Things to Ponder While You Enjoy Your Mattar Paneer

I was thinking to myself that I haven’t written anything in a while and I really wanted to, but had absolutely no idea what to write about. I could pen something about knitting or baking or maybe some observation about my kid, but the title of my blog has nothing to do with any of that. Sigh. Well suddenly, that same day (which was yesterday, in case you care) my old friend Greg posted a new post on his Brooklyn’s Fat Guy Eats Out blog, a link to which you can find over there on the right. Found it? Good.

Now wait, before you back off of this here page, Greg is a food blogger, yes, but NOT some pretentious hipster douchebag foodie. He’s just a regular guy who likes to eat regular food that makes him full and happy. And I’ve known him for a long-ass time so be nice and go read his stuff.

What does any of this have to do with what’s going on here? I’ll tell you. I went and searched my old timey newspaper site for the address of my friend’s latest dinner venue and discovered that 651 Manhattan Ave, which is currently the Bombay Garden restaurant,  previously the Socrates Deli, has been in the paper a handful of  times over the past 100 years or so. This gave me the idea that I could kind of piggy-back off of his blog. He tells you if it’s worth it to drop your cash there and if you do, you can think about all the people who used to live there and maybe what it looked like way before you showed up to eat some Reshmi Kebab.

The first story I could find of any interest that had to do with 651 was about the untimely demise of one George Galbraith. The article is from the August 28th, 1898 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. George was born in Scotland about 1850, a  machinist by trade,  who was employed at the Jackson Brother’s Foundry in Greenpoint. He and his wife, Agnes, took the trolley to see the “electrical display at the fountain” in Prospect Park.  As they were leaving the park, there was a rain storm. The couple was walking near the lake, George was behind his wife. Agnes turned around and he was gone. She told a patrolman who told her he may have simply lost his way and that she should go home, he’d probably turn up. But, alas, he did not and after days of searching he still didn’t arrive home. It was suspected that he may have wandered off of the path and fallen into the lake and drowned.  According to the NY Times obit page, he died on August 28th, the same day he disappeared. His children were Willie, David, George and Lizzie. Agnes doesn’t appear to have remarried, and she and the children eventually moved to Meeker Ave.

According to the 1900 census, and every census after, this building was just packed with people. You will find Rudolph Norek and his family, Betty and Alfred. Rudolph was a baker who came here from Poland in 1888. Their neighbors in the building are Charles and Charlotte Brogman and Chuck is a baker too, but he’s German. Living in the same apartment are his wife’s brother and mom, Phillip and Charlotte Zimmerman. Phillip is a butcher and in 1902 he places several ads in the local papers looking for work of any kind.  Next we have a painter named Lathrop Wolber (or Wrogler, hard to read) and his wife Elizabeth.  Oh, we aren’t done yet. We have Harry Murray, our Irish “express man” – that means he delivered stuff. He resides here with his wife Annie and son, Harry Jr. along with his mother-in-law, Bridget McKenna AND his nephew and nieces John, Mary, Kate and Annie McCusker. Then there are Henry the machinist from England, with his wife Minnie from Germany and their daughter, Lillian and finally the widow Kate Fitzpatrick who makes her living doing laundry.  According to the papers from 1901 and 1902  listing places to go and vote, this address was home to a Barber Shop.  Rudolph Norek declared bankruptcy in 1901 and eventually moved to Leonard St. where his new occupation was as a house builder.

In 1910 there is 80 year old Luke Kerrigan with children Joseph, Luke and Mary “Mamie” Beynnon.  We have the famiglia Colamino – Domenico, Gertrude, Theresa, Albina, Nicola and Andesco. Dom  came to America in 1899 and was a barber. Hyman and Nettie Posner were here with their daughters Rebecca, Gussie and Celia. They were Poles from Russia and all came here in 1905 except for Celia who was born in New Jersey and Hyman owned a dry goods store. Then there’s Charles and Rebecca Tuch with sons Bernard and Harry. Austrian carpenter Johan Wrick is married to Pauline. His brother Rudolph is a harness-maker and Johan’s kids are Valerie, Victoria, Charles, Mary, Stephen and Edward. William & Mary  Cassidy are from Ireland and daughter Marion has a job as a stenographer. Ann and Harry Murray, Jr. are still there, Harry Sr. has since passed away.  They take in boarders, which was quite common, and the fellows living with them are George Belz and Rudolph Landberg.

