In 1879, Scottish-born businessman Robert Gair stumbled upon an invention that would transform packaging and consumer products forever: a fast, mechanized way to manufacture cardboard boxes. This invention would grow into an empire of paper mills, box factories, printing plants, and even marketing and advertising arm—a vertically-integrated packaging company, based in today’s DUMBO, Brooklyn. This virtual program will look at how, a century ago, this present-day corner of the “Brooklyn Tech Triangle” was also a center of innovation for packaged food and household products.
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.
On March 17, 1863, the gunboat Shamrock was launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an event attended by more than 5,000 onlookers and tremendous fanfare. The christening of this ship was meant to recognize the contributions of Irish troops to the Union cause, but it also represented a watershed moment during the ascendancy of the Irish in the city’s waterfront trades. This program will examine the growth of Irish communities along the waterfront before and after the Civil War, look at the centers of civic life, including churches, pubs, and political clubs, some of which persist to this day, and learn about groundbreaking Irish admirals, engineers, and entrepreneurs that helped shape the city’s waterfront.
Food manufacturing has been a cornerstone of Brooklyn’s manufacturing economy for 150 years. Not only was the borough was home to some of the largest chocolate and confectionary makers in the country, but its port brought the tropical ingredients from around the globe. We will discuss some of the large and small chocolate makers that dotted Brooklyn’s landscape, the men and women who worked in them, and the transformations brought to the industry by mechanization, unionization, and war. We will also look at some of the artisanal chocolate makers that are keeping the confectionary traditions alive today.
The neighborhood today known as DUMBO was once the center for the agricultural hamlet of Brooklyn, and grew into a center of commerce, shipping, and manufacturing. On this virtual walk, we will look at several eras of the neighborhood’s history reflected in its architecture. From the storage warehouses of the 1860s, to the reinforced concrete industrial buildings of the Gairville complex, to the last remaining tenement building in the neighborhood, we will also examine how these buildings have been repurposed to create one of the most expensive residential and office districts in all of New York City.
Take a virtual ride with us on the South Brooklyn route of the NYC Ferry. We will board at Corlears Hook and examine the Brooklyn waterfront as we ride past DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Red Hook, Sunset Park, and finally end in Bay Ridge. Along the way, we will look back at the industrial history of these neighborhoods and see some of the last vestiges of the industrial and working waterfront in Brooklyn, including the Red Hook Container Terminal, Erie Basin, and the Brooklyn Army Terminal. We will also discuss many of things to see and do near the ferry stops.
Take a virtual ride with us on the Astoria route of the NYC Ferry. We will board at Wall Street, and on this one-hour ride, we will examine the historical buildings along the waterfront of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and learn about things to do at each of the ferry’s stops. We will stop by Wallabout Bay for a visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other landmarks of the industrial waterfront, learn about the history of housing in the Lower East Side, Midtown, and Long Island City, examine the river’s barge traffic, past and present, and discuss the natural and manmade islands that stretch along the river. To accompany this guided tour, check out our free map guide that we created for Open House New York.
The waterfront has long been the epicenter of Brooklyn’s economic and cultural life, yet the stories of ordinary workers in the once-bustling piers and factories can be difficult to locate. In this program, historian Julie Golia will share how one small newspaper item – a 1873 notice of the untimely death of dockworker Michael Harkins – allowed her team of researchers at Brooklyn Historical Society to uncover generations of history along the waterfront. Julie is formerly the Vice President of Curatorial Affairs and Collections at Brooklyn Historical Society and oversaw the creation of the exhibit “Waterfront” and BHS DUMBO, and she is currently Curator of History, Social Sciences, and Government Information at The New York Public Library.
From Coney Island to DUMBO, this virtual program will look at Brooklyn’s surviving historic carousels. We will delve into the history of the art form of carousel design, discuss Brooklyn’s own unique style of carousels, and we will have a special focus on the 1912 carousel in Prospect Park, created by master carver Charles Carmel, and the restoration work done to this masterpiece of carousel design over the years.