Take A Look At Me (Then &) Now: 109 Montague Street

This is why we treasure Brooklyn Heights’ landmarked status, which, as many know, became the first community in the nation to mandate a cease fire on decimating the facades of historic buildings, in 1965. Let’s take an historic look at 109 Montague Street (full photo views are below the jump)

Our first pic is from 1916, when the location between Henry and Hicks streets offered locals The Brooklyn Valet. The words on each side of the window advertise “Dyers” and “Cleansers,” while signs promote “Gloves Cleaned 5 cents” and “Ladies & Gents Garments cleaned, pressed, dyed and repaired.”

Our second reminiscence is the once-beloved Heights Books, which opened at 109 Montague in 1999 as a treasure trove of used and new volumes, packed to the ceiling amid its narrow aisles. The store closed its Montague location in 2009, when the destination’s five-story building was put on the market for $4.5 million—to be delivered vacant. (BHB post here). Heights Books made a noble effort and moved to 120 Smith Street in Cobble Hill… but, alas, shuttered for good in February 2011.

And, third, the locale, as of August 11, 2010, is now home to Crumbs Bake Shop. Yes, yes, it’s a chain, but is described on a number of websites as “cupcake heaven.” It certainly seems to be doing boffo business… for now.

(Photos: Montage: Chuck Taylor / Below: 1) New York Public Library 2) archive 3) BHB/Sarah Portlock 4) archive 5) Chuck Taylor 6) Chuck Taylor 7) Crumbs Bake Shop)

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  • willowbubb

    I wish there was a picture of the old pharmacy !

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    You’ve confirmed it–I was just wondering if that was where Kleiman-Spector was located. I miss that place (I miss Heights Books, too).

  • willowbubb

    i really wish someone had a picture !

  • WillowtownCop

    I miss the bookstore – those cupcakes are truly disgusting.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    I agree, Crumbs is terrible. One night, my girlfriend bought home a Red Velvet Cupcake from there, it was dry and very “crumby”. I never see many people in there, I wonder how it stays afloat? Hopefully, it will sink before long.

  • She’s Crafty

    I remember that pharmacy too! I actually can remember the smell (a nice one) in there. Also does anyone remember Jemels which was where Lantern is now…

  • EHinBH

    Crumbs cupcakes are good if you happen to get a fresh one. This almost never, ever happens. They are at least 2-days old.

    Heights Books was awsome. I’d even take – what was it, Waldenbooks, that used to be over on Henry and Monty. Cant stand going to Barnes & Noble, which is always full of kids running around.

  • bornhere

    She’s Crafty — I remember the smell, too; sort of a neat mix of Lysol and vitamins.

    It was “Jomel’s” at Lantern, but as a kid (and to this day), it was SIlver’s to me. Here’s to oak tag and slightly dusty (but wholly non-snarky) greeting cards!!

  • Michael Towers

    The kind staff at Heights Books always had a biscuit for my dog.

  • willowbubb

    I remember the smell as well !

  • mlo

    I remember the smell too!!

  • Brooklyn Tea

    Some things do get better with age…and a face lift.

  • Neil

    That storefront almost certainly is the former site of Kleinman’s, as I remember when they opened around 1958 and they installed that hideous white stone veneer all over the surface surrounding the entrance. My mother used to send me there to pick up her Salem cigarettes (twenty-eight cents a pack, no questions asked)

    I didn’t realize they’d ever merged (?) with Spector, who had occupied the large space on the northwest corner of Henry and Montague for as long as I lived in the area.

    By the way, why is there no way for replies to positioned directly following a specific post, giving the thread some much-needed context and continuity? So frustrating and outdated.

  • David on Middagh

    Oh, no you don’t!

  • Neil

    Reply for David on Middagh: (I wouldn’t have to specify, but for the primitive nature of the Comments section. Heh,heh).

    Oh, no I don’t what?

    Just trying to nudge this blog into the next dimension!

  • Lenbee

    Good work Chuck! Your focus on the metamorphosis of 109 Montague St. serves to clarify the incremental changes (for good or bad) that define a “neighborhood.” Yes, books have gone the way of crumbs, but that’s another topic.

  • David on Middagh


    The change you ask for has been attempted at least twice (the last time only a short while ago; you must have missed it), only to be beaten back by the Righteous Voice of the People.

    There is a very practical reason for maintaining comment chronology: it’s murder catching up on an individual thread when the newest posts are scattered through instead of clumped at the bottom. Just because the NY Times has insane comment software doesn’t mean we have to!

    Anyway, don’t you feel so much more civilized when addressing people directly? I think it’s done a lot for us, lately. ;)

  • Neil

    Reply for David on Middagh:

    Thanks for your reply–

    Now, don’t get me going on on what I see as the deficiencies of this blog/forum (but you have).

    First, as far as ease of following a thread, it would make far more sense if the posts were ordered from newest to oldest, rather than the current configuration. For those who visit the site often, it would allow for a faster check for newer posts; those who might have missed a few days or are new to the thread would simply have to scroll to the end and read in reverse order, not a complicated procedure, and since threads go stale fairly quickly anyway, only a relatively few would have to do so.

    The best forum I’ve joined actually offers user-configurable options, with the default version (as above) favored overwhelmingly. I don’t know, maybe it takes some getting used to, but there was no learning curve for myself– it just seemed the most logical and efficient layout.

    As for ordering the replies. I am astonished that anyone would think that simply posting in chronological order makes any sense at all. With the possibility of several intervening messages, how does one connect the dots to form an intelligible conversation? I have visited forums where it seems that many members post simply to “hear themselves talk” and never follow up either with elaborations or answers, and in those cases the structure seems of little importance. So be it, but I think this forum is far more interesting and thus could benefit from a more useful layout, which would include the use of REPLY buttons (yes, even the NYT now has seen the light!).

    Other enhancements could include a preview/edit function for posts and (gasp!) even the facility for the non-anointed to post photos.

    Anyway, for one who spent part of his youth growing up in the Heights back when it was still a real neighborhood, BHB is one of my favorite hangouts, even when it reminds me of the early days of the Interweb!