The history and legacy of the Second World War can be seen all around us in Brooklyn. Once home to hundreds of factories, shipyards, and warehouses, and responsible for sending millions of service members off to the front lines, Brooklyn was arguably one of the most important communities in waging and winning the war. Using locations from communities across Brooklyn—including famous sites like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn Army Terminal, and lesser-known sites that help tell stories about labor, housing, and culture—as well as primary source documents and oral histories, this program will help illuminate Brooklynites’ experience of World War II.
The (Re)connecting Brooklyn’s History series brings the fascinating work of historians to an audience of students and educators through online presentations and resources for sustained engagement with local history topics.
With the recent release of a feasibility study by the MTA on the “Interborough Express,” a little-known stretch of train tracks is suddenly in the news. The Bay Ridge Branch is a critical link in the freight rail network of New York Harbor and Long Island, carrying goods like construction materials, chemicals, and beer, and connecting with the Hell Gate Bridge and the city’s last cross-harbor rail barge terminal. This proposal would utilize the branch for both freight and commuter rail service, linking with the NYC subway and providing a direct route through southern and eastern Brooklyn and Queens without the need to travel through Manhattan. In this virtual program, we will look at the history of the Bay Ridge Branch, its current use and future potential, and its connection to the long-planned Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day as we share some of our favorite love stories from history from the places that we work. We will share long-distance love letters from World War II, milestone weddings in Prospect Park, workplace romances at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and people who found their loves in public markets. We will share artifacts, newspaper clippings, oral histories, and more from various archives, and we invite participants to share their own love stories and family histories in this Zoom meeting.
Concrete is the world’s most ubiquitous building material, and many important milestones of its development took place in Brooklyn. In this virtual program, we will examine concrete’s history, production, and chemistry, then discuss some of the landmark structures that drove the development of steel-reinforced concrete in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From Gowanus to DUMBO, Prospect Park to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we will look at monumental buildings and small details designed by some renowned architects, including Cass Gilbert, Albert Kahn, and Calvert Vaux.
Take a virtual visit to one of the most popular sites of Open House New York Weekend, the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and join us for a live exploration of the site’s architecture, history, and industry. Designed by architect Cass Gilbert and built in 1918–1919, the Terminal is an architectural and engineering marvel that served as a major military installation for nearly 50 years. Today it is a city-owned industrial park that is home to over 100 tenants, including manufacturers, technology companies, nonprofits, artists, and more. On this virtual tour, we will explore the history and architecture of the stunning atrium, and visit with Adapt Ability Bikes, a nonprofit that builds adaptive bicycles for people with disabilities, and stop into BioBAT Art Space to see the work of artist Tatiana Arocha.
Celebrate Navy Day with a discussion of one of the least-known units of World War II, the Navy Armed Guard. Serving in the U-boat-infested waters of the Atlantic, these sailors served in small detachments aboard merchant ships manning the deck guns. This virtual program will be hosted from the Sunset Park waterfront, where many sailors departed from the docks of the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Bush Terminal, and where the largest Armed Guard Center in the country was located, the Second Battalion Naval Militia Armory that once stood on 1st Avenue and 52nd Street. We will discuss the creation and evolution of the service during World War II, listen to oral histories of Armed Guard sailors, and visit one of the few memorials to the sacrifices of these brave men.
Photo Credit: Official US Navy photograph, taken by Clarence F. Korker
The Waterfront Museum presents The Tideshift Project, an oral history collecting event presented live aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Railroad No. 79 wooden lighterage barge moored in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This three-part series will record stories from waterfront workers who have handled freight in and near Red Hook, and from their descendants. This first event featured interviews with waterfront workers who lived and worked through the transition to containerization, including James McNamara, Robert Hansen, and Gregory “Buddy” Cox in conversation with Stefan D-W.
These are free events and donations to the Waterfront Museum are welcome. The Tideshift Project was funded in part by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
On September 22, 1958, 23-year-old US Army Private Elvis Presley boarded troop transport USS General George M. Randall at the Brooklyn Army Terminal to begin his 17 months of military service in Germany. Though everything Elvis did was a media event, he tried his best to be just another G.I. In this virtual program, we will follow Elvis’ footsteps in Brooklyn, compare his experience to that of millions of other soldiers that passed through the New York Port of Embarkation, place his drafting and deployment into the context of the Cold War, and discuss the impact of his military service on his music and movie career.
Built on the footprint of the piers and warehouses of the historic Bush Terminal, Bush Terminal Park provided much-needed green space and waterfront access to the Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood when it opened in 2014. Join us for a virtual walk through the 22-acre park, which offers remnants of the site’s maritime and manufacturing history, unique engineered tide pools and a wild-growing forest, and unparalleled views of the harbor and skyline.
Completed in 1919, the Brooklyn Army Terminal is a marvel of architecture and engineering. On this virtual tour, we will examine its design and construction during World War I, its 47-year service as a military supply base, and its reinvention as a hub for industry, manufacturing, and technology today. We will spend time in the breathtaking atrium, step into the skybridges that connect the buildings, and look at how the site has been renovated.