Bits of History About Brooklyn Prior to Consolidation 1898 Part II

Local Railroad Traffic

While the Brooklyn street railway system was inaugurated by the old Brooklyn City Company in 1854, its annual passenger traffic in 1858 reached the total of 7,705,839; 1860, 11,329,009; 1865, 22,671,087; 1870, 36,431,695; 1875, 61,372,170; 1880; 74,973,220; 1884, 102,143,171; 1885, 108,406,719; with 274 miles of railroad; 1892, 200,545,494; an increase of 10,344,162 over 1891. Of this number the Brooklyn L carried 36,995,837, the Kings County L 17,357,932, the Long Island road 14,596,820, and the Brooklyn City, 78,500,000. For the year ending June 30, 1894, the first year of the trolley in Brooklyn, the traffic aggregated 209,438,125; the Brooklyn Heights carrying 92,535,282; the Brooklyn L, 34,233,697; the Kings County L, 14, 472,150, and the Atlantic Avenue system 18,331,745. For 1896, the figures approximate 250,000,000, and although the total for 1897 is not at hand, it is certainly far in excess of the figures for the preceding year.

First Talk of a Bridge

Years are required to translate anticipation into fact. Joshua Sands, who jointly with his brother, Comfort Sands, purchased the Rapalye estate at the confiscation sale in 1784, and sub-divided the property into town lots at the opening of the century, declared in his prospectus that a bridge would soon be built over the East River. Actual work on the bridge, however, was not commenced until the spring of 1870. The promenade was opened on May 24, 1883, and car service was inaugurated on September 24 following. The original one cent fare for walking was soon reduced to five tickets for a cent, and finally abolished altogether. Finally, the car rate of two tickets for 5 cents was substituted for the original three-cent fare. So rapidly has the bridge traffic increased that a doubling of its facilities was necessary. This result was attained by costly new bridge terminals, by which means a four-car train can be dispatched every forty-five seconds, instead of the previous minute and a half schedule. An exact idea of the growth of bridge traffic is afforded by the following figures: 1883, May 25 to November 30, 1,082,500; 1884, 8,539,840; 1890, 37,676,411; 1895, 44,564,320; 1896, 43,996,459; 1897, 45,542,627 passengers. Bridge earnings, 1883, May 25 to November 30, $138,773; 1884, $533,773; 1890, $1,127,094.50; 1895, $1,224,272.86; 1896, $1,201,758.13; 1897, $1,240,861.24.

The Pioneer Ferry

The pioneer ferry was inaugurated before 1642 and over this Robert Fulton ran the first steam ferryboat, the historic Nassau, in 1814. Before this time horses supplied the motive power, after the primitive propulsion of the oar had been discarded. In 1835 the South Ferry was opened and in 1852 several other lines were opened, of which the most important was the Wall Street Ferry. John Martino established the Roosevelt Ferry in 1852 and after various changes of ownership and a temporary discontinuance it was finally and permanently established in 1868. The Grand Street Ferry dat4es back to 1830 and the Broadway Ferry to 1849. On August 23, 1877, the first boat of the Annex Ferry, between Jersey City and Brooklyn, made its initial trip.

Growth of Building Operations

Probably nothing reflects the rapid advance of Brooklyn to a point above the million mark than the records of building operations. Since 1874 the total estimated cost of buildings for which plans were filed has been as follows: 1874, $5,152,150; 1880, $6,839,740; 1885, $11,465,795; 1890, $22,026,612; 1895, $11,930,075; 1896, $11,203,657. For the first ten months of 1897 the figures are $13,726,516, or approximately 25 per cent. larger than for the entire twelve months of 1896. As all plans filed during November and December must be added to this percentage to make an exact comparison, it will be seen that the advance of 1897 over the previous year will exceed 30 per cent. While this is not up to the record for the banner year 1890 it is still a decided step in the right direction and shows a healthy bound from the previous depression. The character of the improvements made since 1874 may be seen by the following figures: Private dwellings, 1874, 434; 1880, 699; 1885, 1,079; 1890,1,385; 1895, 798; 1896, 695; 1897, about 2,300.

Brooklyn's Ward Divisions

In its ward divisions Brooklyn has changed but slightly since 1834. In 1873 the First Ward was reorganized to include the old Third Ward and a new Third Ward was formed from a part of the old Sixth Ward in 1850 and simultaneously the Eleventh Ward was carved out of the old Seventh. The Twelfth Ward was taken from the Sixth in 1854. In 1856 the Nineteenth Ward was taken from the Seventh and the Wards Thirteen to Sixteen were formed out of the old City of Williamsburgh at the time of consolidation. By the same act the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Wards were formed from the Town of Bushwick. In 1863 the Twentieth Ward and in 1868 the Twenty-first Ward were formed from the Eleventh and in the last mentioned year the twenty-second Ward was sliced off from the Eighth. Wards Twenty-three to Twenty-five were formed from the Ninth Ward in 1873, Wards Twenty-seven and Twenty-eight were formed from the Eighteenth Ward, and the others from Twenty-six to Thirty-two were made out of the county towns annexed since 1885.

Notable Incidents in the History of Brooklyn

Here are some interesting events in connection with the history of Brooklyn: It is impossible within the limits of a newspaper article to give anything like a complete record of important events, but in the facts herewith outlined will be found much that will interest Brooklynites and other residents of the greater city.