In 1912, 17 year old resident John O’Hagan was arrested for stealing two horses from the stable of Joseph Josephs on India St. He told the cops a stranger gave them to him to hold so that he could march in the Carpenter St. parade. The cops didn’t believe him.

Between 1911 & about 1914, 651 Manhattan Ave was one of nine Infant Milk Stations in Brooklyn. They were run by nurses and desperate mothers could bring their sick babies there for treatment and advice on how to care for their children. The stations were painted blue and white and had drawn white curtains. Each window displayed a sign which read “Department of Health Infants’ Milk Station, open 8 A. M. to 1 P. M.”  Three doctors were responsible for managing three stations each, the one on Manhattan Ave was run by Dr. Joseph Weinberg. Each station had one nurse and one nurses assistant and a clerk whose job it was to dispense the milk. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle article from 1911, there were classes where they taught new mothers how to modify the milk depending on the needs of their baby, adding barley water was one example of this. Children are brought in once a week and examined and weighed, their ages ranged from a few weeks to two years but the average age was nine months.

In the 1920’s, you could no longer get milk here, but the kids who had gotten some a decade earlier could go to this same spot for dad  and pick up some “Genuine Radiotrons R. C. A. Tubes”  at the Brooklyn Radio Centre. By the mid 1940’s it had become Manhattan Radio Sales and then simply Manhattan Sales, where in 1949, in an offer made exclusively to Brooklyn Daily Eagle readers, you could get yourself a fabulous 111 piece dish set. The pattern was China Bouquet and it was edged in 22 karate gold! Your first unit of 3 ten inch dinner plates would cost only 79 cents (plus 1 cent tax) with your coupon. You could always just get the whole set at once for $38.95 – no C. O. D.’s please.

On the 1920 census we have Max and Etta Wasserman and their daughter, Helen. Max came here from Romania in 1903 and Etta was from Russia and spoke Yiddish. Sharing the building was the Irish lass, Delia Knee and her kids James and Anna. In 1926 James will marry Elizabeth Brophy who lives at 26 Newel. Joseph Kerrigan and his brother and sister Luke and Mary Beynnon are still there, but the patriarch of the family has died. Next is the Cassidy clan, still there since 1910.  Mary will die in April of 1925. According to her obit she was born in Williamstown County  in Galway and her daughter married John McLaughlin. Their neighbors here were mom and daughter, Mary and Elisa Shepard who have boarders, 18 year old Patrick and 8 year old Alise McVicker.  After that is Nichola DeFuria the Italian who married a Polish gal named Mary and had Jennie. Nick was a barber.  John Rouse and his son John Jr. are there too. I believe it was his son Henry who  served in WWI and was listed in several 1918 papers as being among the injured, but I don’t know if he ever came home. They have a housekeeper named Mary Brush. John and the boy were solderers in a tin shop. And finally, we have the Ceramis(?) family from Italy – Joseph, Rose, Michael and Angela. Joe is a barber just like his friend Nick.

In 1930, the widow Mary Pietrcyh lives there with all of her daughters – Irene, Jennie, Helen, Wanda and her only son John.  Mary doesn’t speak English and her oldest daughter supports the family as a telephone operator.  In the same building are construction worker Patrick Meenie and his wife, Anna;  widower Benjamin Meiners and his son Edwin; widow Mary Sheppard with daughters Eleanor and Alice and finally the German widow Mary Sahulka. Their rent was $23 a month.

In 1952 the property was sold to settle an estate. It was described as having two stores with six apartments which brought in $5,316 a month. After that, I couldn’t say what happened until the 1980’s when it became the Socrates as I mentioned earlier. I was probably in there once or twice,  I don’t remember and now it is the Bombay Gardens.

So if you ever go to Bombay, while you’re dining, you can put your smart phone aside and think about the souls that walked in and out of the place you’re chillin’ at. Was the table you’re sitting at now where a barber chair once was? Did any of the young mothers there take advantage of the free services at the milk station downstairs and was everyone excited when the radio store opened up?  Maybe they  saved their meager wages from their factory jobs to get a fancy new radio or phonograph. I wonder if any of them got the China Bouquet dish set or if the women in the building sent food over to the widowed John Rouse and his son – Jennie Rouse died  sometime after 1910. I wonder if Henry ever made it back from the war. Did all of these Russians and Irish and Italians get along or did they whisper behind each others backs or did the widows and widowers that filled the place in 1930 gather together in the halls and talk about the good old days? Maybe if you concentrate hard enough you can channel the ghost of Mary Cassidy over coffee and dessert  – I bet she never had Galub Jamun. I wonder if she would like it?

