Sunday, June 10, 2007

Home sweet scandal

We just picked up a copy of the 2007 Boerum Hill Historical Brooklyn Calendar, provided by the Boerum Hill Association. True, it's June, but the photos and information are timeless. For one thing, the calendar would seem to confirm that we do in fact live in Boerum Hill. We'd always felt that we lived in a nameless intersection of that neighborhood, Park Slope, and Fort Greene, one that the realtors have taken to calling the "BAM Cultural District," after that local landmark. I like that, and if more culture enters the developing district that name may yet stick. But for now, I'm proud to be a Boerum Hiller, or Boerumer, or Boerumite; I'm not sure anyone has a name for that, either.

I picked up a few things from the calendar. January revealed that the UA Court Street cinema, about a 15-minute walk from our place, was in the 1870s co-occupied by the borough branch of the New York Conservatory of Music and C.H. Rivers' Dancing Academy; a century later, after converting to the movies and showing foreign and art films as the Borough Hall Theatre till the 1960s, it was a porn place, the Cinart. The space was demolished in 1998, then was revived by UA, minus its gray-white sandstone exterior.

July's entry is even closer to home. Right next door to us on State Street, which bustled with live entertainment venues nearby, was the Oxford Theatre, which seated 800. Its Oxford Follies burlesque shows in the 1930s were frequently raided, but audience ardor for them only cooled in July 1951, when the theater was destroyed by fire. The period photo used, which shows figures of dancing girls perched atop the marquee, suggests the ground floor of our building was a pub or restaurant. The image is partially obscured by the Flatbush Avenue portion of the 5th Avenue El train, which was torn down in the early 1940s.

Today it's all condos. To a newcomer, it has always seemed to be condos. But that is an illusion this calendar, welcome despite the lateness of the date, dispels.

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