12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: First Across the East River Bridge

Day Twelve  12 Views of Brooklyn
More bridge views, see Who's Who

More bridge views, see Who’s Who

dec17IN 1883, THE FIRST PERSON OFFICIALLY TO CROSS the completed East River Bridge connecting the cities of Brooklyn and New York was Emily Warren Roebling. She crossed in a carriage, carrying a live rooster –  a symbol of victory – and really, she had plenty to crow about. More than any other person, she had made this bridge happen. The seemingly ill-fated bridge construction had first taken the life of her father-in-law, John, who’d designed and “sold” it to investors and to the two cities, and then it robbed the health of her husband, John’s son Washington, who had become Chief Engineer.

An intelligent and educated woman, Emily had been at his elbow while he studied and then extended his father’s plans and ideas. But soon her husband’s impairment – caused by decompression sickness while installing caissons at the site – left her to oversee the bridge building day to day, and then year after year. Washington followed the construction of the bridge by spy glass from his infirmary perch in Brooklyn Heights, it was believed, and relayed his instructions from there; in reality, however, for about a dozen years, he was seeing no one face-to-face but his nurses and his wife.

Emily Roebling proved able in the supervisory role for the next 14 years, even facing down challengers from the worlds of politics, engineering and investment, to keep the project in her and her husband’s hands. Did she go on to accomplish more civil engineering wonders in her own name? No. But in 1899, at age 56, she got a law degree from New York University. She died in 1903 of stomach cancer.

125th anniversary fireworks in 2008

125th anniversary fireworks in 2008

Washington Roebling’s medical treatment may have used the addictive drugs of the day. On the day the bridge opened, Roebling did not attend the opening ceremony and at the family’s reception, he was able to stand for only a few minutes and reportedly he showed no emotion; that was left to his wife. But Roebling’s health improved some time after the bridge was completed, at least enough so that he remarried after Emily’s death, and even took the reins of John A. Roebling’s Sons, the family engineering company, at age 80. He had outlived his younger brothers and their sons. In spite of continuing pain from decompression sickness, he ran the company successfully until his own death in 1926 at age 89. In 1915, the East River Bridge was officially renamed the Brooklyn Bridge.

12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: And There Shall Be Trees

Day Eleven 12 Views of Brooklyn
Photograph by Joseph Caserto. See Who's Who.

Photograph by Joseph Caserto. See Who’s Who.

dec16IT HAPPENS SO SUDDENLY. ONE DAY YOU TURN A FAMILIAR CORNER and – voilà!  there you are in the midst of an evergreen forest! The pine scent is intense, the prickly branches reach out to you, it’s heady and exciting: Christmastime, Christmastime! Soon you realize your brain is being bathed in or battered by holiday music. O Tannenbaum jostles Rudolph the Red….Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (preferably sung by k. d. lang) co-exists with Handel’s Messiah (preferably one you can sing along with in a church). You’ve shopped and staggered home to wrap. The tree lights are on. Who’s got the tape? Grandmother makes her annual joke: No packing in the peekages! Stockings are hung by the fire or maybe just draped over the back of the couch. When emotion overtakes you, it often comes by stealth – at the midnight service when a pure young voice sings the first notes of O Holy Night, or after the stockings have been emptied and the wrappings are in tatters and the family holds hands to give thanks over the turkey dinner. Or maybe it’s private, when you step outside to remember childhood celebrations and the people who loved you who now are gone and you silently thank them for the year you got the bike of your dreams and forgive them for the Christmas of the Scratchy Socks and Really Stupid Sweater. Take a deep breath, smell the pine wreath, give in to it all – and laugh a little as Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer from a car passing in the slushy street chimes in with your iPod, “Good King Wenceslas looked out/On the feast of Stephen/When the snow lay round about/Deep and crisp and even….” Here’s to 2012 and another fine Christmas.

