Friday, March 18, 2011

When A Section Of President Street Was Secor Place And Carroll Street Was Carroll Place

Neighborhood Map 1874
An 1874 Map of the Gowanus Canal area
Neighborhood Map 1874
Neighborhood Map 1874

Detail of 1874 Map

Union Street between Smith and Hoyt was once called Bergen Street
This section of President Street was Secor Place
The former Carroll Place, now Carroll Street

Carroll Gardener and friend Alexandrea is as passionate about the neighborhood's history as I am. Over the years, she has amassed an amazing collection of old photos and maps, which she generously shares often with me and PMFA readers. Recently, Alexandrea and I have emailed back and forth about a map from 1874 that she found of the area along the Gowanus Canal.

Very interestingly, four of the blocks between Smith and Hoyt Streets in our neighborhood had different names than they have today. For those blocks, Union Street was once called Bergen Street, President Street was Secor Place and Carroll Street was actually named Carroll Place. And Second Street, believe it or not, was called Balchen Place.

This new knowledge prompted Alexandrea and me to check historical documents and sure enough, we came across plenty of evidence that these blocks went by those names.

It has even been suggested by some neighborhood old-timers that Carroll Place and Secor Place (President) between Smith and Hoyt, which are close to the once private community garden now known as Carroll Park, were gated.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the streets were renamed, but from my search, I would conclude that the switch happened around the time the 1874 map above was printed since the name still appear in newspaper ads at that time. (See the 1875 'for sale' ad below.)

These streets were all laid out on land that belonged to farmer Jacob Bergen, descendant of a Dutch/Norwegian family. (You can read some fascinating Bergen family history here) The area of Bergen's farm was known as Bergen Hill and ran along the Gowanus Canal to Smith Street.

Below are some great information Alexandrea and I stumbled upon when we searched these old street names. I'll post more soon.

And as always, Alexandrea, thanks for sharing your finds with me and with everyone else.

Eagle, November 23, 1854
Brooklyn Eagle Archive, November 23, 1854
***Take the time to read the mention of the desirability of the 
proximity to the Gowanus canal in the ad above.

Brooklyn 1875

Sales ad for the lot now occupied by #259 Carroll Street

Bedell, Carroll Place March 20, 1875

Brooklyn Eagle Archive, March 20, 1875
The J. Bedell mentioned above was the builder of several houses on Carroll Street. 
He had his office on Smith Street.



Anonymous said...

Katia, I've been trying for the longest time to determine how/when Secor Place became President Street. And yes, it was a private, gated street with many professional living there (doctors, lawyers, professors, etc.) In fact, Secor Place is named on some documentation I have for my house (it might actually be the deed or perhaps some landmarks document, I don't recall right now). I've surfed the web and various sites but didn't come up with anything substantive except for some newspaper stories back in the late 1800's about a Brooklyn family named Secor. There was a Mr. Secor (forget his first name) who was a successful attorney with a very young wife who was quite the flirt. Try as he might to control her and preserve his reputation, Mr. Secor -- apparently quite a number of years senior to this young, scandalous wife of his -- became depressed, eventually lost his law practice and committed suicide. How about that for a soap opera? I continued to come up against brick walls for more details on the Secors and Secor Place, but at the very least, it seems that they were quite a colorful lot for their time.

Katia said...

Oh, I love this kind of stuff. soap opera for sure.
If you ever come across that article again, please, please forward it to me. I would love to post it.
I did come across some more funny articles when I researched the street names. I'll post them in the next few days.
And please, send all your good stuff my way so we can share with everyone.

fred said...

Thanks for this information, this is really interesting that 2nd street( and not 1st street) was Balchen Place between Hoyt & Smith, and was certainly gated . Looking at the map, It is obvious that this portion of 2nd is entirely part of the "historic Carroll Gardens".

Katia said...

Fred, I was thinking the same thing and the information should be used to present to Landmarks.

Anonymous said...

That shot you took of "1st Street" is actually 2nd Street, no? So was 1st between Hoyt and Bond also Balchen Place?

Anonymous said...

I heard the story that President St was gated and locked with the milkman, mailman, residents and others having the key. This is what I heard from an old timer on President St who died a few years ago in his 90s. He heard it when he moved in (long ago) from his next door neighbor who was in her 90s at the time. She had been the teenage niece of the original owner who kept house for her bachelor uncle and had lived there since the house was new. When he died, he left the house to her.

Katia said...

Hi Anon, you are right. Of course it is 2nd Street, not First. I just changed it. Thanks for catching my mistake.

RL said...

Great article!

A clarification/correction, though: Carroll Park is often referred to as having started as a private, community garden, but I think that may be a misinterpretation of the history, based on two aspects:

1) Newspapers and other references refer to property owners paying for the park. But, that was a financing mechanism, not a matter of ownership. When the park was created, it was financed by an assessment from property owners within a certain distance or number of blocks, as was the standard mechanism for other improvements, such as street paving, public wells, street lighting, etc. The process was that assessment districts were determined by the city, based on who would have the most direct benefit, then property owners fought the city to reduce the area, then they worked it out, then the city (common council) voted, and the property owners were taxed. But, it was a public park.

2) There are newspaper references to Carroll Park fences and locked gates. However, those seem to just have been routine fences, which were locked after-hours and patrolled, and some fencing within to keep people off the greenery. It wasn't like Gramercy Park, which is fenced and locked so that only certain people could get in.

As often happens with history, someone at some point in time misinterpreted information and subsequent accounts relied on those interpretations, so that misinterpretations become myth and get carried forward as fact.

Katia said...

Once again, thank you so much for your well informed, well written research of Carroll Park. I will make sure to pass the information along on the Friends of Carroll Park.
Fascinating stuff.
Can you help us find any information regarding Carroll Street and President Street being gated at one time?
Thanks in advance for any info you can dig up.

RL said...

Katia: I was wondering the same thing about Carroll or President being gated. I've never seen any evidence of that, just comments like in Fred's above.
Fred: What led you to conclude it was gated? If it was based on the curved lines on either side of the Balchen Place street name, those are just parentheses because those were the former names.

Anonymous said...

It's a common story in CG that President & Carroll Streets were gated, but it's been difficult to find any confirmation of this. I'd love to know one way or the other if someone has access to additional historical resources on our neighborhood.

Dave said...

This article from the NY Times reports that a number of Brooklyn of streets were renamed by the city council on May 22, 1865. The article mentions Balchen Place being renamed to Second Street, and Bergen Place being renamed to Union Street. It doesn't say anything about Secor Place, but I suspect that it was renamed at around the same time. The renamed streets are listed in roughly alphabetical order (Atlantic, Bay, Bush, Balchen, ...), and the last one listed is Church. The article ends by saying "At this stage of the proceedings the board adjourned for one week." So I suspect Secor Place and a number of other streets starting with letters C-Z were renamed in a subsequent meeting.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

Published: May 23, 1865
RENAMING AND RENUMBERING THE STREETS. -- At a regular meeting of the Brooklyn Common Council last evening, the committee on renaming and renumbering the streets submitted their report, which was read, and the following were altered:
Balchen-place and Twentieth-street to be known an Second-street.
Bergen-place and Union-street to be known as Union-street.

Katia said...

Great find, Dave. Thanks for sharing. Some of these new names don't seem to have stuck like this one: "Butler-Street to be designated as Geneva Street."