Bits of History About Brooklyn Prior to Consolidation 1898 Part III

The Great Sanitary Fair

The Sanitary Fair of Brooklyn for the benefit of the sick and wounded in the army hospitals and the troops in the field was opened on February 22, 1864, the anniversary of Washington's birthday, in the Academy of Music, by the War Fund Committee, and the Woman's Relief Association of the city. The fair was held under the auspices of the United States Sanitary Commission, of which the Unitarian divine, Dr. Bellows, was the president. Auxiliary departments, termed the New England kitchen, in which women in the garb of the early descendants of the Pilgrims, served refreshments prepared in the primitive style of the days represented: Knickerbocker Hall and the Hall of Manufactures, in which interesting exhibits were displayed, were opened in nearby buildings. The fair proved a grand success from the start and during the seventeen days of its continuance $400,000 were realized, of which $300,000 were turned over to the commission. The committee of organization of the fair consisted by Dwight Johnson, J.S.T. Stranahan, E.S. Mills, James D. Sparkman, Henry E. Pierrepont, James Frothingham, Thomas T. Buckley, Arthur W. Benson, Ambrose Snow and S.B. Caldwell. Other local committees performing much service in connection with the military embraced, beside the above named, Abiel A. Low, S.B. Chittenden and other leading men of the time. The Women's Relief Association, of which Mrs. J.S.T. Stranahan was chairman, included many prominent women of the city.

The activity in Brooklyn engendered by the war did not cease with the close of the war in 1865, but turned into lines of local development and the city made rapid advancement. During the year 1867, 3,600 houses and other structures, beside churches, were erected and banks, safe deposit vaults and other undertakings were started. The Erie Basin, a new wharfing and warehousing enterprise embracing an enormous area of shore line and water, was prepared for service.

The Beecher Trial

On January 11, 1875, after much preliminary legal action and delay, there was begun in the City Court of Brooklyn before Chief Justice Neilson the remarkable trial of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of Plymouth Church, upon charges of unministerial conduct brought against him by Theodore Tilton. The eminent lawyers on both sides of the case were Samuel D. Morris, Thomas E. Pearsall, Roger A. Pryor, William Fullerton and William A. Beach, counsel for the plaintiff, and Thomas G. Shearman, John W. Sterling, John E. Hill, John K. Porter, Benjamin F. Tracy and William M. Evarts, counsel for the defendant. The jury was composed of Chester Carpenter, foreman; Henry Thayer, George Hull, Christopher Fitter, Samuel Frate, A.R. Case, Edward Wheelan, William H. Davis, John F. Taylor, William T. Jeffrey, Griffin B. Halstead and John McMurn. In the presentation of the case Mr. Morris occupied several days. Other lawyers were equally deliberate. The testimony and the arguments over its admission, occupied much time, concentrating, from the frame of the accused, intense public interest. The outcome, a disagreement of the jury was not reached until six months had lapsed. The jury was locked up for eight days. On the first ballot there stood nine in favor of the defendant to three for conviction. Later two of the three changed their votes to acquittal. The eleventh juror, William T. Jeffrey, wavered toward the close and a verdict was being prepared but in the end he returned to his original opinion and the disagreement was announced. The jury, which was impaneled on January 4, was discharged on July 2.

Important Events Since 1876

To old Brooklynites it will scarcely seem twenty-one years since the disastrous tragedy of the Brooklyn Theater fire, which occurred on December 5, 1876. The inhabitants of new Utrecht observed the centennial year by building a new town hall, and two years later the new Brooklyn Municipal Building was completed for a sum of $20 less than the appropriation. In 1880 the new wing to the County Jail was completed at a cost of $320,393, and on May 1 of that year the Society of Old Brooklynites was organized. At this time, according to the federal census, Brooklyn had 5,154 manufacturing establishments, with $68,828,793 capital, producing $188,573,016, and employing 45,206 hands. There were also in the city 464 clergymen, 1,262 lawyers, 917 physicians and 2,002 teachers. On August 11, 1884, Brooklyn experienced an earthquake shock, and on December 18 of that year many lives were lost in the burning of the St. John's Roman Catholic Home and Asylum. Ground was broken for the new Brooklyn Post Office on February 5, 1885; on May 15 following the Brooklyn Elevated began running cars, and on June 30 the cornerstone of the Hall of Records was laid. Up to November 30 of this year Prospect Park had cost $3,919,370.70 for land, and $5,239,964.11 for construction, making a total of $9,159,334.81. The extent to which the park was then utilized by the public may be inferred from the statement that the park carriages carried 30,000 a year; 40,000 used the lake boats, 35,000 to 50,000 vehicles passed over the roadways yearly, and during the winters there were on an average 150,000 skaters. The Brooklyn L was completed to East New York in December, 1885.

