04 April 2011


This is the sixth post of "The Union Street Project," in which I unearth the history of every building along the once bustling Brooklyn commercial strips of Union Street between Hicks and Van Brunt, and Columbia Street between Sackett and Carroll.

This shortish building is 147 Union Street. It's on the south side of Union, near Hicks. None of the buildings I'm writing about in this series are landmarked or protected in any way. Which is a shame, because a number of the buildings in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens west of the BQE gulch are among the oldest survivors in Brooklyn. This building, as well as neighboring 149 Union, date at least from 1855, and, judging from the architecture, probably go back to the 1830s, making them among the first structures in the Columbia Street area, formerly swampland. The low roof, stark simple design and windows are fairly Federalist. And the amazing, unusual wooden lintels (see below) look like they could be original. I don't know if I've ever seen anything like them. The door, too, with its window above the frame, is Federalist style, and of a sort I've only seen in a few places around the area.

As one can tell from the facade, this building had a history as a storefront. Of its 19th-century life I've discovered nothing, except that resident Ellen Hansen lost a clock to a "sneak thief" named Frederick Smith here in 1885. But for at least the first five decades of the 20th century, this was the address of the Pastore Funeral Home, first run by Gennaro Pastore, who lived in the building as well, and then by his son Joe.

Gennaro's story is a sad one. In August 1921, he sent his young son (not Joe) to a local hardware merchant to buy some fuel oil for his kitchen stove. The young boy was sold gasoline by mistake. As the evening meal was being prepared by the child and his mother, the can of gasoline, set by the stove, caught on fire. When Gennaro rushed into the room, wife and child were in flames. They died the next day of their injuries.

Gennaro, who was also injured, sued the hardware merchants, Crystal and Morris Cohen, for $80,000. Whether he won or not, I do not know. But it hardly matters. Gennaro himself died in September of that year.

According to a Brooklyn Eagle account, the funeral home was still in operation in the 1940s, run by Gennaro's son Joe.


No comments: