Mr. Junkersfeld and the Evolution of Cadman Plaza

Mr. Junkersfeld has delivered a new opus and provides us with this description:

“If you don’t know your history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree”.

Those of us who reside in Brooklyn Heights are especially sensitive to history being that we live in a historical landmarked designation. Brooklyn Heights was the first historic district officially created by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.

After viewing this film, it is my hope that when walking down Cadman Plaza West towards Montague, you will hear the el and have a mental picture of what it was like in the 1930’s. The Fulton Street area , now called Cadman Plaza West, was a totally different place to live. It was a very conjested, dark, noisy area that bears no resemblance to the open spaces we experience today.

Finally, this film is especially topical today with the use of eminent domain with respect to the Atlantic Yards project. Of course, it was a different time back then. and a one to one correspondence would be unfair.

Hopefully you will enjoy this short film and after viewing come out with a better appreciation of where we have been and hopefully a better perspective to where we are going.

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  • Publius

    Great effort!

    Like the groovy music too.

  • AEB

    Excellent and informative work, Karl–thanks! I look forward to the next installment.

    Always shocking when valuable real estate is used for the public good–how could anyone let that happen?

  • TC

    This is really fantastic. Can’t wait for the next one!

  • nabeguy

    As usual, a magnificant job Karl. Any chance we can get those straight arm lamp-posts visible in so many of the photos instead of the bishop crooks?

  • John Wentling

    Excellent, also can’t wait for the next one!!

  • martinlbrooklyn

    Congratulations on a real contribution. I was just reading how as early as 1910 there were calls to clean up the mess at the foot of the bridge and build a proper plaza. I’d be glad to share it with you.
    What would you think of renaming it, much more appropriately, Veterans Memorial Park?

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Martin, not a bad idea. I found the following excerpt during my research on the Cadman Plaza. Moses had his hand in this also.

    The Brooklyn War Memorial, a 24-foot tall granite and limestone memorial in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza, is dedicated to the 300,000 American men and women who served in World War II. The memorial was designed by Stuart Constable, Gilmore D. Clarke, and W. Earle Andrews, who worked in concert with the architectural firm of Eggers and Higgins. The two larger-than-life sized high relief figures by sculptor Charles Keck depict a male warrior on the left and a female with a child to the right, and serve as symbols of victory and family.

    The idea for a large-scale borough monument was based on Parks Commissioner Robert Moses’s desire to create unified World War II monuments for each borough in the hope to avoid the situation that arose after World War I when many scattered small-scale pieces were erected throughout the city. In the end, Brooklyn was the only borough to build such a monument. On June 6, 1944, the day U.S. forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, Brooklyn Eagle publisher Frank D. Schroth formed a committee of distinguished Brooklynites to judge a design competition. The Eagle announced the competition in June, soliciting proposals from a wide array of people. Over 243 entries were received by the time the contest closed on April 1, 1945–before VE (Victory in Europe) Day. The winning plan featured a central auditorium flanked by two wings built entirely of granite. Construction of the memorial began just after Japan surrendered in August 1945.

    The memorial was dedicated November 12, 1951 at an elaborate ceremony attended by elected officials and veterans groups. Due to lack of funding, the full plan was never built. The scaled-back version of the memorial consists of a memorial hall with an honor roll listing the names of those who died serving during the war. The memorial was intended to be part of a larger plan to revitalize this area of Brooklyn, which included the Brooklyn Civic Center building, new municipal facilities, and expanded housing opportunities.

    Keck is known for his statue of Father Francis P. Duffy (1936) in Duffy Square, the Governor Alfred E. Smith Memorial (1946) in Manhattan, and the Sixty-first District Memorial (1922) in Greenwood Playground. The Brooklyn War Memorial was restored in 1977 and today serves as a community facility for veterans’ groups and arts organizations as well as a memorial to those who defended the principle of freedom during the war.

