From The New York Shitty Inbox: Plaques At 80 Franklin Street?
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic
One of the things I love about Greenpoint (and New York City, for that matter) is you can walk down the same street year after year and find some hitherto undiscovered treasure. This brings me to the above building and an email I received from an eagle-eyed Greenpointer (and friend) Caryn. She writes:
The little building next to mine at 80 Franklin has always intrigued me. I did some research once that indicated that the first house in Greenpoint was built at the corner of Franklin and Calyer, and given the fact that the two buildings on that corner are newer construction than everything around them,
I always assumed that made sense.
This morning I walked out of the building and headed down Franklin St. towards Greenpoint Ave. As I passed 80 Franklin, something on the sidewalk (which is usually obscured by garbage cans) caught my eye.
There are SIX plaques dedicated to the memory of WWI. Not WWII. WWI.
I didn’t want to open the gate and get better photos since I was late. But it is a crying shame that these are normally obscured by trash.
The plaques also make mention of a tree.
I wonder if it was a park or a yard? Are these plaques private or public? If nothing else I’d like to highlight them so maybe the people who live/work there don’t put their trashcans on them any longer.
I’d love to find out who I could contact to see what can be done to preserve these.
Needless to say I swung by without delay and checked these out. I found five such plaques. Without further ado here they are:
I (okay, WE: my husband is a World War I maven of sorts) have started to research these plaques but have yet to come up with anything substantive. Their placement is certainly odd— perhaps they have something to do with the gore which is located across the street? If any of you, dear readers, know the story behind these plaques and/or the tree which was planted in these veterans’ memory please share via comments or email at: missheather (at) thatgreenpointblog (dot) com.
UPDATE, 7:05 p.m.: having arrived home I see some of my readers have stepped up to the plate!
Arthur Rollin writes:
Hi Miss Heather!I immediately recognized the plaques you posted about recently. They were originally placed beside Elm trees planted along Eastern Parkway (where I live) in Prospect and Crown Heights after the first World War. I’m guessing a lot of those original elms have since died and been torn out, but a few of the plaques still remain. You can read more about them here:I’m not sure how they ended up in Greenpoint though. Maybe living relatives of the deceased picked them up when the trees were removed in order to maintain a memorial of some sorts? It’s probably worth looking up the names in the City’s census records and see if they were residents of the area.Hope that helps!
Ray Palermo writes:
Just a guess, but it may have had something to do with 80 Franklin having been a funeral home. It would not be unusual for an undertaker to have a memorial to fallen soldiers from the neighborhood, and the plaques outlived the building and the business. The attached is from 1885, but it could have still been in business during WWI.
Interesting. Especially since it (somewhat) dove tails with what my buddy across the creek— none other than the Crapper himself— had to say!
Click the link, then click the little camera icon. A menu will come up with dates. Toggle between 1924 aerial and any of the others and you’ll see that 80 Franklin Street was a victim of Banker Street being cut through. A search of the address on the NY Times website shows it was at one time the office of the medical examiner. (In 1885, he was caught keeping dead babies in an icebox for months. !!! —Ed. Note.) Anyway, as this was once a civic building, the memorials make sense. The loss of the space where the trees were is probably due to the road being extended.
More (undoubtedly) to come!
UPDATE, 7:42 p.m.: the historian for St. Stan’s Post 1771, Phil, writes:
Once upon a time in Greenpoint, there were trees outside McGolrick park on Monitor Street. These trees were dedicated to World War I veterans who were from Greenpoint that died in World War I. The trees had a plaques with there names on them. They were put there by American Legion post 241, formed in 1919, which was located at the present site of McDonalds.
I found out about the plaques in the 50’s from guy who may have been a member of Post 241. At the time he was putting two small American flags on the tree, it was in honor of Memorial Day or Veterans Day I don’t remember which. Post 241 was closed down after World War II and was absorbed by our Post St Stans 1771. Once I got involved in the American Legion I started to wonder about those plaques and what happened to them. I tried the Parks Department they didn’t have any information as to What happened to them. Could these plaques you found were the plaques at the bottom of the trees, I can’t say for sure.
I did find out the following 4 of them are from Greenpoint:
Nulty Thomas Raymond,
683 Leonard St Bklyn.
Corp., M. G. Bn.165th Inf.
Killed in action, July 28.1918
Foley, Frank J.,
922 Lorimer St.,Bklyn.
Pvt., 1st Cl.Co.C, 165th Inf. Died of wounds, October 13,1918.
Sheehan, .John C.,
212 Java St., Bklyn.
Pvt., 1st Cl.Co.E, 302d Engrs.
Died of wounds, September 17, 1918.
Black, George A.
Private George Alphonsus BLACK, who died of wounds Oct. 5, was the 27-year-old son of John J. and Catherine BLACK, of 87 India street. He was born in New York and when he was very young his parents moved to Greenpoint, where he attended and was graduated from P.S. 126. When this country declared war on Germany he tried to enlist three times, but failed. He was drafted last February and went overseas with Company D, 306th Machine Gun Battalion. The last letter his parents received from him, was dated Sept. 2. The heartbroken mother said last night that in the midst of her terrible grief, she rejoiced that her boy had died for his country. Another brother, Dr. John J. BLACK, is with the Medical Reserve Corps.
I found a listing for a Frank Foley who lived at 84 Newell St. on the June 18, 1918 Draft Register.
I don’t have any idea on Dan McKenna Korea.
I read some of the replies to your post. These plaques are for men who were from Greenpoint.
UPDATE, 9:08 p.m.: Phil (with a little help from a friend) has solved the mystery! He writes:
I just spoke to a friend of mine and he knew the history of those plaques. Those plaques were originally located at the foot of the trees that were located around the old Knights Of Columbus Lexington Council building on the corner of Meserole Ave and Lorimer Street. When the building was sold they came into the possession of the former owner of 80 Franklin. I also found out that there was a VFW post in Greenpoint named for George Black. The post has long since been closed down…
9:13 p.m.: I did some checking and the George Black post 1818 is still listed as being open but maybe inactive. VFW does not give an address.