25 April 2013

Who's Pop Torello?

I've often wondered about this plaque, which it outside 227 Smith Street in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. It's quite old, having been placed there in 1956, when the area was still largely Italian, with some Irish and Scandinavian thrown in. Given that it was put up there by "The Boys," I assumed there was some sort of Mob connection, and Pop was a local don. But, on reflection, that makes no sense. Why would such men advertise their presence?

Turns out Torello—real name Nick—was a humble bartender, who ran a bar and restaurant on Smith Street near Butler. There was a bar here called the Golden Eagle Bar and Grill in the 1940s, so that's probably where he worked. Torello also seemed to have owned the building, as he made some sort of renovations to it in 1951. The bar was the target of a robbery in 1946.

In the 1880s, there was a bowling alley at this address, called Golden Eagle Alleys. I've heard that remnants of the alleys remain in the basement. In 1885, a 14-year-old boy was struck by a bowling ball in the ankle. He fractured his ankle, got blood poisoning and died. No charges were filed.


Anonymous said...

It always throws me off when people refer to anything on Smith St south of Atlantic as "Boerum Hill". Granted, everything in the area was "South Brooklyn" or "Red Hook" until realtors divided it up in recent decades, but I lived on Smith St for years and it was always either Cobble Hill (N of Degraw) or Carroll Gardens (S of Degraw) and the boring area east where there was nothing but brownstones and Gowanus Houses (and the Brooklyn Inn) were Boerum Hill. Now if I walk across the street from Rite Aid to Ceol I am magically in Boerum Hill. But still, no one on the eastern side of Smith St and 3rd st claims Gowanus (although I'm sure they will in 2 years as Gowanus becomes more and more desirable, realtors have already begun claiming 3rd Ave as Gowanus and not Park Slope).

Whatever, as long as no one calls it BoCoCa. I'm sure "Columbia Heights" along the waterfront is not far behind...

Any ways cool sign, I have never really noticed it. I think I remember seeing photos of the bowling alley here on this site.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Not sure what to do about this, I've had this discussion so many times. Some people think Cobble Hills ends at Court Street. Some think Smith. I go with the latter, and regard Boerum Hill as beginning on the east side of Smith north of DeGraw. Crazy, I know, but dividing lines have to begin somewhere.

thomson832@gmail.com said...

The Boys must have loved that guy. The only people who get plaques these days are either self serving politicians or maybe a rock star. Ordinary folk are usually only remembered on grave stones. I read a poem about that. I forget who wrote it or where I saw it. It was called 'Dash' as the author thought that was the important info on a grave stone - the little dash between birth and death. Anyway..greetings from Scotland. David

Mitch said...

Isn't it odd that they didn't think to mention more about what Mr. Torello did - 57 years on there probably aren't too many people around who remember what his service to the community was.

Maybe he was so well known around the area that no one thought that it could all be forgotten.