Touring around the winding stretches of the Shore
road, past its tree-studded lawns and houses of many periods, new and old,
may become an adventure into the Bay Ridge of several decades ago if one
knows how to weave the magic spell that will construct the Shore road of
the days when Bay Ridge was a more sparsely settled region with its spacious
country residences and acres of flourishing farms. Alonzo Lake, a former
resident of Fort Hamilton, who visited relatives, Mrs. Joseph Lake and
Mrs. Dewey of Bay Ridge avenue recently, was able to describe for a Home
Talk reporter the Shore road in the days when his boyhood tramps led him
around its curves, past houses familiar to him from the Fort to beyond
the old City Line. All of their owners were wellknown to Mr. Lake and his
parents, who had lived in Fort Hamilton since his infancy.
Proceeding north from the Fort past the sites of the Church, the Gelston, the Caton and the Sears houses and H. D. Clapp's hotel which once flourished there, came a house set well back from the road and shaded by evergreen trees, owned by J. Cummings and later bought by Thomas T. Church. Its site was a little to the rear and between the site of Albert Johnson's Italian house and the next.
The next of the old houses is still standing. This white frame house with its wide verandah has been remodelled but the older parts with their broad shingles can still be seen. It was the home of General Stanton who served in the Mexican war and who lived in this Shore road house a number of years after he retired. On the grounds, toward the north side, where a tree now stands, was once a burial vault. Boys passing it at dusk, says Mr. Lake, would frequently quicken their pace or give it a wide berth for fear of the spectres that might issue from its shadows.
Further north came the house of Richard R. Bennett, brother of J. Remsen Bennett of Seventy-ninth street. Richard R. Bennett's brown-shingled house with the stone wall around its grounds, has been remodelled and is still there. It once extended further out toward the water but was cut off when the Shore road was widened.
Next came a white house with broad verandah pillars which once stood on the hill but which has been moved back to Ninety-fifth street. It was once approached by a beautiful avenue of trees from the Shore road. It was owned by a brother of Captain James Bennett; later by Dr. Whiting, a New York lawyer, who married Matilda, eldest daughter of Col. Church; and also by J. P. Farrell, who had several daughters and sons. One daughter, Mrs. William C. Boyrer, is still a Bay Ridge resident. One of the sons, James Farrell, who died several months ago, was married to Lady Mary Nicholson, a lady in waiting to the Queen of England.
Past this house, under the hill, was the house of Captain James Bennett, a sea captain. Next came the Berrier property, the home of General Berrier. The house that used to stand here had its edge to the road and pointed south to get the sun, like many other older houses. Many of them had two kitchens, one for the use of the help.
On what is now Oliver place, between the Shuttleworth house and the next, is the site of a house that once was a part of the Oliver property and was rented by different people. Captain Oliver, a sea captain, had a son who moved to Wilkes-Barre and had a powder mill there. After his fathers' death, he sold the Bay Ridge property.
Further north came a small house built by Mrs. Fryatt, the daughter of Dr. Berrier and the niece of Major Frank Berrier. She married Paul Volp, son of Dr. Volp who was an army surgeon stationed at Fort Hamilton.
The next house was built by a man named Rockwell. Henry Bowen, a Brooklyn coal dealer, bought it and lived in it. A man named Sykes lived in it for some time and also lived in the Farrell house for a while. Beyond the Rockwell house was a house built by Dr. Prince, the first superintendent of the Dutch Reformed Sunday School at Fort Hamilton.
On a site up and back on the hill where Mrs. Shepherd built her house, was a house built by Isaac H. Stilwell. Mr. Lake recalls that to avoid confusion among Isaac N. Stilwell, Isaac H. Stilwell, and Isaac Stilwell, Jr., all of whom lived in Bay Ridge at one time, their intimates used to refer to them as "Old Ike," "Young Ike," and "Ike's Ike."
Next, with its end to the road, before the hill, came the house of Chancellor White. It descended to his son, Richard Grant White, whose sons Richard and Stanford, lived there. Stanford White was the architect killed by Harry Thaw.
Beyond the copper house built by Niels Poulsen at Eighty-eighth street, was the house of Charles C. Bennett which was burned.