12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: Not Your Grandmother’s Dumbo

Day Ten  12 Views of Brooklyn
From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who's Who

From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who’s Who

dec15IT’S FUN TO MONITOR THE REAL-ESTATE MONIKERS for neighborhoods – especially the Edsels among them, like the failed attempt to brand WesChe. It conjured up English dog breeds or stinky cheese rather than the intended Chelsea-beyond-Tenth-Avenue. Some say it all started in the late ’60s with WestBeth, the early West-of-Bethune Street loft conversion for artists’ residential use. But it came to sound like a Laugh-In rerun, as if Dan Rowan has crossed the East River into Outer Brooklyn and is trying to orient himself with a broker’s map. Rowan: Wait, Soho, isn’t that in England? Dick Martin: No, it’s SOuth of HOuston. Rowan: Houston, isn’t that in Texas? Martin: No, say HOWston, don’t say HEWston. R: Well, then, for NoHo, shouldn’t that be NoHow? M: No way. R: Tribeca, was that a Native tribe like our Canarsie and Gowanus? M: No, TriBeCA is the Triangle Below Canal. And besides, Gowanus wasn’t a tribe, it was the name of the sachem of the Canarsees, the local group of the Lenape. (Long pause.) R: You Manhattanites make up stuff just to confuse people. In Brooklyn, our neighborhood names have history and dignity: Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Vinegar Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights. M: With all those hills and heights, you Brooklyns must (rolling eyes) really like being high. Maybe that explains why you have a neighborhood called – heh heh –Dumbo. R: That’s an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, a historic district that recognizes Brooklyn’s hard-working industrial past. Martin, holding hands beside his head and flapping them like wings, annoyingly: Nothing to do with Walt Disney’s 1941 movie? Rowan stares, shakes head and exits stage left to the R train, proud to be a bridge-and-tunnel person.

12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: Good Porches Make Good Neighbors

Day Eight • 12 Views of Brooklyn
Photograph by Joy Makon.  See Who's Who.

Photograph by Joy Makon. See Who’s Who.

dec13 date stamp by Joy Makon DesignBROWNSTONE BROOKLYN, PEOPLE SAY – never mind that some of the rowhouses are brick or limestone, or interrupted by modern condos of concrete, glass and steel and the occasional larger pre-war apartment buildings. In mind’s eye, the long blocks between avenues have a rhythm or regularity that overcomes the variations. One can call the roll of neighborhoods: Albemarle Place, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights…all the way up the alphabet past Prospect Park South and Sunset Park to Windsor Terrace, where among the low-rise blocks are two jewels: Howard Place and, seen here, Fuller Place. Thanks to careful stewardship by the Fuller Place homeowners, the line of contiguous front porches is as pristine as this new-fallen snow.

12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: Why ‘Chanukah House’ is Dark in 2012

Day Six   12 Views of Brooklyn
(Used by permission of the homeowner)

(Used by permission of the homeowner)

dec11DANIEL TEITELBAUM GIVES THE HISTORY of the exuberant decorations on his family’s house. “The miracle of Chanukah is supposed to be publicized. That is why Jews all over the world light their menorahs in the windows or doorways of their homes where people passing in the street can see it. We have just taken it a step further.” When their daughter was two years old, “We started with a single dreidle made out of wood and strung with white lights. We then added blue lights that we put up together with white lights around our home. From that time on we tried to add something new every year.” The renown of the house in Mill Basin has grown. “In 2006, we were presented with a proclamation from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz naming our home, the official Brooklyn Chanukah House.” (More about this in our Who’s Who.) This year is sadly different:  “Due to Hurricane Sandy the Brooklyn Chanukah House is not able to put up its display. We suffered significant damage to our home and the repairs will not be completed before Chanukah. We apologize for this and wish to thank everyone for their messages of support. We will be back next Chanukah better than ever. Chanukah Sameach.”

Who’s Who in Creating 12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN

Brooklyn Artisan’s 12 Days of Brooklyn is our gift of the season when you visit our site.

12 Views of Brooklyn were gathered from artists and photographers who have looked at Brooklyn through creative and loving eyes and curated by Anne Mollegen Smith. 12 Tastes of Brooklyn were sampled and curated by Basia Hellwig12 Sips of Brooklyn were sampled and curated by Bruce A. Campbell.

Typographic designs of the date stamps for all 12 days are by Joy Makon Design.