 Governor Hill signed the bridge extension bill February 2, 1886, and on May 13 New Lots became the Twenty-sixth Ward. Plymouth Church lost its honored pastor on March 8, 1887, and on March 22 the Court of Appeals confirmed the validity of the Kings County L charter. The Pratt Institute was incorporated May 19 following, opened October 17, and on July 18 a cyclone did thousands of dollars damage. August 26 of this year was marked by the foreclosure sale of the B.F. and C.I.R.R. for $681,000 and its re-organization as the Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad with a capital of $1,000,000. The Long island Rapid Transit was extended to Woodhaven on January 1, 1888. The blizzard of March 12, the worst ever known, is still fresh in the public mind. April 24 was signalized by the opening of the Kings County L and the opening of the Hudson avenue L occurred on November 5. On December 10 the Kings County L was given the right of extension into the Twenty-sixth Ward. Assemblyman McCarren first introduced the East River Bridge bill on January 10, 1889. The Fifth Avenue L was opened on June 22 following, and July 11 saw the last of the old Flatbush toll gate and the elevated line to Ridgewood was opened eight days later. This year's base ball season was marked by the capture of the association pennant by the Brooklyn team, and less agreeably by the breaking out of the influenza epidemic on December 20. January 8, 1890, witnessed the extension of the Fifth June 4. On November 1 following the connection between the Fulton Ferry House and the L roads was first opened and the first purchase of the Long island Water Supply plant by the city for $1,250,000 was consummated on December 23.

On January 7, 1891, the Brooklyn Bar Association was incorporated, and the city decided to purchase the Wallabout market lands for $700,000. President Harrison signed the New Utrecht-Staten island Tunnel bill on February 14, and the general term set aside the Long island Water Supply purchase as illegal on February 28. Ground was broken for the Montague Street Cable Road on March 21. Senator Jacobs introduced the bill making the bridge promenade free on April 16. On May 6 there was a light fall of snow. The new Real Estate Exchange was opened on May 12, and the Second avenue trolley was opened on May 29. At midnight on May 31 the bridge promenade became free, and on July 20 the Montague Street Cable Road was opened, and the Long island Company bought the Culver road. On November 21 occurred a serious break in the conduit of the Ridgewood pumping station, by which the water supply was cut off, four men were killed, and a large number of manufacturing establishments was obliged to shut down. It was decided by the Sinking Fund Commission on December 30 to deposit city moneys only with those banks whose surplus amounted to half their capital.

The first annual election of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences occurred on January 11. The city ordinance permitting the use of the trolley system became a law January 23. The Greene avenue relief sewer, which cost $1,000,000 was completed February 15. The Kings County Elevated was opened to Linwood street February 22, and on March 4 the bill authorizing several small parks became a law. Aldermanic salaries became $2,000 a year on April 20, and on June 13 the consumption of water reached 77,000,000 gallons. The new Long island depot at Flatbush avenue was opened on June 15, and on June 16 the Brooklyn City Railroad increased its capital from $6,000,000 to $12,000,000 to pay for the change to the trolley system. On June 20 William Ziegler sold the Norton's Point property to a New York syndicate for $400,000. During July the weekly receipts of letters at the Brooklyn Post Office reached 1,000,000. There were fifty-three coroners' inquests on July 30. These sudden deaths were mainly due to the fearful heat, the thermometer rising to 99 degrees on the 29th, with a temperature of 118 degrees in the Post Office mailing department. On the 31st Brooklyn undertakers were obliged to send to Jersey City and Hoboken for hearses. On October 10 bridge car traffic reached 170,000, the total for the three Columbus days aggregating 570,387. On November 1, the old Lott farm in Flatlands was sold at auction for $111,000. This was the first transfer of the property since the days of the Dutch West India Company. A heavy fog prevailed on November 3, in which two boats in the Atlantic dock were sunk by collision, and the Annex Float No. 4 went ashore off the Battery. Trolley cars began running on Third avenue on November 7. During December there was an accumulation of 18,000,000 bushels of grain in the city warehouses, and the depression of business caused great suffering among longshoremen.

The pneumatic tube service between New York and Brooklyn Post Offices was ordered January 6, 1893; and on January 11 the consumption of water reached 83,000,000 gallons. On February 8 the Municipal Consolidation League was organized, and on March 7 Joseph Wechsler bought the old Abbey on Fulton street, built in 1740, for $115,000. Trolley cars began running on Flatbush and Atlantic and Fifth avenues on March 13 and 14. An order from Washington on April 21 made Brooklyn a first class money order office and a general repository for all Long Island post offices, and on April 25 Mr. A.T. Sullivan was appointed postmaster vice George J. Collins, deceased. The Brooklyn Elevated opened its extension to Cypress Hills on May 29. On June 20 a fatal accident occurred in a tunnel on the Sixty-fifth street branch of the Manhattan Beach road, nine persons being killed and many injured. The inter-station mail delivery went into operation on August 1, and according to a report of Controller Corwin, Brooklyn's city property on December 31, 1892, was worth $29,000,000 more than the amount of the city debt. Prospect Park, on November 4, received the world fair medal for the best exhibit of plants at the exposition. The ticket system on the bridge roadways was inaugurated December 2, and Secretary Beam reported on December 26 that $1,818,319 had been spent on the bridge plaza. On December 30 the grand jury indicted John Y. McKane on eleven different charges, on which he was convicted and taken to Sing Sing on March 1 following, to serve out a six years' sentence, which, through time allowances, will expire on April 17, 1898.