Brooklyn received recognition as a town by the state Legislature of New York in 1788. Ferriage across the East River was furnished by sailboats landing at Fulton street exclusively until 1795, when the Catharine street ferry was created. The first newspaper of the town was established in 1799 by Thomas Kirk under the title of the Courier and New York and Long island Advertiser. The orderly character of the town's folk of the early times is indicated by the fact that the erection of a jail in Brooklyn was first proposed in 1802. In 1812 an extensive fire destroyed many buildings and brought widely distributed loss to the people. On May 10f, 1814, the first steam ferry-boat was placed upon the Catharine ferry, exciting much interest and general patronage. its carrying capacity was 500 passengers. Formal incorporation of the town occurred in 1815, which was confirmed by the legislature on April 12, 1816. The first school of a public character in Brooklyn was the Loisian Seminary, organized by an association of benevolent women in 1813. It proved to be the foundation of the local public school system which took progressive shape in 1816. Among the noted men who were residents of Brooklyn about that time were the famous French statesman and diplomatist, Talleyrand, and the English artist, Guy. The latter painted the valued picture of Brooklyn under a mantle of snow, which is now in the possession of the Brooklyn Institute. In 1822 the First Presbyterian, First Methodist and First Roman Catholic Churches were established and 1823 saw the organization of the Long island Bank, with a capital of $300,000, the Long island Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank, the Nassau Bank, the Brooklyn Fire Insurance Company, the Brooklyn Gas Light Company and the institution of the Board of Health. A notable event in 1825 was the laying of the corner stone of the Apprentices' Library at the southwest corner of Henry and Cranberry streets by the French sympathizer and assistant in American Independence, General Lafayette, on the Fourth of July. Negro slavery, which had for a considerable time been in course of manumission, was abolished in that year. Legislative power to place the town under a form of city government, which had long been desired, was granted on April 8, 1834, and on May 5 following the first mayor, George hall, was elected to office by the Board of Aldermen.

The Brooklyn Eagle and Kings County Democrat, now the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, was established and edited in 1841 by Henry C. Murphy and Richard Adams Looke. In 1843 the Atlantic Dock Company was organized, with $1,000,000 capital, to transact a general wharfing and warehousing business. From this undertaking has grown the present great wharfage and storage system on the city's water front. The Association for Improving the condition of the Poor was founded in 1844, the leading spirits in the benevolence being the brothers, Ripley and Reuben Ropes, A.D. Wheelock and other benevolent citizens. In that year the tunnel of the Brooklyn Central and Jamaica Railroad, starting from Furman street and running about three-quarters of a mile under Atlantic street, was opened to train traffic. The necessity for a public hospital became pressingly apparent and proposal for its creation secured the support of Henry E. Pierrepont, Abiel A. Low and other promoters of the city's interests.

In 1845 the Brooklyn City Hospital was incorporated and temporary accommodations for the treatment of patients were secured. Construction of the Brooklyn Hospital, on the south side of Fort Greene was commenced in 1851. Increase in the number of churches of all denominations was remarkable, chief among the additions being the Unitarian Church of the Saviour, under the Rev. Dr. Frederick A. Farley; Holy Trinity, Protestant Episcopal, of which A.N. (now bishop) Littlejohn was the second rector; Church of the Pilgrims, Congregational, under the Rev. Dr. Richard S. Storrs, and Plymouth Church, also Congregational, which was for so long presided over by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Fort Greene, the land of which was purchased from its owners in 1826 and presented to the town for the location of a poor house by Joseph Sprague and Alden Spooner, was converted into a public park by act of the Legislature in 1847. In the last named year Henry Ward Beecher assumed charge of Plymouth Church. In the same year the extensive improvements in South Brooklyn and the Gowanus District were instituted, which induced widespread building in that territory, upward of 2,000 structures being erected during the two succeeding years.

In 1848 a great fire, which started in a furniture store at Fulton and Sands streets, on September 9, destroyed 200 houses, three churches, the post office and a newspaper office during the twenty-four hours which elapsed before it was under control. After water resources failed it was found necessary to blow up buildings with gunpowder in advance of the fire. The loss aggregated $1,250,000.

The City hall, the construction of which was commenced in 1836 but delayed in consequence of the financial reverses of 1837, was completed and occupied by the city officials in 1848. The project of bridging the East River, which had been vaguely mooted previously, was seriously urged at this time by John Pope, an architect living in New York, who was friend of Robert Fulton. The suggestion made in 1849 was to place on the river a pontoon or floating bridge having a movable section to permit of the passage of vessels. The engineering problems involved and the expense of any undertaking of the kind, together with the existence of the ferries which had been established at numerous points on the river, under the promotion of Henry E. Pierrepont, Lyman Bates, Conklin Brush and others who were prominent in all movements for improvement and progress in the city, seemed to render the bridging of the river a matter of remote necessity.

In 1855 Williamsburgh and Greenpoint were annexed to Brooklyn, which increased the area of the city to 16,000 acres or 25 square miles, the assessed valuation of which was about $65,000,000, and raised the population numerically to 160,000.

This being the period of the celebrated clipper sailing ship service, many of the vessels were docked at Brooklyn wharves and their commanders, as well as resident good livers, were the patrons of the well remembered chop houses__shades they were sometimes termed which existed in the city.

The introduction of the Ridgewood water supply took place in December, 1858, an event which was enthusiastically celebrated the following April.

The Academy of Music was built in 1859. When the war broke out, in 1861, the inhabitants of Brooklyn responded liberally to the calls of the Washington Government for men and money to assist in the forcible preservation of the Union, and it is asserted that in proportion to population they contributed as largely as any other section of the country to the number of lives sacrificed in that deplorable contest. The women of the city rendered their share of service in preparing and forwarding to the army hospital stores for the benefit of the sufferers in battle and from sickness. many of them also did service as nurses in the hospitals.

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


Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 2, 1898
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