DEC. 6  Date stamp font:  Avant Garde, by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnese, ITC, 1970.

The arch at Grand Army Plaza lighted for the holidays (Photo by Joseph Caserto. More: Who’s Who)

The arch at Grand Army Plaza decorated for the holidays, photograph by Joseph Caserto.  A resident of Brooklyn since the late 1980s, Caserto is an award-winning publication designer and earned a BFA with honors from Pratt Institute. See more of his work at etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto

EDITOR’S UPDATE: Joseph Caserto has kindly offered Brooklyn-Artisan visitors a 30% discount on boxed card sets that include this brilliant image of Grand Army Plaza on a winter night. Go to http://www.etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto and use the coupon code COUNTDOWN12.

DEC. 7  Date stamp font: Mrs Eaves, by Zuzana Licko, Emigre, 1996

Fall and Winter Tree at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, photograph by Jake Miller. Miller is a writer as well as a photographer and was a Brooklyn resident in the 1990s, when he shot a series called Brooklyn Light. His articles and photographs have appeared in many national magazines. He now lives in the Boston area.


DEC. 8  Date stamp font: Bauhaus, by Ed Benguiat and Victor Caruso, ITC, 1975

Photograph by Joy Makon; see Who's Who.

Menorah in the Snow, photograph by Joy Makon, taken in 2009 in Windsor Terrace. A resident of small-town Brooklyn since 1983, Joy is a magazine art director+designer and an indefatigable lover of all things new and cool. She curates Craft & Design for Brooklyn Artisan and writes and produces the weekly Best of Brooklyn listings.

Dec. 9  Date Stamp font: Cochin, Georges Peignot, Linotype, 1912

sledding_homeSledding Home, 2009, is an oil-on-canvas painting by Ella Yang, who is a member of the artist-run collective and gallery, 440 Gallery, in Park Slope. The gallery is run collectively by more than a dozen artists with very different styles and outlooks, but a common commitment. It is located in Park Slope on Sixth Avenue between Ninth and Tenth streets.

Dec. 10  Date stamp font: Chalet Tokyo, by René Albert Chalet (a clothing designer), House Industries, 1970

Peace Detail from a mural in Park Slope, boy and girlAt right, these 4 panels appear to the right of the children’s More Panels in 8th Street Muralpanel in the 8th Street mural. Just down the street is a Beansprouts childcare center, and around the corner, a church.


Dec. 11  Date stamp font: Goudy Oldstyle, by Frederick W. Goudy, Linotype, 1915

(Used by permission of the homeowner)

When you visit the site of the Mill Basin house, you can sign the guestbook and review the extensive press clippings. Screen shot 2012-12-10 at 12.43.57 PMAt right, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, holding the proclamation, with the Teitelbaum family.

Dec. 12  Date stamp font: Gill Sans Ultra Bold, by Eric Gill, Monotype, 1928

September Rain,7th Avenue, etching by September Rain, Seventh Avenue, 2006, etching by Eric March (edition of 25). Eric March’s first solo show was A Brooklyn Year at the Park Slope Gallery in 2006. His second show at the gallery was Moments in Time: Queens to Coney Island, in 2009. He teaches painting and illustration in the New York City area. The Park Slope Gallery shows by appointment.

Editor’s Note: Making and printing etchings are special skills: Etching is generally done to a metal plate by coating the surface, then scratching through the coating with a special stylus; an acid is then used to eat away the scratched lines which later hold the ink for the image to be printed. A particular piece is usually identified by the position in the series and the number that are in the edition – 1/25 meaning the first of 25, and so on. A lower number is not necessarily an indicator of quality, since much effort goes into making all the pulls equally good; rather, it is a way of tracking or inventorying the images to discourage theft, loss and forgery, and signals relative scarcity. The artist’s signature – usually written in pencil – shows that he approved the quality of that particular piece. A gallery or publisher sometimes underwrites a limited edition as a form of investment, and value may even rise as inventory shrinks.

Dec. 13  Date stamp font:  Shelley Allegro, by Matthew Carter, Linotype, 1972

Photograph by Joy Makon.  See Who's Who.