  • nabeguy

    In the era of the el, the Sands Street depot was the Court St-Borough Hall station of its day, serving as a terminus for the many lines that stretched across Brooklyn. as well as a transfer point for trains crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. I can only imagine how painful the daily commute was back when the bridge not only had trains running across it but was also open to commercial traffic, including horse-drawn carriages. Talk about congestion pricing!

  • Mike

    Cool. My wife and I used to live in Concord Village (you can almost see our building in the last 10 seconds of the clip) and I always wondered what buildings were on the property before the development was built. Its also nice seeing what downtown looked like in the days my mother was going to the St. George for swimming.

  • nabeguy

    Mike, get on the St George Yahoo site and add your memories.

  • Peter

    wow I enjoy watching that. thanks Mr.Junkersfeld

  • benita berman

    I really enjoyed watching this – the transformation was amazing as well as the level of your research. I grew up in Brooklyn Heights and my family owned two greek revival townhouses on Clark Street between Henry and Fulton that were destroyed to make way for the high rise now on Clark. I am an artist and use memory images of Brooklyn in my work. I am eagerly awaiting your next film and hope you will include photos of Clark at the time of the destruction. I am always searching for them in hopes of seeing our buildings. Would it be possible to contact you directly to see what you might have? I am the one who put out the word about the destruction of the St. George Pool mural – my email is

  • Andrew Porter

    There is one verbal, and two picture references, to cable cars. Cable cars use a moving cable under the street as their motive power. There were no cable cars in Brooklyn; they were all streetcars, and indeed in the photo showing the “cable cars” in front of the Fulton Street ferry terminal you can see they are actually drawn by horses. Horse drawn street cars were eventually electrified.

    The fact that initially the terminal was primarily used by the streetcars which went over the Brooklyn Bridge, terminating in Manhattan in a station which occupied the plaza in front of Manhattan City Hall, is not made clear.

    There’s also a bad typo, showing steel “disgarded”; please correct it to say “discarded”.

    Overall, this was a very worthwhile effort which uses many rare photographs from their day which I’d not seen before.

  • Jeremy

    Andrew, not true about cable cars in Brooklyn. The train running up Montague Street from the Wall St. Ferry to Court Street was a cable car, not a street car. Very useful for climbing the hill from Furman up to the Heights.

  • nabeguy

    Andrew, your faint praise of this film as a “worthwhile effort” betrays an academic background. Karl’s a film-maker first, historian second, so cut him some slack on whatever inaccuracies that may pop up. Or better yet, reach out to him and share your own archives and knowledge to fact-check his work. Being a self-proclaimed historian of the area myself, I’d relish the idea of collaborating on a project that would kick the dust off the Heights history in as vivid a way as Karl’s films have done.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    nabeguy, thanks for defending me. I appreciate it.

    Andrew has been a bit tough on me in the past but I’m a big boy. I corrected the misspelling. Thanks Andrew.

    For example, when I was being sarcastic about not knowing Paul Giamatti in a prior film on restaurants, Andrew was quick to point out that he lived in Brooklyn Heights and starred in HBO’s John Adams. For the record, I saw the series twice and read the book soon thereafter. Paul is one of my favorite actors and I also have a tremendous respect for his father.

    My source about Montague cable cars was none other than the Brooklyn Heights Blog:

  • my2cents

    First of all, thanks Karl for this very interesting and informative effort! It really shows how dynamic the cityscape has been throughout the 20th century. At the risk of opening a can of worms here, I just think it is interesting to ponder the pros and cons of Robert Moses’ actions. When the plaza was first created, he presumably must have used eminent domain to tear down several square blocks of buildings, and the final result was pretty unspectacular (looks like a parking lot surrounding a wasteland of sod and framed by an elevated train.) But in the end, over time the park was expanded, memorials added and trees matured, and the elevated train was removed leaving us with the pleasant place we enjoy today. And we can thank Mayor Bloomberg for improving that park yet again by adding the false turf and cleaning it up. I guess what I am getting at here in a roundabout way is that we are enjoying an delicious “omelette” today, but a lot of eggs were broken to get there that might not have been broken in this day and age.

