Greenpoint does not seem like a very likely place to have a tradition of taxidermy, but this is an area that is always full of surprises and it turns out that Greenpoint made a major contribution to taxidermy.
Taxidermy is defined as the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form. One of the finest practitioners of this art is Amber Maykut of Brooklyn Taxidermy (681 Morgan Avenue). Amber took lessons from George Dante and John Bollman, taxidermists for NYC’s American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian.
At the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Amber interned in the special exhibitions/fabrication department and studied the art of the diorama under Tom Doncourt. She also became certified in bird and mammal taxidermy. Brooklyn Taxidermy has been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, The LA Times, VICE Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, Time Out NY, and many other publications, but Amber is neither the first nor the most famous, local taxidermist.
Greenpoint’s legendary taxidermist John Rowley created many of the great dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History and wrote two of the most important texts about Taxidermy.
I came across Rowley’s story in an old edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s Old Timers Recollection series in which Greenpointer Alfred Preston in February of 1940 recalled growing up with Rowley. Information on Rowley’s youth in Greenpoint is sketchy, but it appears he was born in 1862 and was largely self-educated.
Taxidermy began to establish itself as a science and art form in the 1880s just as Rowley was reaching adulthood and New York’s American Museum of Natural History was being founded. One can surmise that he visited the museum, which first opened in 1871, as a boy and like millions of other children, was fascinated by the animals he saw there, but the state of taxidermy was primitive then. Animals were simply stuffed and they were not exhibited in the lifelike dioramas that have enthralled millions of visitors for decades, so creating realistic dioramas was one of the important early tasks of the museum. Continue reading →
After opening in 2013, Williamsburg’s OUTPUT (74 Wythe Ave.) is closing its doors on Jan. 1, 2019, the popular dance club confirmed today. In a statement posted on Facebook, OUTPUT staff explained that the ever-changing nightlife scene and financial burdens posed “multiple existential challenges” to the business model:
This sudden turn of events may seem shocking to many, but for those of us watching from the inside, we have seen the writing on the wall for some time. A confluence of factors contributed to the club’s misfortune; rapidly shifting social trends, unfavorable market conditions and weakening financial outlooks coincided with the simultaneous emergence of multiple existential challenges unique to the club’s circumstances. The mounting situation led to one unfortunate yet unavoidable conclusion; for OUTPUT to continue as a viable enterprise, the business model and mode of operation would need to change drastically, in ways that would likely betray the mission on which the brand was founded. Facing the prospect of taking great risks on uncertain outcomes just to keep the club open in some diminished capacity, the day-to-day operators who founded the club and have been at the helm throughout, made the painstaking decision to reject compromise and instead close OUTPUT with the club’s hard-earned reputation intact.
CCM purchassed the 74th Wythe Ave building that houses OUTPUT for $1.6 million in 2012 and sold the building for $7.4 million in 2014, according to the Commercial Observer. Continue reading →
Hey Greenpointers! Are you ready to deck the halls…with History?
Holiday History runs deep in this town, since Santa is a Native New Yorker. It’s true! Saint Nick is the Patron Saint of New York City, and New York’s writers and artists were the first to describe and depict Santa as we know him. He even got his sleigh in Chelsea! Add to this the fact that New York retailers invented holiday window displays, the original yule log footage was filmed here, and we’ve even got the original manuscript of “A Christmas Carol,” and it’s clear New York is a veritable holiday hot spot.
If you’d like to hear more about New York’s holiday history, please join me around town this month for my Hometown Holiday History event series!
