19 September 2012

The Ghosts of Columbia Street: An Actual Picture of Irving Street!

I've written in the past about the Brooklyn waterfront ghost streets of Irving Street and Sedgwick Street. These were two two-block thoroughfares that rans from Columbia Street, between Kane and DeGraw, to the East River. They were lined with warehouses and businesses having to do with the shipping industry. Both streets hung around for more than a century or so before being eliminated in the 1990s when the land west of Columbia was denuded of buildings and paved over in service of the waterfront. For years, signs still hung on Columbia Street indicating the former locations of Irving and Sedgwick.

Until now, I never seen an actual photograph of either road. But the clutch of old photographs recently uncovered by Freebird Books includes a few shots of Irving (though none of Sedgwick). The photo above is taken from a lot on Columbia looking west down Irving. As you can see, the lane led right to the water. That thatch of green you see at the end of Irving is Governor's Island. The street is lined with old warehouses and industrial building, just as every map I've seen has always indicated it was.

Over their long existence, Irving and Sedgwick were places of action. The newspapers are full of old accounts of factory fires, fights, murders, the production of illegal booze, suicides and various other crimes that occurred on those gritty blocks.

The fellows in this picture look like tough customers. But they're actually hard at work converting that empty lot into a kind of recreation area for the surrounding Puerto Rican community.


BabyDave said...

This series has been awesome. And I'm not from Brooklyn.

Louise said...

I live on Columbia Street and the street sign for Sedgwick Street is still up. The Port Authority took over and it's fenced in BUT you can still SEE the curb of the street. Across the street were tenement buildings and a very young women died in the famous Shirt Waist Factory. She lived in 160 Columbia St. This was a booming neighborhood...sorry it has changed so much, there is nothing left to remind us of what a great place this once was. All you have now are tourists looking for a place that is quaint to eat. One time a long time ago no one wanted to walk these streets now it is bustling..