Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Eagle: Your Source for WWII News

We received the photo above from a man named Michael Burke, who was rummaging through some old pictures of his father, Robert E. Burke, when he found this photo, taken during WW II. " He was in on the Island Hopping campaign in the Pacific during the war," his son explained. Cool pic. Thanks for sending it along, Michael.

UPDATE: Michael Burke wrote in with a little more information about his dad and this ph
oto. His father Robert was not from Brooklyn, despite being an Eagle reader, but rather from a small town named Caledonia in Elk County, Pennsylvania. What's interesting is that he believes this photo was taken on the Galapagos Islands (the photo at right was among the set he was rummaging through when he found the top photo), where his dad was stationed for a while during his service (1942-46).

I now have a whole new respect for the Eagle's distribution n

Robert was also stationed on Easter Island, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, the Gilberts, Marianas and a few more, his son says, though exact details of his service are fuzzy because his military records burned in a St. Louis fire in 1973.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ask About Brooklyn: Yuban Coffee Factory

Here's another question that recently arrived in the Eagle mailbag: The Yuban Coffee Factory, when was it built? When did Yuban leave it? What is the current status of building?

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With a lot of help from the DUMBO Historic District report, I came up with this answer:

Yuban was a brand launched by Arbuckle Brothers Coffee in the early 20th century. The brothers John and Charles Arbuckle were from Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. They began their coffee roasting business there in the 1850s, moved it to New York in 1871 and then to Brooklyn in 1881.

The company came to occupy numerous buildings in what is now called the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, some of which still stand and are part of the DUMBO Historic District, including:
10 Jay Street (built 1897-98)
19 Jay Street (built 1892)
20 Jay Street (built 1909)
60 John Street (built circa 1900)

According to Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World by Mark Pendergrast, Arbuckle didn’t launch its Yuban brand until after John Arbuckle died in 1912.

According to the Historic District report (2007) on the neighborhood, “The major invention of the Arbuckle firm was a machine that efficiently packed roasted and ground coffee — filling, weighing, sealing, and labeling the packages so that they could be efficiently shipped throughout the world and sold in small packages to consumers. The coffee was marketed under the name ‘Ariosa’ or ‘Arbuckle Ariosa.’ Arbuckle was the largest coffee roasting and shipping firm in North America.”

Arbuckle coffee was also sometimes referred to as “the coffee that won the west,” because John Arbuckle had devised a sugar glaze to put on the beans that helped prevent them from getting stale, and so they kept better while shipping the distance out west.

The report also states that “all of Arbuckle’s production took place in DUMBO, including roasting and packaging the coffee, and printing the packages and many of the collectable cards…and the Arbuckle Brothers began purchasing property on the western end of block 20 in 1884 and eventually owned the entire Jay Street frontage.”

In 1897, Arbuckle also went into sugar refining and opened the refinery at 10 Jay Street in DUMBO. (They started the refinery after Havemeyer Sugar in Williamsburg refused to lower their prices for Arbuckle, one of their biggest customers. After Arbuckle went into the sugar business, Havemeyer promptly went into the coffee business, and a protracted commercial war ensued between the two companies, causing depressed prices in coffee and sugar for years.)

Beginning in the 1920s, the industrial firms that made DUMBO their home started to pull out. By the 1940s, it seems most of the Arbuckle buildings were being used by other businesses.
In 1945, 10 Jay was converted into a warehouse. Today it houses office and studio space for many small businesses, most of them with a creative bent.

As far as 20 Jay Street (pictured at right), the report states that, “A minor 1945 alteration…indicates that at least a portion of the structure was a bonded liquor warehouse; the following year, a permit was issued to Kinsey Distilling Company of Philadelphia for use as a bonded whiskey warehouse. By 1948, the building was owned by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which leased it in that year to A&S, Brooklyn’s leading department store. A&S had its major warehouse facility in the building for several decades. At some point in the 1950s or 1960s, the real estate firm of Cushman & Wakefield published an advertising brochure for the rental of the ninth and tenth floors of what it called the ‘Abraham & Straus Industrial Building,’ noting that the structure was suitable for ‘warehousing and manufacturing.’” Today, 20 Jay Street, like 10 Jay Street, is home to a number of offices and studio suites catering to the creative class that began filtering into the neighborhood in the 1980s.