New York’s Holiday History from George Washington to Andy Warhol @ QED Astoria (27-16 23rd Avenue), 3pm, $10, Buy Tix
Santa’s from West 23rd Street and other Secret Histories of New York Holidays @ Caveat (21A Clinton St.), 7pm, $15, I’m so thrilled to be joined by two incredible storytellers who will add to the historic holiday fun with tales of the ancient roots of the Winter Solstice, and the origins of Santa’s reindeer! Buy Tix
Thursday 12/ 27
TRIVIA Night: Deck the hall, drop the ball! @ Archestratus (160 Huron St.), 8pm, FREE, you know the drill for this one, Greenpoint! This month’s Trivia will be Holiday/New Year’s themed. Feel free to swing by solo, or with a team of up to four, to strut your stuff, win wonderful food and drink, and claim the title of Greenpoint Trivia Champ! RSVP
Looking for the perfect gift this season? Shop handmade and DIY gifts by 30+ local vendors at the Sugar x Spice Holiday Markers Market. It’s happening Sunday, December 16th from 1-6pm at Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave). Festive wares run the full gifting gamut, including apothecary, home goods, jewelry, comics & zines, handmade clothes, tarot & spiritual goods, enamel pins, greeting cards, artisanal miniatures, and much more.
The market will feature a free DIY card-making station, a full bar for festive cocktail-sipping, and a fun wintry photo booth. If you’re one of the first shoppers, you can score a special gift bag with exclusive products, samples, and holiday treats—and you don’t even have to be on the “nice” list!
If you’re also a creative maker, you can bring unwanted DIY, crafting, and art supplies with you. There will be a donation box to benefit Friends of Materials for the Arts, a non-profit that supports NYC’s Materials for the Arts program. MFTA provides free art supplies to thousands of creative and educational activities across the five boroughs, diverting over 1 million pounds of materials from the landfill each year.
Thanks in large part to the writings of celebrated author Henry Miller and the stately Italianate houses on the street, Fillmore Place were landmarked in 2009 and will forever preserve the charm that enthralled the young Miller, who first saw it as a child in the late 1890s. The atmosphere of late 19th century Williamsburg is rtetained on the street in an area that rapidly gentrified over the past decade and lost much of its history: Fillmore Place is a gem and a throwback to an earlier era of local history. Gazing upon the austere brick facades of the old row houses on the south side of Fillmore Place, it is easy to imagine Williamsburg before the bridge and why Miller loved the neighborhood so strongly.
In the 1840s two merchant tailors could see that Williamsburg was prime real estate ripe for development. In 1846, Connecticut-born businessmen Alfred Clock and Ephraim Miller began acquiring parcels of land on the block bounded by Grand Street, Roebling Street, N. 2nd Street (renamed Metropolitan Avenue), and 5th Street ( Now Driggs Avenue). They purchased 12 lots from one owner and Clock and Miller also acquired three more lots from another landowner in 1847. Finally, they added a small strip of the David Van Cott farmstead in 1848. Now owning a contiguous parcel of developable land, Clock and Miller then hired a surveyor in 1850 to lay out a new, more regularized set of city lots on the property. The cumbersome dimensions of the block—each frontage was over 300 feet in length—also lead the pair to cut a narrow road through the middle of their development, which they named Fillmore Street (soon renamed Fillmore Place), after the president of the United States at the time Millard Fillmore.
Eckford Street Studio, the Greenpoint gem with Drink and Draw Tuesdays, is opening up its doors at 70 Eckford Street to host a Community Open Studio on December 21 from 7 to 10 PM. Have access to studio materials, enjoy free beer and snacks, and take classes in zine-making. Professional artists will be on site to consult, and the community-building event will be taking a suggested donation of $5–25 to support our Scholarship Fund for kids from local Title I schools. “More than anything,” Education Manager Stefanie Lewin says, “we are just excited to welcome community members into the studio for a fun, creative evening.”
Before heading off for the holidays, bring a project you’ve been meaning to complete before the new year and meet local artists!
There’s only one week left to catch the Green Point Projects exhibition featuring the paintings of esteemed Polish Modernist painters, Jozef Czapski and Teresa Pagowska, at Green Point Projects (27 Gem St.).
The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday, from 12 pm – 6 pm, and the current show entitled “Returning to New York” is curated by Marek Bartelik.
