05 March 2008

An Idle Concern


I have always had an interest in this lovely old three-story building at 379 Henry Street, at the corner of the sweet alley known as Verandah Place. It has an understated eminence that I like. I've tried to find out something about its history. City records indicate it used to be a store of some kind—something you might guess by the positioning of the corner, ground-floor window, which obviously used to be a door. Otherwise, I can discover nothing.

Is there anyone out there who might be able to furnish some information on the history of this building?

3 comments:

Laura said...

I did a little searching on the Brooklyn Daily Eagle site & found this:

27 April 1888, p. 5, "TO LET - Part of House - A first floor of four light rooms over piano store; desirable place fora dressmaker or small family also, i or 2 furnished rooms. Inquire of owner, 379 Henry St, near Warren."

There were a few other ads in which one was to inquire at 379 Henry about renting a store, or a saloon, in the 1880s, but it sounded like the store/saloon was elsewhere.

A couple of the tenants had some interesting things happen to them, but I don't know that that explains the history of the building...if i see anything else I'll let you know.

It really is a lovely building, thanks for doing the post on it.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks, Laura. That's funny: I searched through the Brooklyn Eagle archives and came up with nothing. A piano store, huh? That's interesting. I never would have guessed that.

Pam said...

My family, the Marescas, had a grocery store on the ground floor of 379 Henry St., at Verandah Place, for forty years, until 1975. My great-grandfather, John Maresca, who immigrated to NY from Italy in the 1880s, started the business at 46 Atlantic Ave., a block east of Columbia, where the BQE is now; I don't know when the move to Henry St. was, but we do know that John and his wife, Mary, bought two houses on Warren St. in 1914. John died in 1921; his son Charlie (1891-1973), who had joined him in the business, took it over with his brother Frank (1905-1996); their brothers Mike and Louis worked there for a bit before decamping to Long Island and Maine.

The door at 379 Henry was where the window on the diagonal is now. Maresca's Grocery Store had regular customers to whom they made deliveries; in a 1987 issue of the Heights Press, Frank talked about the business:

"Everybody called it Charlie's. It was a friendly neighborhood store where people would send their children to ask for things they needed. We also got a lot of business from St. Peter's Hospital, across the street (now the Cobble Hill Nursing Home). The entire freshman class from Long Island College Hospital would come in for lunch. We used to charge them 35 cents for a ham sandwich, and that was with Boar's Head ham.... The war gave us a break. We'd be open to 10, 11 at night, but during the war we'd close at 8 or 9.... We used to sell Christmas trees. The customers would go down to the basement with my brother Charlie. I'd hear them laughing as he'd untie every bundle. Then he'd sell them a $5 tree for $3. 'I gave it to them for $3 because they were good customers all year,' he'd say."

Frank was a kind of unofficial mayor of Cobble Hill; until his death in 1996 he lived where he had been born and raised (and raised his own family), at 177-179 Warren St., and in the last years of his life he had coffee each morning with Patrick at the Verandah Deli (which is in the mirror-image location from the Maresca store, at the opposite end of Verandah Place), telling him about the old days and no doubt advising on how to cut meat. He was also a golf partner of Barry Brockway, of the Cafe on Clinton; in fact, Frank's golf shoe and picture hung just inside the Cafe on Clinton's front window until the recent renovation.
-- Pam McCarthy