by the large number of people in the 1990s trying "Save the Hall."

There were once 800 beer gardens in New York City (3 in Astoria).

Photo from NYC Tax Archives.

Not sure how we feel about this - while we're glad the facade was saved, this form of cannibalization is sorta like ripp...
11/27/2019
Restoring Brooklyn’s Queen of Department Stores

Not sure how we feel about this - while we're glad the facade was saved, this form of cannibalization is sorta like ripping off the fur from a dying mink in order to wear a mink stole to the ball.....🤔

The cast-iron facade of the original Abraham & Straus store in Downtown Brooklyn was saved and attached to the base of a new glass tower.

Village Preservation - Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation
11/26/2019
Village Preservation - Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation

Village Preservation - Greenwich Village Society For Historic Preservation

Why isn't 88 East 10th Street Landmarked? Built by Peter Stuyvesant, it was the home and studio of Willem de Kooning, and the center of the mid-century art world. This architecturally intact 1844 row house is unprotected and could be demolished any day for an office building according to City studies. Read more about why is it unprotected and what we can do about it:

On this day, when the President has fired the Navy Secretary for doing his job, we bring you a story of an American Sail...
11/25/2019
DRAPED IN OLD GLORY AT 159 ADELPHI (1905) – The Brownstone Detectives

On this day, when the President has fired the Navy Secretary for doing his job, we bring you a story of an American Sailor - long passed - who epitomized the concepts of military duty and honor...

No. 159 Adelphi Street in Brooklyn, NY, where Quevedo lived (New York City Department of Records).“Few men have lived lives of greater adventure and achievement than John Quevedo, whose body, in a flag-draped coffin, lies at his home, No. 159 Adelphi street, Brooklyn.”

When was "Bedford-Stuyvesant" first used? Apparently, it was much earlier than we all thought...
11/22/2019
THE DAY BED-STUY WAS BORN (1895) – The Brownstone Detectives

When was "Bedford-Stuyvesant" first used? Apparently, it was much earlier than we all thought...

Bedford-Stuyvesant, known coloquially as “Bed-Stuy,” is a section of Brooklyn that conjures as many mental images as there are residents of the district. With a past as colorful and storied as any other section of the borough, its ups and downs, though, seem to have been much more extreme.

When Joseph Russo's wife was discovered with a bullet between her eyes, Detective Coughlin searched Russo's home and dis...
11/18/2019
MURDER AT 248 PRESIDENT STREET (1916) – The Brownstone Detectives

When Joseph Russo's wife was discovered with a bullet between her eyes, Detective Coughlin searched Russo's home and discovered nine weapons...

Carroll Gardens by this time had changed from the lower middle class Irish neighborhood that it had once been, into a working-class Italian community with numerous Italian criminal gangs. Violence was a common daily occurrence and reports of abductions, shoot-outs, and kidnappings for ransom were of...

The Bronx County Historical Society
11/15/2019

The Bronx County Historical Society

Happy Friday everyone! We apologize for being absent the last couple of weeks. Our moderator was out of town but he’s back and it’s #BXPHOTOFRIDAY!
Who knows what bridge this is? Can you guess the year as well? We need both answers folks! We’ll post the answer on Monday, November 18th.
❓❓❓
#bxphotofriday #bronxhistory #rememberingthebronx #bronxmemories #allbronxhistory

When the wife of Thomas Goodfellow - of No. 278 Lafayette Avenue - was caught in flagrante delicto, she offered up a cur...
11/12/2019
“HE CAME TO FIX THE ELECTRIC WIRE” (1938) – The Brownstone Detectives

When the wife of Thomas Goodfellow - of No. 278 Lafayette Avenue - was caught in flagrante delicto, she offered up a curious explanation...

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tues., 11 January 1938.With these words – and others – the Wife of Bath, in Shakespeare’s “Chaucer,” attempted to secure the hand of the knight by frightening him with the possibility of becoming a cuckold, a man whose wife is sexually unfaithful.

Touring the interior of a #Brooklyn #brownstone in 1887...
11/06/2019
JAPANESE GILT AT No. 150 HANCOCK ST (1887) – The Brownstone Detectives

Touring the interior of a #Brooklyn #brownstone in 1887...

150 Hancock Street (New York City Department of Records).Much of the design selections made by designers in the last part of the 19th century are comprised of a coterie of materials, patterns, and tools either no longer available today or much changed in their appearance.

The William McKinley Republican Club of 435 East 145th Street, #Bronx, #NYC - and, no, the #brownstone no longer stands....
11/05/2019

The William McKinley Republican Club of 435 East 145th Street, #Bronx, #NYC - and, no, the #brownstone no longer stands... #ElectionDay #ElectionDay2019 #townhouse #history (courtesy @nycrecords)

American Labor Party headquarters above the London Shoe Repair, 335 Willis Ave., #Bronx, #NYC; ca. 1940s #ElectionDay #E...
11/05/2019

American Labor Party headquarters above the London Shoe Repair, 335 Willis Ave., #Bronx, #NYC; ca. 1940s #ElectionDay #ElectionDay2019 (courtesy @nycrecords)

When a body was discovered in the cellar of a brownstone on Bed-Stuy's Halsey Street, the police were immediately notifi...
10/31/2019
THE “WET SPECIMEN” OF HALSEY STREET (1899) – The Brownstone Detectives

When a body was discovered in the cellar of a brownstone on Bed-Stuy's Halsey Street, the police were immediately notified and the “owner” hunted down… (#HappyHalloween!)

When a body was discovered in the cellar of a brownstone on Brooklyn’s Halsey Street, the police were immediately notified and the “owner” hunted down…

Old New York City
10/30/2019

Old New York City

Oct 23,1952 Subway Crash on the IRT, Mosholu Pkwy Station in The Bronx

On a quiet street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, lived a childless couple in a rented upstairs apartment...but one day, Rufus Du...
10/30/2019
A STUDY IN DISMEMBERMENT (1914) – The Brownstone Detectives

On a quiet street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, lived a childless couple in a rented upstairs apartment...but one day, Rufus Dunham did not come home. Then, two pieces of torso were discovered in a frozen lake...

When the pieces of a dismembered body started showing up in different locations in Brooklyn around Christmas of 1914, it didn’t take long before Brooklyn Detectives traced those body parts to a block on Macon Street in the Stuyvesant section of town.

“Why not play ‘bite the apple’ in the subway Halloween?”
10/29/2019
HALLOWEEN ON THE SUBWAY (1922) – The Brownstone Detectives

“Why not play ‘bite the apple’ in the subway Halloween?”

At the time of this cartoon’s publication in the October 29th, 1922 edition of the New York Tribune, the subway was a mere 18-year-old. And the term “straphanger” was not much older – it derived from the (at first leather, and later metal) straps which hung from the ceiling of a street or su...

If a man named Hell offered you some candy – would you take it?That was Otto Herman Hell’s problem.And, yes, in fact he ...
10/28/2019
SATAN’S CANDY SHOP (1911) – The Brownstone Detectives

If a man named Hell offered you some candy – would you take it?

That was Otto Herman Hell’s problem.

And, yes, in fact he was about to open a confectionery in Brooklyn on Broadway.

There were probably countless jokes and plays on the name. Otto must have been quite tired of it all by the time he reached the age of maturity, at which point he began thinking seriously about changing it.

The tail is at the New-York Historical Society and part of his horse's mane in the Wilton Historical Society in Connecti...
10/24/2019
An Arm of the King George III Statue Toppled at Bowling Green is for Sale

The tail is at the New-York Historical Society and part of his horse's mane in the Wilton Historical Society in Connecticut. King George’s head was saved but subsequently lost and not seen since 1777...