The exhibition runs through December 15 and marks the gallery’s fourth show. Green Point Projects has also displayed the work of Polish artists Eugeniusz Markowski, Stefan Krygier, Magdalena Abakanowicz and Stanisław Fijałkowski.
Despite rain and an unreliable G train, neighbors and tourists poured into the Greenpoint Loft this past Sunday for our biggest event of the year — the Polar Vortex Holiday Market. The halls were decked with an ice castle created by Mano-a-Mano while scents of mulling spices wafted in the air.
The Manhattan skyline the Loft usually bestows was clouded by the dismal fog, but the inside stayed bopping thanks to Love Always band jamming with an upbeat live performance and Pink Slater singing dreamy mellow tunes. Continue reading →
There are few regions of New York City that can match North Brooklyn for its history of metal casting. Many of New York’s most iconic pieces of cast iron, steel and bronze were cast locally. Metal casting was one of the five black arts that shaped North Brooklyn’s industrial era. These black arts also included oil refining, porcelain making, paper production and glass blowing. Even today local foundries continue to create different kinds of metal objects locally. Sadly, even local history enthusiasts do not know the major achievements of local metal fabrication. It is a proud history our area should reclaim.
Most people can identify one of Greenpoint’s most famous metal objects: the ironclad battleship, the United States Ship Monitor, which was built in an amazing 101 days at the Continental Iron Works on Quay Street. The ships’ thick iron turret repelled cannon shots and saved the union in the battle of Hampton Roads in 1862. What you might not know is that many other monitor type ships were also built there and during the Civil War 1,500 men worked around the clock building these iron battleships, but there were many other local non-military achievements in metal.
The Brooklyn Bridge also used the work of local foundries. The bridge architects designed huge caissons, massive iron boxes built by a local firm. John Roebling, the bridge’s architect, designed them in 1868, giving the demanding contract to the shipbuilding firm Webb and Bell, located at the foot of Milton Street. Building these massive objects itself was a daunting engineering feat. Nothing like them had ever been built before. There was one for each bridge tower and each weighed an amazing 3,000 tons, larger than any object ever sunk into the ground before. The caissons were 168 feet long and 103 feet wide, an area covering half a city block. Each contained 110, 000 cubic feet of timber and 250 feet of iron with iron walls and a ceiling six feet thick.
Webb and Bell insisted on being paid $100, 000 in advance for the complicated task of building them. To dig inside the caissons workers needed air and the caissons were built with a revolutionary new technology: airlocks made of one-half inch boilerplates, seven feet by six and a half inches in diameter. Due to their enormous size, the massive caissons had to be built in parts and then welded together at the foot of the bridge.
Finally, in May 1870 the caissons were ready to be pulled down the river by two tugboats. They hoped to float them down the river, but launching such heavy objects into the East River was a major engineering problem. Webb and Bell had to build seven launch ways so that these massive objects could reach the river. Thousands of Greenpointers turned out to witness their launch into the river. Huge cheers arose from the throngs assembled along the East River as the caissons hit the water and did not sink. They were then towed the five miles down the East River to the bridge construction site.
The Hecla Iron Works
Some Greenpointers might also be surprised that some of the city’s most beautiful cast iron facades in were also cast locally. The Hecla Architectural Iron Works occupied 35 city lots located between N. 10th Street and N. 12th Street between Wythe Avenue and Berry Street and employed 1,000 workers in its various departments. Founded by two Scandinavian immigrants, Niels Poulson of Denmark and Charles Eger from Norway, the firm has become legendary for its graceful creations
Chanukah celebrations are Dec. 2 – Dec. 10 this year, and in celebration of the Jewish “Festival of Lights,” a menorah lighting was hosted by the Chabad of North Brooklyn last night at the intersection of Bedford Avenue and N. 7th Street in Williamsburg. If you missed the menorah lighting in Williamsburg, a Greenpoint Chabad-hosted menorah lighting ceremony will take place this Saturday, Dec. 8, at 8 p.m. at the corner of Greenpoint Avenue and Franklin Street. Check out the photos and video from the Williamsburg celebration below: