30 May 2012

Silk of Summit Street

Saw this cast-iron faux pillar holding up one corner of a building on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, and was intrigued for a couple reasons. One, it was old enough to say "South Brooklyn," the former name of the area that today comprises Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. Two, Mr. Silk had a business on Summit Street, a path on the northern border of Red Hook that is only a few blocks long. I've never seen any extant evidence of an old Summit Street business before.

Today, Summit is just a couple short blocks of lackluster housing stock on the west side of the BQE and one block of rather pretty housing in the east side. Over the highway is the area's only walking bridge, leading straight to St. Stephens Catholic Church on the east end. Before the BQE cut it in half in the 1950s, and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was built, Summit had a different personality. It ran four straight blocks, all the way up to Hamilton Street where it met the old Trolley line leading to Hamilton Ferry. There were a number of businesses on the lane back then.

The Roman-Catholic Thomas Silk's place of business was at 70 Summit Street. He was a blacksmith and was working at his trade as early as the 1840s, when he had an office at Water Street in Manhattan. If I have the right Silk, the Brooklyn Eagle reported that he died in October 1902, and was "one of the oldest inhabitants of South Brooklyn" at the time of his death.

70 Summit Street still stands. It has a place-of-business look about it still.


Anonymous said...

do you recall the exact location of this founder's mark?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

No. But it was very near Fairway, on the west side of the street. I'd guess near the corner of Beard. I'll check next time I'm there.