Holmes Van Brunt's house was next to that of his brother, Judge Charles Van Brunt, whose place is now the Crescent Club property. Nearby were the fields of tomatoes, corn and other crops of Isaac Bergen's farm which extended back to Third avenue. Back of this farm was the Townsend house, built by Thomas McIlrath, editor of the Times. Near it was the house of William H. Thomas, whose family intermarried with the Townsends. Where Samuel Thomas, his brother, used to live, was a picnic grove before the latter's house was built. Picnickers often came from Brooklyn for a day of recreation in this spot.
At Seventy-ninth street and Shore Road is still standing the old J. Remsen Bennett house, moved from an earlier site on the Bennett property which extended from Seventy-seventh to Seventy-ninth streets and several blocks back. J. Remsen Bennett's son, William, lived in this house atfer their new house was built. Almost overgrown by bushes, is still the trace of a little path from the Shore road, near Seventy-seventh street, which shows where the entrance was to the second J. Remsen Bennett house. Another house built on the Bennett property was occupied by his other son, Adolphus.
On the high hill near Eightieth street is still standing the old house of Rulef Van Brunt. Near it was the house surmounted by a cupola where his brother Daniel lived. Both were the sons of Jacques Van Brunt who owned a large farm extending from the Shore road to Fourth avenue. Rulef's son, called Jacques like his grandfather, later built a large house between the two old houses.
Past the Bennett property on the Shore road were the houses of Van Brunt Bergen, Tunis G. Bergen, and the latter's son, Garrett Bergen. This family were in the section for hundreds of years. The old Dutch shingled house of Tunis G. Bergen still stands at Seventy-sixth street. The fact that there were five Tunis Bergens living here at one time caused considerable confusion in the mails. Isaac Bergen's son, Theodore Van Bergen had a cousin, Theodore Van Brunt Bergen, who lived near Sixtieth street and who was the son of Michael Bergen. Michael Bergen's other son, Charles, who lives in Babylon, L. I. now, was married to Ellen Cowenhoven, a cousin of Mrs. Alonzo Blake.
North of Garrett Bennett's place, was a little house owned by J. L. Martin Bennett, and the house of John I. Bennett. John I. Bennett was a name that also caused considerable confusion as there were five or six of them in the neighborhood. A man once driving into Bay Ridge in search of a John I. Bennett, made inquiry of Mr. Blake's father. The elder Blake, however, well acquainted with all his neighbors, was not stumped by this question. After asking the visitor to describe the John I. Bennett in question, he was able to direet him to the right one.
Near John I. Bennett's house was that of his son, John Bennett, Jr., and beyond it, the house of Winant L. Bennett, who was one of several Winant Bennetts. Two smaller houses beyond were owned by Simon Wardell and Barkaloo Wardell. At the corner of Bay Ridge avenue and the Shore road was Winant E. Bennett's. A Mr. McKay, whose daughter married Moe Lott, bought a piece of property on the hill from Bay Ridge avenue to the Shore road. The old house on it was originally part of the Bennett property. Bay Ridge avenue was called Bennett's Lane and later Pope's Lane after John Pope, who built a shanty where he sold soft drinks and tobacco on Bay Ridge avenue. Patrons walking from Fort Hamilton to the City Line at Sixtieth street, which was the end of the car line, frequently felt the need of refreshments at this point. This was later made into a tavern.
The Perry house on Bay Ridge avenue and the Bliss place built by State Senator Henry C. Murphy were two other interesting residences. The entrance to the Murphy place used to be on Third avenue, where stood two big pillars of brown sandstone surmounted by big owls with outstretched wings. Mr. Lake believes this to be the original Owl's Head, instead of Van Brunt's Point, for which some other Bay Ridge residents claim the name of Owl's Head.
Beyond it on the Shore Road was the property of Michael Bergen, which was bought by the Sea Beach railroad, and that of William Langley, a wealthy New York merchant, whose house was the last in Bay Ridge, the City Limits being at Sixtieth street. Langley's son, the late William Langley, owned the yacht, "Comet" which won a race against English contestants.
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