Halloween; Researching Your House

The Leaning Tower of Pisa was a highlight at the Cobble Hill Halloween Parade 2010. Photo by Franklin Stone.

By Trudy Whitman
Hills & Gardens

There’s probably no need to trumpet the must-go event of Cobble Hill’s fall season, but for those new to the nabe, be sure not to miss this one; the annual Cobble Hill Park Halloween Party and Parade happens on the Big Day itself, Monday, October 31, beginning at 4 p.m. Even if you don’t have kids, come out to see the resourcefulness, imagination, and originality of your neighbors as expressed in their children’s — and frequently their own — costumes. On Halloween this park, at Clinton Street and Veranda Place, is filled with corkers!

After allowing time for admiration and photos, children will parade through the streets of Cobble Hill led by Brooklyn’s own JahPan Steel Band. The streets are closed to traffic and patrolled by members of the 76th Precinct.

In order to keep this wonderful tradition going, there’s need for fresh blood — and not just for all the vampires who will be prowling the park; many parents who organize the event have children who long ago outgrew the Halloween costume stage. To assist the hard-working crew, please show up at 9 a.m. for set-up or 8:30 p.m. for clean-up. And happy haunting!

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Plagued by an intermittent lighting problem that made the atmosphere more 60s discotheque than 2011 hospital conference room, as well as a digital projection system that stopped working, eminent historian Francis Morrone nevertheless gave an engaging and amusing presentation about researching the history of your home. He spoke at University Hospital of Brooklyn at Long Island College Hospital on October 17, as the keynoter for the Cobble Hill Association’s Fall General Membership meeting.

Incidentally, in an opening welcome speech by Dr. John LaRosa, the SUNY Downstate president explained that the Cobble Hill hospital will soon have a more manageable name that reflects LICH’s merger with Downstate. LaRosa also encouraged the gathering to take advantage of services available to them near home, ensuring neighbors that it isn’t necessary to go to Manhattan for superlative health care.

Before Morrone took the podium, Cobble Hill collaborators Paul Murphy and Jeff Grossman discussed the Cobble Hill History Project’s interactive wiki, now being built. A wiki allows Internet information to be created and edited using any Web browser. They explained that the wiki will be organized block by block and house by house. Each page of history will be complemented by a page open to visitor input. Look for launch information at www.cobblehillassociation.blogspot.com.Murphy and Grossman invite neighborhood participation. They can be reached at paulmurphy@corcoran.com and jeff@prolifics.com.

Francis Morrone

Before the Internet, Francis Morrone said by way of introduction, conducting research about Brooklyn consisted of putting on “comfy shoes” and visiting “church basements.” Among the resources that have changed everything he cited the Brooklyn Public Library’s digitized version of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which stretches back to 1841, and the Department of Buildings free website. He said http://www.propertyshark.com, a fee for service site, is helpful if you are not too picky about when your home was built: “We’re not even talking ballpark,” Morrone joked about the dates of construction listed on propertyshark.

Cobble Hill is “lucky,” Morrone continued, because it is a historic district for which the city requires a building-by-building written report. Much can be learned by visiting www.neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org/designation_reports.

All the new resources have “put pressure on historians to go back and redo everything,” Morrone revealed. But easy access doesn’t mean mistakes cannot be made. He cautions researchers not to “lose critical faculty.”

Also in the lucky department for local home researchers is Cobble Hill’s proximity to the Brooklyn Historical Society, which has “one of the finest libraries in America” when it comes to buildings and building development. Morrone is particularly fond of BHS’s atlas collection (1855-1929). These were drawn primarily for fire insurance purposes, he explained. Also at BHS is a collection of land conveyance records dating back to the 17th century.

A homeowner sniffing out history may also want to show up at Brooklyn’s Department of Buildings, Morrone advised, “but not really.” It’s not a fun place, according to his description, and records have gone missing. The assumption is, he joked once more, that in moving documents offsite, “they fell off the back of a truck.”

If you must visit the DOB, Francis Morrone stressed, make an appointment in advance and arrive with your block and lot number and an NB or new building record.

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Filed under Brooklyn Authors, Cobble Hill, Real Estate, Up & Coming

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