19 Jay Street (which now seems to come up as 25 Jay Street in city records, and is pictured at left) is home to several residential units as well as some commercial enterprises.

As far as 60 John Street, the report says, “The building was acquired by the Brillo Manufacturing Company in c. 1941 and occupied as storage and offices by this firm in 1942.” According to city records, 60 John Street is still used for light manufacturing and is now owned by Gerex Corp.

Photos from

Monday, September 13, 2010

Have You Seen This Windmill?

So, sometimes people write into the Eagle at with questions about the borough and we try to answer them. We recently received a question that I wanted to post here so that anyone out there that may know anything can give a shout and help Brenda. The question and the response I sent her is below.

Was there a windmill on E. 94th Street and Kings Highway in the 1940s? I remember a large field where there is now a large housing project. In the middle of the field was a windmill. A family member showed it to me when I was a little kid and told me that it was a windmill. The housing development was soon built and I can’t find any information about it.
— Brenda Mellowe

I consulted with a few experts — Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger, former Borough Historian (and Eagle columnist) John Manbeck, and Brian Merlis, who published a book about that area in 2009. None of them have heard of a windmill at that intersection, which falls in East Flatbush close to Brownsville.

Mr. Merlis’s book, compiled with Lee Rosenzweig and titled Brooklyn’s East Flatbush, Rugby and Pigtown Communities, is filled with hundreds of photographs of the area, including one of the intersection you noted, taken in 1928. The photo does not show a windmill, although it is possible it’s just not visible from the angle this particular photo was taken.

Mr. Merlis added, “I do not recall a windmill at that location, but it is possible, and would have lasted until the 1920s. It would not be the typical Dutch style, but thinner, taller, made from 2x4s or something. I’ve never seen a photo of one there … If it had been a large Dutch-style [windmill], it would have been photographed. Those went out of style about 1850. I’ve seen a few of the tall ones on farms during the earlier 1900s, but they were gone by 1930 or earlier.”

Borough Historian Schweiger had this to offer, “I’m not sure about a windmill at East 94th Street and Kings Highway as late as the 1940s.

“However, much earlier, there was the Vanderveer Mill located at Clarendon Road and Rogers Avenue. It was built by John C. Vanderveer and completed in 1805. The sails were blown off during a storm in 1827. They were replaced and in 1837, were blown off again. The sails were not replaced again.

“During the draft riots of 1863, the ‘colored’ people of the town were permitted to bring their families to live inside the mill until the riots ended and there was no more danger for them. The remnants of the windmill burned down in March, 1879.

“There was another windmill in the Flatbush/East Flatbush area. It was Lloyd’s Mill. It was located at what is now Church Avenue near Nostrand Avenue. Church Avenue had different names during its early years. It was The Road to New Lots, Cow Lane, and East Broadway at various times. It was built in 1820 by a Mr. Molinaux, of Westbury, Long Island, but owned by Richard Willis of New York City. The windmill was dismantled in 1868. It stood on Church Avenue (East Broadway) at the present day Lloyd Street.

“In Flatlands, there was a windmill on the farm of the Hubbard family. It was on Hubbard Place near Flatbush Avenue.”

Mr. Manbeck offered, “The last windmill was probably at the Vanderveer Farm, which burned in 1879. There was a dairy farm store on Flatbush Ave. near Kings Highway that may have had a model windmill…”

Mr. Manbeck’s comment inspires an idea: It may just have been an ornamental windmill that stood by someone’s home or business, and as a child it seemed much larger to you — as tends to happen.

I’m afraid my answer is far from conclusive. But we have another place we can turn — to the collective wisdom and knowledge of our fellow Brooklynites. Does anyone else out there have a memory of a windmill at E. 94th Street and Kings Highway during the 1940s or any other time?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Have Any Memories of Ebbets?

Brooklyn baseball historian and author John Zinn (The Major League Pennant Races of 1916) is in the process of writing a new book about Ebbets Field. An important part of the book will be a section on the memories of those who went to Ebbets in any capacity, and he is reaching out to Brooklyn in hopes that people will share their memories. You can go to and click on Share Your Memory or contact him at or 973-857-1028.