23 May 2014

The Fighting Fish of Flatbush

Here's a little ladies wear shop on Flatbush Avenue with an awful name and an awful garish awning. Not a place of great interest on the surface of it. Yet, the devil is in the details. Look up on the second floor of the small building and you find a curious stone ornament. The maritime-themed sculpture depicts two fierce-looking fish on either side of a seashell, their tails entwined around the sort of Triton that Neptune typically carried. I know from similar sculptures both here and in Europe, that those fish, despite their angry attitudes, are meant to dolphins.

So what fishy history lies in the past of 876 Flatbush Avenue?

A certificate of occupancy from the 1920s says this building had a store in the ground floor and a tea room on the second floor—where the fish insignia is. However, most City records treat this address as part of a large block that contained a variety of stores and restaurants, so it's hard to say what the specific history of the location is. I also cannot tell if this is an old building or a relatively new structure. Old photos from the 1940s show a small building with distinctive double-peaked facade—like a Swiss chalet or something—at this location. The building there today has a flat roof. It could be that he peaks were lopped off at some point, being considered to difficult to care for. Or maybe the entire older building was razed and this one put in its place.

And so, for now, the fish emblem remains a mystery. It could be, for all I know, an anonymous architectural flourish with no relation to the store within. Perhaps every other shop on Flatbush Avenue had a fighting fish. I don't know. It's these sort of things that keep one curious.

1 comment:

Kevin from Midwood said...

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: