It's been a good long time since I posted an edition in The Union Street Project, in which I trace the past of every building on Union Street, between Hicks and Columbia, in Brooklyn. There's a reason. And that's: gathering information on these piles of bricks is damned difficult.
The newspaper archives provide only so much material. And the memories of locals are spotty at best. There are several local legends in my area whom I was instructed to seek out. They know everything about the old neighborhood, I was told. I did seek out these people. And I found out that they know almost nothing. I'd ask them specific questions and they'd answer in generalities and make guesses.
These dead ends temporarily halted my project. Finally, I knuckled under, resorted to the Municipal Archives and ordered a number of (expensive) archival shots of various buildings. Photos don't lie.
One of the photos I ordered was for 139 Union Street, seen above. This interesting looking building is on the south side of Union. Unlike other structures on the street, there is no trouble tracing the date of its erection. It says so on the cornice: 1928. This means it's one of the newer buildings on the streets. It also means that it supplanted a previous building, for an 1855 map has a building standing on this spot.
Whoever built it was feeling his Italian roots. It has a quasi-palazzo feel to it. The ostentatious, but completely useless, stone balcony on the second floor is a singular flourish. As the 1940s picture below indicates, all the brickwork, including the special white framing around the balcony window, is original. The windows have been sadly altered, however.
(UPDATE: A reader wrote in claiming that 139 Union is not actually actually a new building from 1928, but an old building that once looked like its neighbors 137 and 135, but was given a new Italianate facade. But I have no way of verifying this information.)
I've always been intrigued by the storefront of the building, and am amazed at how closely it resembles the original.
139 Union is presently used by a Pentecostal prayer group that meets every Friday night. Do they knew how the space was used in the past? Wonderfully, it was a pool hall. An Italian pool hall. Bigliardo La Bella Sicilia was its name. You can see above the kind of tough characters who hung out there.
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