Sunday, July 26, 2009
92nd Street Stories
Work took me out to Canarsie last week, affording a new set of Brooklyn explorations. Much of southeast Brooklyn looks and feels fairly new (and a lot of it is -- Bergen Beach and Mill Basin didn't experience residential development until the 1950s), but Canarsie is the exception, an early village within the town of Flatlands that has some nifty old buildings. Among them are the pair of white-steepled churches on 92nd Street, St. Matthew's Lutheran (first photo) and The Church of the Rock (second photo). The latter is Canarsie's oldest church, founded and built on the site in 1839 as the Methodist Protestant Church (later Grace Protestant Church). The structure has been renovated in recent years, but remains one of Canarsie's tallest buildings (apparently there's debate about whether certain high-rise projects should be counted). Up the street, St. Matthew's is the third-oldest Canarsie church, a product of German immigration to the area in the second half of the 19th century that was nearly lost to fire in 2002.
South a few blocks, PS 115 (named for longtime principal Daniel Mucatel) has some local history of its own to offer. The wrought-iron fencing that rings the century-old building bears several plaques honoring soldiers who fell in the first World War, presumably former students. The plaques originally marked trees planted in their honor, a few of which (fourth photo) remain standing. The practice was apparently common in NYC, which lost more people to the war than most cities on account of both its size and the participation of locals in merchant marine activity.
Finally, the school has a sizeable original sculpture on the grounds, courtesy of J.P. Morgan Chase. The piece is called "Amity" and is by American artist Mary Callery.
In an unrelated note, the NYTimes had a supremely unsatisfying answer to the question of why some of Brooklyn's north-south Avenues bear the names of upstate cities. Sure, I understand that they were cut in the 19th century, but who chose the names? There may not be an interesting story, but there must be a story, somewhere. Brooklyn Revealed, Forgotten NY, and this enjoyable local blog all make reference to street name origins, but none have the answer in the particular case. Anybody?