 Porches in the Snow, 2009, by Joy Makon. See her bio above, for Dec. 8. For most of her publications career, Joy has worked as a designer, but as readers of her Joy’s Best of Brooklyn column for Brooklyn Artisan know, she also writes well. Early sign of crossover skills: She was editor of her high school newspaper, and went from there to art school.

Dec. 14  Date stamp font: Rockwell, by Morris Fuller Benton and Frank Pierpont, Monotype, 1934

Painting by Ella Yang. See Who's Who

Canal Cloud Reflections, 2010,  another oil painting by Ella Yang (see Dec.9, above).”This was a very still morning, the water in the Gowanus Canal was high and there were plenty of clouds to make great reflections,” she recalls. “I love the contrast between the dilapidated, jumbled items on the left bank and the apparent organization of the buildings on the right bank. That’s the former Williamsburg Bank building on the right – a nice Brooklyn landmark that’s been turned into luxury condos!” Ella is a member of the art collective, 440 Gallery. (Next time you’re on the 440 Gallery site, browse the work of other gallery artists. You can also find other views of the Gowanus, this time abstracts, by 440’s Karen Gibbons.)

Dec. 15  Date stamp font: American Typewriter, by Joel Kaden and Tony Stan, ITC, 1974

From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who's Who

The Brooklyn Roasting Co. maintains a phog – a photographic blog – on its site and invites contributions from outside the company. The result is a delightful mélange of coffee growing photographs, of the company’s staff and friends, of DUMBO and elsewhere in Brooklyn. This couldn’t-be-anywhere-but-DUMBO image emerged from that phog. Notice how the image is a study in verticals, from the construction fence through the tall alley and bridge struts to the towers of Outer Brooklyn across the river.

Dec. 17: Date stamp font: Industria, by Neville Brody, Linotype, 1989

Photograph by Joseph Caserto. See Who's Who.

Christmas Trees on Sale: Brooklyn-based design professional Joseph Caserto, whose Grand Army Plaza photo launched our series, also contributed this image of a Christmas tree vendor. Joe tweets – @josephcaserto – about his @udemy courses for students to learn InDesign, Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, sometimes at a discount. He also sells his work at etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto, with occasional discounts.

In 1851, the same year Henry Gritten (mentioned in Dec.14: 12 Views of Brooklynpainted Gowanus Bay, a Catskill Mountains farmer named Mark Carr launched the commercial Christmas tree business in New York City with two ox-drawn sleds loaded with forest-cut trees. He sold them all, and harvesting forest trees became a business, a kind of winter crop. In 1901, a from-scratch Christmas-tree farming operation was established in New Jersey, and seven years later their Norway Spruces went on the market for $1.00 apiece. By 2000, the number of American families using artificial trees was significantly larger than those with natural ones.

Dec. 17  Date stamp font: Mason, by Jonathan Barnbrook, Emigre, 1992

More bridge views, see Who's Who

Forget those people trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to hayseeds, how does one go about finding a large photograph of it suitable for framing? The selection is mind-boggling. You can check museum shops. You can inquire of Brooklyn photographers whose work you like. You can search by subject on many sites such as etsy.com and fineartamerica.com. There’s instagram and pinterest and the Flickr albums of your friends; ask around. Cross the river and check out the Union Square vendors. You can of course go out yourself, camera or iPhone in hand, by night and by day. You can order prints by size and by medium – would you like a print on canvas? Or in acrylic? Or acrylic on glass? Oh, you’ve settled on having the canvas wrapped around the sides of the mounting? You can get that done at the drug store right on the corner of Flatbush and Seventh Avenue. Step number one in a personal Views of Brooklyn gallery.

The portrait of Emily Warren Roebling in the Brooklyn Museum is by the French painter Charles Émile Auguste Carolus Duran. Emily’s older brother, Civil War General Gouveneur Kemble Warren –and the one who supported her interest in becoming educated though a girl – is remembered by his statue at the gateway to Prospect Park. Although the Warren family came from Cold Spring, NY, not Brooklyn, the brother and sister made their mark on this community.

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