Location of former Gowanus Road from From the Atlas of NYC, 1880. Via NYPL.
In the Park Slope and Gowanus area, the history of the Revolutionary War is well-known – from the recreated Stone House where a decisive part of the Battle of Brooklyn/Long Island took place to the bravery of the Maryland 400, whose final burial grounds are still unconfirmed. In the August 1776 retreat from Brooklyn ,the American soldiers fled West from Prospect Park on the Porte Road downhill towards what was then the Gowanus swamp. Crossing the Gowanus Creek (now the Canal), more casualties were taken.
Today, a portion of these roads where the soldiers traversed is now visible, thanks to construction at 269-271 Fourth Avenue, last reported to be a 12-story condo as revealed by New York Yimby in early 2015. The lot is next to the ODA-designed building 251 1st Avenue that is currently under construction.
Nicholas Evans-Cato, a former resident of Garfield Place and a professor at RISD, recently contacted us about this find, which he discovered while checking out what had become of his former backyard at 26 Garfield Place. He lived there from 1979 to 1980 with his father and the road went through what was Hanson’s Junkyard at the time which comprised several lots on First Street.
38 Garfield Place, where the Gowanus Road once went through to intersect Porte Road
He drew us this handy map which shows how a diagonal lot line at the rear of 12, 14 and 16 Garfield Place actually preserves the path of the original Porte Road. This map and the details were confirmed by Peter Joseph in 2011, a local historian and cartographer who is affiliated with the Old Stone House Museum, Evans-Cato says. Nonetheless he tells us, the topography has changed drastically here. What would have been the surface of the Porte and Gowanus Roads are now “way below the grade level.”
Garfield Place was once known as Macomb Place, as you can see noted on the atlas map (top of article) was renamed after the assassination of President James Garfield. A driveway off Garfield Place to an existing condo also gives access to the former Porte Road area:
As does the construction site for 269-271 Fourth Avenue (in this photo, if you head back and left, you would hit Garfield Place if there were no fences):
269-271 Fourth Avenue this past weekend
269-271 Fourth Avenue before
Same lot in 2012, when it was an auto repair shop. Next door was a McDonalds, which is now the ODA-designed 251 1st Street Building
Below is a 2015 rendering of what the condo would look like, though there would be the ODA-designed 251 1st Avenue condo where the McDonald’s is now. There have been no known updates released for the renderings and the website for 251 1st Avenue shows a much smaller placeholder on that lot.
As Evans-Cato notes, “There isn’t much to see in the sight of a little patch of ground that played an important part in American history. Think anyone would give a darn?” Well, we do.
Next, read about the Historical Secrets of the Gowanus Canal.