On February 16, 1894, two branch offices and nine sub-stations were added to the Brooklyn postal system. According to statistics published on April 7, a quarter of Brooklyn's real estate, valued at $104,000,000, was owned by women, and on April 13, 52 physicians, guarded by the police, vaccinated 2,000 persons in the Nineteenth Ward. A cut in gas to $1 per 1,000 feet was made by the Fulton Municipal Gas Company April 30. This was the beginning of the movement which culminated in the consolidation of all the municipal gas companies into one corporation. Gravesend was annexed on May 3 and on May 19 it was announced that 250,000 persons had been vaccinated since the outbreak of smallpox epidemic. The Wallabout Market lands were deeded to Brooklyn on June 9 for $1,208,666. The original price paid by the government to John Jackson for the entire Navy Yard property being $40,000. On July 1, New Utrecht was annexed to the city. The first trolley car on the Broadway line was run July 31, and on October 3 the Brooklyn City Railroad reduced the wages of its employees one-third, a measure which culminated in the disastrous strike of january, 1895, and caused a loss to the city of over $2,000,000.

The consolidation project was approved at the election on November 6, and the Brooklyn Wharf and Warehouse Company, by which the water front has since been revolutionized, was incorporated January 1, 1895, with a capital of $12,000,000. A blizzard swept over Long island on February 8, causing a widespread stoppage of traffic, and 130,000 persons, young and old, were allowed to cross on the bridge cars free. On this day the water consumption was 101,500,000 gallons, and on the following day the bridge traffic aggregated 225,000. A fatal cyclone swept over Union Course, Glendale, Woodhaven and vicinity on July 13, at 4 P.M., destroying many buildings, causing heavy losses of property, and three deaths, beside many narrow escapes. Lefferts L. Buck was appointed chief engineer of the East River Bridge on August 2 at a salary of $10,000. The first through train on the Brooklyn L to Manhattan Beach was run on August 5. An earthquake shock occurred on September 1 and on September 9 a consolidation of the city gas companies was consummated. Ground was broken for the new Institute of Arts and Sciences, on the Eastern parkway, on Sept. 14, and on Sept. 30 the new Brooklyn Bridge terminal was opened. On October 1 the St. John land property, which cost $3,250,000, was transferred to the state for $1, /the worst fog in years occurred on November 19, when three person were killed in a collision of the bridge cars and traffic was interrupted for three hours. On December 24 it was decided to purchase the New Utrecht Water Company's plant for $205,855. On December 27, the East River bridge commissioners bought the Uhlmann charter for $200,000, and this purchase was subsequently sustained by the Court of Appeals.

Flatlands, the last of the county towns, became a part of Brooklyn on January 1, 1896. On March 6 an order was issued from Washington directing that all the Kings County post offices be united with the Brooklyn office. On April 5 the Nassau Company obtained control of the Atlantic Avenue system, and on April 21 the Brooklyn Heights Company began running express cars on all its lines. On April 22 the Greater New York bill became a law in spite of the voices of the mayors of New York and Brooklyn.

Free postal deliveries began in the county towns on May 1. Governor Morton appointed the Greater New York charter commission on June 9. The result of their labors was submitted to the last Legislature, by which, with amendments, it was enacted into law, and under it a mayor and other greater city officials were elected on November 2, 1897. The new cycle path, which had cost nearly $30,000, was formally opened by a grand parade on June 27. Engineer Buck announced on August 27, that the new East River bridge would cost $7,510,000 and be opened on January 1, 1900. The New York Terminal of the Brooklyn Bridge was completed September 8, at a cost of $300,000. A strip some 500 feet in width of the Coney island beach was swept away by a storm on October 12, and on October 14 Erasmus Hall, Flatbush, was formally turned over to the city to be used as a high school.

The year just closed has been signalized by the absorption of the Brooklyn gas companies by a larger corporation, covering the entire city; the presentation to the cruiser Brooklyn of a $10,000 silver service, last summer before her departure for the Queen's jubilee celebration in London; the conclusion of an arrangement by which the trolley and L companies may run their cars over the bridge without an extra fare to passengers; the completion of plans for a tunnel under the east river and under Atlantic avenue, connecting with the Long Island Railroad Company, and bringing New York and Long Island closer together than ever before; and a second decision by the Court of Appeals in the Long Island water supply case in favor of the city, by which it was provided that the property should be acquired by the municipality at a fair valuation.

Brooklyn becomes a part of the greater city with 1,503 miles of streets, of which 525 are paved and which it costs $442,000 a year to keep clean. The daily consumption of water averages 90,000,000 gallons, or only 10,0000,000 gallons less than the total capacity of the reservoir. Its public schools have an attendance of 136,296 pupils, with 3,075 teachers, the last annual budget for education aggregating $3,156,527. Further statistics about the p resent city will be found elsewhere in this issue.


Website: The History
Article Name: Bits of History About Brooklyn Prior to Consolidation 1898 Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 2, 1898
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