An exciting new piece of the statue of King George III, toppled in Bowling Green at the start of the American Revolution is up for auction in Massachusetts: the hand, wrist, and forearm.

At 281 Stuyvesant Avenue, Stuy Heights had its first "ghost." Has anyone seen it since?
10/23/2019
THE GHOST OF STUYVESANT HEIGHTS (1901) – The Brownstone Detectives

At 281 Stuyvesant Avenue, Stuy Heights had its first "ghost." Has anyone seen it since?

But Stuyvesant Heights had everything back then – “a Republican Club, an amateur dramatic society,” and even “several asphalt streets where bashful maidens learn to wheel at night.”

Was the "ghost" at No. 281 Stuyvesant Avenue the first ghost in Stuy Heights?
10/23/2019
THE GHOST OF STUYVESANT HEIGHTS (1901) – The Brownstone Detectives

Was the "ghost" at No. 281 Stuyvesant Avenue the first ghost in Stuy Heights?

But Stuyvesant Heights had everything back then – “a Republican Club, an amateur dramatic society,” and even “several asphalt streets where bashful maidens learn to wheel at night.”

Why were mid-1800s coffin makers designing metal caskets for their clients?
10/21/2019
BURY ME DEEP, IN A METALLIC CASE (1852) – The Brownstone Detectives

Why were mid-1800s coffin makers designing metal caskets for their clients?

In 1852, a Brooklyn Heights “sexton and general undertaker” by the name of F. A. Morrel, practicing at his “coffin-wareroom” at No. 57 Myrtle Avenue, was promoting to the Brooklyn public the latest design in funerary offerings – the Fisk Metallic Burial Case.

In the wine cellar of a townhouse at No. 24 BREVOORT PLACE in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, priceless Shakespeare fo...
10/18/2019
SHAKESPEARE AT NO. 24 BREVOORT PL (1930) – The Brownstone Detectives

In the wine cellar of a townhouse at No. 24 BREVOORT PLACE in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, priceless Shakespeare folios once sat in packing boxes.

Find out why the Bard was there & what happened to them...

The president of the Standard Oil Company was so smitten with Shakespeare’s works that, in 2014, a book, Collecting Shakespeare, was published about Folger and his collection.

In the 19th century, Brooklyn brownstones - no more than 20 years old at the time - were already undergoing renovations....
10/16/2019
DESIGNING A BETTER BROWNSTONE (1888) – The Brownstone Detectives

In the 19th century, Brooklyn brownstones - no more than 20 years old at the time - were already undergoing renovations. This one - at No. 278 Lafayette Avenue - was redone in 1888. Take a tour of the house...

In 1904, an excursion steamship called the General Slocum sank in New York City’s East River. The craft had been chartered to carry members of the St. Mark’s Evangelical Church (a German-American community in Manhattan) to a church picnic when it foundered.

Victorian Brooklyn – like much of the rest of the world – was mortified at the thought of being buried alive...
10/04/2019
BURIED ALIVE IN BROOKLYN! – The Brownstone Detectives

Victorian Brooklyn – like much of the rest of the world – was mortified at the thought of being buried alive...

If newspapers and patents together are any indication of an age, then Victorian Brooklyn – like much of the rest of the world – was mortified at the thought of being buried alive.

Welcome to October. And welcome to our first of a month's worth of ghost stories featuring some of the houses we've inve...
10/02/2019
“SHAKESPEARE’S GHOST” AT 437 HALSEY (1889) – The Brownstone Detectives

Welcome to October. And welcome to our first of a month's worth of ghost stories featuring some of the houses we've investigated for our clients.

(DISCLAIMER: We do not hunt ghosts, attempt contact with them, or even try to prove their existence. Frankly, we don't even believe in them.. :) )

The Brownstone Detectives investigates the histories of our clients’ old houses. In the process, we have come across no small number of incredibly juicy stories featuring the houses and their lineage of occupants. Every once in a while, those stories – as stories sometimes do – feature a topic...