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7 Responses to Things to Ponder While You Enjoy Your Mattar Paneer

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  2. bobby cormier says:

    i lived in a top floor apartment in this building in the 1980s. when socrates restaurant was downstairs. charlie (or charley) was the worst landlord i ever had in nyc. he was a bully and a spy. later on, i moved to leonard st. near greenpoint ave. (right behind the church) and ismet was the best landloard i ever had in nyc. quite a change. he’d come around for the rent and take us out to breakfast while he was in the neighborhood.

  3. wagnerowicz says:

    that would be Mr. Karkosza – his parents were the landlords, his dad died while we still lived there and his mom I think in the 80’s after we moved. I think he just maintains it. He has or had a brother and one of them had a big dog named BaBa. BTW, that place has French doors w/crystal knobs to the back bedroom, a fireplace behind the “wood” paneling in the master bedroom AND the bathroom is big enough to fit the washing machine. If you look at the painted over door in the hallway, you can see an old tin sign that says “bathroom” or something, cause that’s where it used to be. We used it for storage. My mom tells me that the place is a mess and if you put a pencil on the kitchen floor it’ll just roll straight across the room.

    I used to go to Ray’s candy store up the block, he had a pinball machine and I can swear he and his daughter lived in the back. There was also Cheap Charlie’s where you were sure to get a lollipop from him and I know George’s and the fur guy have closed. Found a bag of scrap fur once and my Barbie ended up with an awesome mink stole and rabbit fur rug for her inflatable furniture living room. There was a candy store across from the Annex too and they sold ice-cream cones and an arcade that the nuns raided once – we were forbidden to go on there. There was also always a beer can shoved in the hand of the angel statue in McGoldrick park.

    I didn’t know about the address thing, I’ll have to remember that for next time. For now, you’re the only one who’s on to me so hush 😉

  4. wagnerowicz says:

    wow! thank you so much 🙂 I actually lived at 43 Newell on the third floor, next to Newell Fuel Co. I don’t think anyone has lived there since we moved in 83, our blinds and curtains are still hanging. The place is all locked up and falling down 😦 I even went to St. Stan’s AKA The Polish Prison. I don’t blog much, so don’t get too excited. I do genealogy and use the census’ on ancestry to find out who lived in these places. If you have an address, let me know, maybe something cool happened there. Genealogy is kind of my crack.

    • Joe Z. says:

      My son goes to St.Stan’s (fourth grade next week); so, we pass by the house every day. The house is inhabited, by the way. During the last winter, there was an older Polish fellow who would go in and out while shovelling the sidewalk. Re the blinds and curtains, perhaps the present residents figured if they’re still good, why not use’em?

      Remember the bar on the corner of Nassau and Leonard? It went from bar-to-florist shop-to 24 hour convenience store. Gerke’s is gone. His catering hall is now the “Imperial Palace”.

      If you plan on checking addresses on Manhattan Avenue for resident information, for instance, remember that the building addresses underwent a number of changes between 1860 and 1905. If you are checking an address from, let’s say, 1882, Manhattan Ave. started at Greenpoint Ave., with the numbers increasing northward. From Greenpoint Ave. south to Driggs (which was called Van Cott Avenue then), that stretch was called Orchard Street. From Van Cott/Driggs to Broadway, this was called Ewen Street. Around the early 1890s, Orchard Street was made part of Manhattan Ave.; so, 2 Manhattan Ave. is on the corner of Driggs. that happens to be where Van Dohlen’s ice Cream Parlor was once located.

      One great resource for the early history of the Eastern district, which includes Greenpoint, is “the Eastern District of Brooklyn” by Eugene L. Armbruster. You can obtain a PDF copy at

      You’ll also find a lot more out of copyright books relating to Brooklyn, like Stile’s History of the City of Brooklyn (3 vols.). Also good is
      “William L. Felter – Historic Green Point ; a brief account of the beginning and development of the northerly section of the borough of Brooklyn, City of New York, locally known as Green Point (1918)
      also available at web archive.

  5. Joe Z. says:

    Excellent site! I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Greenpernter and an amateur historian of the aulde Eastern District; so, I definitely appreciate the research you do. Keep up the great work! Where in the point are you originally from. I hail from Dupont and India Streets.

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