Cranberry, Orange, Pineapple, Poplar, and Willow Streets
You can eat your fruit and walk on it too, thanks to onde really pissed off and persistent lady. In the decade before the Civil War, these fruit streets in Brooklyn Heights
originally bore the names of prominent local families. For reasons unknown, this enraged Miss Middagh (a member of the Brooklyn aristocracy) and she proceeded to vent by tearing down the street signs and replacing them with botanical titles (the pineapple was a symbol of hospitality back then, though her actions proved otherwise). The city tried undoing Middagh’s damage but she repeated her rampage until the authorities gave in and accepted her signs as the new official names. However, Middagh’s family got to keep its street name. We smell hypocrisy!
Someone should’ve paid closer attention to his cursive lessons in grade school. When the city was naming streets after Declaration of Independence signers in the 1800’s, they mistook Thomas McKean’s fancy “N” for a “P”. The Delaware Founding Father’s true identity has, since then, been lost to Williamsburg
residents. Recently, an ailing World War II veteran and history buff from New York began working to fix the mistake and give McKean the credit he deserves. John Slagg’s campaign gained recognition and Brooklyn’s Borough President Marty Markowitz declared July 4th Thomas McKean day. Markowitz and Slagg hope authorities will correct the mistake and rename the street “Keap-McKean Street” with a plaque explaining the unique story. We hope it’ll also encourage Brooklynites to practice their penmanship.
This is a Williamsburg
story about sex, drugs, and violence. Poor George Wythe did the best he could his entire life. He tutored Thomas Jefferson. He signed the Declaration of Independence. He freed his slaves in 1787 and became a dedicated abolitionist. After the death of his wife, Wythe moved to Richmond with his housemaid and cook, Lydia Broadnax. A mixed-race youth, Michael Brown, later joined the Wythe household along with Wythe’s grand nephew, George Wythe Sweeney (cough Sweeney Todd cough). The wrinkles started setting in and Wythe Sr. began writing his will, which included one of his freed slaves, Broadnax, and Brown. Soon after, they all became mysteriously and violently ill. Both Wythe and Broadnax accused Sweeney of poisoning their coffee with arsenic, and Wythe removed him from his will. Brown and Wythe died shortly after, and though Broadnax survived the poisoning, Virginia race laws prohibited her from testifying at Sweeney’s trial. Some believe that Broadnax was Wythe’s concubine. Some believe Brown their son. But there has never been any solid evidence to prove either of these theories and so, we shall never know.
This Brooklyn Heights
street was named after the British Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. In 1715, she was infected with smallpox, left without eyelashes, and scarred by the disease. In 1717 she moved to Turkey with her husband and observed the Oriental practice of inoculation against smallpox. She had both of her children inoculated and promoted the practice upon returning to England. Included in the people who survived inoculation were seven British prisoners awaiting execution who were given the choice to test the vaccine or be executed. The prisoners chose inoculation and were freed after recovery. However, several others became sick and died. Lady Wortley wrote an anonymous article in response to the spreading fear of vaccination and in 1754 she was praised for bringing the practice to in England.
Bishop Ford High School
Okay, so this isn’t a street but it still has a pretty twisted story. Maryknoll Bishop Francis Xavier Ford packed his mitre and sceptre after living in Brooklyn for 26 years and headed to China as a missionary priest. Things were great for a while and Ford doubled his flock from 9,000 to 20,000 followers, building churches, schools, and hostels. In 1950, after having done good for 32 years in Southern China, the Communists accused Ford and his secretary, Sister Joan Marie Ryan, of espionage and put them under house arrest. Ford was publicly paraded, beaten, and tortured. To humiliate them both, he was forced to undress in front of Sister Joan Marie. Ford died in prison in 1952, the first American Roman Catholic Bishop to have died at the hands of Chinese Communists. Though yet to be canonized, he’s got this Park Slope
high school as a memorial.
We’ve got a gold digger in our midst! Originally named DeGraw Street, this artery connecting Park Slope
to east Brooklyn is the location of one of the borough’s legendary 19th century murders. Lizzie Lloyd King, better known by her alias, Kate Stoddard, shot a pistol at her lover, Charles Goodrich, penetrating his brain and killing him instantly. Goodrich had been a widower in his forties and sought to terminate his relations with Stoddard. After killing him, Stoddard took his watch, pocket-book, ring, and pistol, though she returned the next day to bathe Goodrich and dress him in clean clothes. She also went to her job as a bonnet maker the day after the murder. An acquaintance of Stoddard’s, Mary Handley, worked with Brooklyn police and detectives on the case and captured Stoddard three months after her crime. She got locked up and eventually committed to the State Lunatic Asylum in Auburn, New York. Shocking details surfaced, including the story that Stoddard had secured some of Goodrich’s blood in her locket and ingested it daily.
boulevard was re-named after the Empire State Building following 1918’s Brighton Beach Line train accident. The most devastating event in New York City’s public transit history, more than 100 people were killed and 250 others injured. Train conductor, Edward Luciano, had only received two hours of motorman training when 60 hours was typically required. The accident occurred at a curve that was supposed to be taken at six miles per hour. Though he later claimed he did, Luciano didn’t slow down from his 30 mph speed, completely derailing the train and destroying the second and third cars. He escaped the accident with no injuries and the manslaughter charges against him were dropped. He went into real estate and disappeared from the record.
Choke on a chicken bone and you’ll get a street named after you too! That’s what happened to Kings County Surrogate Court’s chief clerk, John R. McDonald. He swallowed a chicken bone that punctured his intestine, died, and that was thatl. Other unusual deaths that are completely unrelated to this Borough Park
story include Gouverneur Morris sticking a whale bone through his urinary tract to relieve blockage (1816), Franco Brun eating a Gideon’s Bible (1987), Sherwood Anderson swallowing a toothpick (1941), Tennessee Williams choking on an eyedrop bottle-cap (1983), and American sailor Jonathan Campos asphyxiating himself with toilet paper (2009).
Though named after one of New Lots
’ founders, Dutch farmer John Blake, the avenue is better known as the scene of several bloody incidents in the 1930s and 1940s involving Brooklyn’s notorious mob Murder, Inc. It was here that contract killer Abraham Reles, known as the “Terror of Brownsville,” murdered Irving Shapiro to avenge his girlfriend’s rape. Shapiro and his brothers were leaders of the Brooklyn rackets.
Before we had love triangles, we had love pentagons. The Brownsville
street was dedicated to Elizur B. Hinsdale, who served as the general counsel of the Long Island Rail Road and wrote its first history. He was also involved in one of the famous divorce cases of the late 1800s. Hinsdale’s brother, William Hinsdale, accused his own wife Frances of having affairs with Elizur and William’s clerk, Willie Carl. Frances fought back, claiming that William had been adulterous with Carl’s mother. The judge ruled against William and granted Frances a divorce. Elizur had his own problems, as his marriage was annulled when his wife was declared insane.