Al Ponte's Time Machine - New York
09/27/2019

Al Ponte's Time Machine - New York

Manhattan: 47th Street Toward 6th Avenue (1964)

Was Cafe Raub the first restaurant to offer #ChickenNoodleSoup to customers? #Brooklyn #NYC #history (Courtesy @BklynEag...
09/27/2019

Was Cafe Raub the first restaurant to offer #ChickenNoodleSoup to customers? #Brooklyn #NYC #history (Courtesy @BklynEagle - 1909)

This guy takes famous album covers and deposits them in the location they were taken - today...Tom Waits here in the Gre...
09/27/2019
Bob Egan on Twitter

This guy takes famous album covers and deposits them in the location they were taken - today...Tom Waits here in the Greenwich Village at No. 126 West 13th Street.

“TOM WAITS SITS ON THE STEPS OUTSIDE OF RENO SWEENY'S, 1975. . .photo by Allen Tannenbaum (https://t.co/lSXgFscZeH). . .Location: 126 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village. . .For more, See: https://t.co/T595LnYyAq”

What do we know about this snapshot taken at the intersection of Broadway and Hopkinson Avenue (later to be renamed Thom...
09/23/2019
WHEN BUSHWICK MET OCEAN HILL (1923) – The Brownstone Detectives

What do we know about this snapshot taken at the intersection of Broadway and Hopkinson Avenue (later to be renamed Thomas S. Boyland Street)?

This snapshot was taken at the intersection of Broadway and Hopkinson Avenue (later to be renamed Thomas S. Boyland Street). The building there on the corner in 1923 held the Bushwick National Bank and Frederick W. Erdtmann’s real estate offices.

Five women are running for president of the United States, and Thursday night, three of them will take the stage in Hous...
09/17/2019
A woman who ran for president in 1872 was compared to Satan and locked up. It wasn’t for her emails.

Five women are running for president of the United States, and Thursday night, three of them will take the stage in Houston for yet another Democratic primary debate. But before Elizabeth Warren, Kamala D. Harris, Amy Klobuchar and even 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, there was Victoria Woodhull, who is often credited as the first woman to run for the presidency.

Before Warren, Harris or Clinton, there was Victoria Woodhull, the woman often credited as the first female presidential candidate.

In Bed-Stuy, in 1899, a “small reign of terror” was “inaugurated,” as small gangs of boys “armed with sticks and stones”...
09/16/2019
THE BOY HOODLUMS OF HANCOCK STREET (1899) – The Brownstone Detectives

In Bed-Stuy, in 1899, a “small reign of terror” was “inaugurated,” as small gangs of boys “armed with sticks and stones” prowled about Hancock Street with determined mal intent...

If you were a boy hoodlum in “Bed-Stuy” back in 1899, then it is a good bet that you conducted your “outrages” along that stretch of Howard Avenue between Halsey and Hancock Streets.

On this day in 1904, mounted police were first used in New York City. In honor of that moment, we share a time-honored &...
09/09/2019
HOW CASEY THE COP SPELT “KOSCIUSZKO” (1904) – The Brownstone Detectives

On this day in 1904, mounted police were first used in New York City. In honor of that moment, we share a time-honored & likely apocryphal story about #NYC cops and horses...

Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko was a Polish military officer who helped the U.S. to gain independence from the British during the Revolutionary War.

Happy #FirstDayofSchool, New York City students!
09/03/2019
THE 1ST “CARTOON” DAY OF SCHOOL (1916) – The Brownstone Detectives

Happy #FirstDayofSchool, New York City students!

At the beginning of the school year in 1916, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published a set of cartoons, in its Sunday, 17 September edition, lampooning the first day of school for children, janitors, teachers, and parents, alike. We faithfully reproduce the graphics and the accompanying musing here:

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