Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kings Highway - 1906 and 1907

The Brighton line at Kings Highway and East 16th Street has been elevated since 1907. This photo from the “Brooklyn’s Mother Road” site;  purports to be a photo of Kings Highway in 1906 with the tracks at the street level. You can see them running left to right in the foreground. That means this photo is facing either East or West on the Highway. The following photo shows the same location 1 year later with the new elevated station in place, leaving me unsure that the first photograph is really correct as to location. 

Although the tracks are in the street, which is consistent with the original Brighton line location, the street looks too un-developed in the first photograph. And, in the second photograph, the buildings don’t look brand new and the sidewalks don’t have the strips of earth for planting. Still, though, the first photo is a great reminder of the days before the Brighton line was elevated. 

The 1907 photo is more emblematic of the Kings Highway we all remember growing up. The candy store is already there on the right, hidden by the delivery wagon. The station platform doesn't look quite the same. I think the station platforms were extended later on.

I really wish that the first photo had a better description of which way it is facing. If it is facing east then it is possible that the street beyond East 16th Street had not yet been developed. That kind of makes sense, as the Kings Highway Savings Bank on the corner of East 16th Street didn't go up for another 20 odd years.

But, if the photograph is located correctly then it was taken just a few feet from where Dubrow’s would eventually rise on the left; and Rainbow Shops would later stand on the right.

Brooklyn; especially Kings Highway; has a long and storied past. If you were raised there then you have the fortune to be able to go on line and find these old photos. If you were raised in a small town somewhere it can be very hard to find old photos such as these to piece together the growth of your town; or in this case a neighborhood.

If anyone has any further information on that first photo; showing the tracks of the Brighton line at street level; please let me know. Like many of the people I grew up with, I have been collecting these old photos from the internet. They make a fascinating study in urban growth.

But even more important for me, the ones from the 1930’s on are a visual record of the places my Mom and Dad used to go as kids, and later as teenagers. I can’t look at a photo of the Kingsway Theater for example, without thinking of the night my mother first met my father there. He was 17 and working as an usher.

It’s the same with the photos of the train station itself. Whenever I see those older photos I remember the story of the Blizzard of 1948. My father’s family had moved to Manhattan by then, and my father had to make the trip from the Upper West Side to Kings Highway to see my Mom.

The blizzard story was one of my favorites. My Dad made the trip, which took hours in the storm, only to arrive at Kings Highway and then make his way on foot from East 16th Street to Bedford Ave where my Mom lived. He made it, and had to stay the night and the next day until the storm had passed.

No point to this post; just my way of putting down on paper some of the stories I want to pass down the line for my children and grandchildren.

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