  • bornhere

    I think this is one of Karl’s best BHB postings. I had seen the pictures before, but the montage, music, and narration created a wonderful package.
    I, too, wish there were someone who could post pictures of Clark Street and the rest of the area from the 50s (I guess that, as a kid, I should have asked my parents for a camera instead of a pony). THE BPL does have a great online collection, but there are so many gaps.
    And my edge about the Cadman buildings and what was lost to allow for their construction is always dulled when I see that Supreme Court thing — what were the architects thinking? It still looks like it’s a temporary, the-real-building-will-be-built-soon nightmare.

  • nabeguy

    If Atlantic Yards isn’t an example of modern-day egg breaking, than I don’t know what is. The only difference is that we end up with something closer to a zabaglione than an omelette.

  • nabeguy

    bornhere, I found one from 1900 that’s interesting:

  • nabeguy
  • bornhere

    Thanks, nabe, I’ve seen that one and others of that church; it’s a good thing I wasn’t yet born when that came tumbling down — I probably would have thrown myself in front of a surrey. Your dad’s pictures are still probably the best I’ve seen of the more recent good ol’ days.

  • my2cents

    Yes Nabeguy, the towers between henry and cadman plaza are another omlette that is less than delicious to the eye and killed the streetscape on Henry, but those were probably made without the need for eminent domain. I didn’t mean my post as an endorsement of atlantic yards though. I was just pointing out that change in the city is inexorable and sometimes in the long term yields gems that started as lumps of coal. Other times you just get coal…

  • BklynJace

    Enjoyed this hugely — since watching it I’ve found myself lingering on my walks back from Borough Hall, trying to picture in my mind what had been. Having since the film, you really get a sense of the old Els and how they shaped the street grid. Thanks, Karl!

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    This morning I had the fun experience of reviewing some of the articles I read prior to putting the film together. Articles date to 1890 and 1891, the year cable cars were introduced to Montague.

    Nabeguy, a voice of reason, made an excellent suggestion that we should all work together and produce a collaborative effort that would make the Brooklyn Heights Blog proud. Some day, someone will look back at the articles, pictures and video’s we are producing today and hopefully use them as a resource to better understand what happened back in the good old days of 2009. We all can appreciate the dearth of information out there from prior generations though I am appreciative for what little there is.

    Right now even, if one does research on Brooklyn Heights, this fantastic blog shows up time and time again as the ultimate authority of happenings in BH.

    None of us get paid for our contributions. We do it out of a love for Brooklyn Heights and the people that live in this great neighborhood.

    Lastly, Mr. Potter, your criticism was very helpful and I made the necessary corrections but it is the way you dispense this great wisdom that is a real turn off. It is very condescending in nature. Gotcha politics is very unattractive.

    As an editor, you don’t want to berate someone who is trying their very best to produce a fine product. Constructive criticism is very welcome and as I said earlier, your criticism was very much appreciated and help make this film that much better and i thank you for that.

  • my2cents

    Hi Karl, my only constructive criticism is to actually linger on each photo a little longer before fading to the next one. I was trying to drink in all the wonderful details! Great job!

  • nabeguy

    Karl, was your reference to Mr. Potter another example of bad spelling or did you just happen to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” before you posted?;-)

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    nabeguy, you never miss a thing. Potter from Pottersville. You don’t see the resemblance?

    Was it a Freudian slip or another poor attempt at sarcasm? Only my hairdresser knows for sure. Oh yea, I’m bald. Never mind.

  • nabeguy

    Bald, huh? Been to Starbucks lately?

  • nabeguy

    Point taken, my2. I was just trying to be a little too clever for my own good. Love the coal metaphor, especially given the season. I wonder what Ratner’s getting in his stocking?