Why Do Some Of Our Stanchions Have Holes?

The Case of the Mysterious Holes

In 1905, with the blessing of the NYC Board of Aldermen, 24 ornamental brick pillars were erected to mark the boundaries of the new Prospect Park South development. Each had their street name engraved at the top, just below stone flower pots, with a monogrammed “PPS” on every side. 

1905: PPS Pillars Approved
2016: PPS Pillar on Argyle Road

Over the next 20 years, Midwood Park, Fiske Terrace and West South Midwood would follow suit, although none featured monograms and our forefathers opted for the trim line without engraved street names. 

2018: Ocean & Glenwood

2018: Foster Ave & E 17th St

Ours once featured flower pots (per 1983 photos) but after rampant crazy drivers took out stanchion after stanchion, the replacements were topped with white stone globes. Still, we out-pillar Ditmas Park and Beverly Square which have no pillars at all. Tsk, tsk, tsk. 

1983: SE Corner Westminster Rd & Foster Ave

1983: NW Corner Argyle Rd & Ave H

1983: SW Corner, Foster Ave & Rugby Rd

But I am frequently asked, being the repository of exceedingly useless local minutia, why those pillars that have miraculously survived from the 1920s sport a hollowed-out platform in the center. 

2019: Foster & Argyle

Photos, taken decades apart, of two stanchions on Avenue H – one at the northwest corner of Westminster Road and the other at the northwest corner of Rugby Road – provide the answer I believe. A close inspection of 1940 NYC tax photos found electric lamps sitting atop each! 

1940 NW Corner Westminster & Ave H
Looking North Up Westminster

1940 NW Corner Westminster & Ave H
Looking South Past Ave H to E 12th St

1940: NW Corner Rugby & Ave H
Electric Light Atop (Far Right)

2018: NW Corner Rugby & Ave H
Note Hole, Bottom Right

It seems the innards of our pillars had cables that powered globe lights at the top. But as modern photos attest (from 1963 & 2018), the electric globes were now gone, and hollow voids appears where the “mechanicals” providing the juice for the globe presumably once sat, leaving an empty hole in our stanchions’ hearts to accumulate trash lo, these many years. 

1909: July 28. Pillars
Coming to Midwood Park
When the pillars in Midwood Park & Fiske Terrace were erected in 1910 the City originally agreed to supply the electricity for lighting tungsten lamps that would sit atop their stanchions and provide light to the streets in lieu of the City’s street lamps which the Municipal Arts Commission had deemed ugly. 

 But upon further review, City engineers rejected the proposed artsy tungsten lamps as much weaker than the City’s arc lighting. A pillar at the northwest corner of Glenwood & Ocean Avenue has a hole much like ours and some others appear to have had a hole bricked over. 

2018: Glenwood & Ocean.
Note Hole in Middle 

Hmmm. Perhaps our stanchions, erected in 1925, featured lighting that passed muster but had to be disabled or removed as a result of World War Two blackouts? 

Finally, after one of our stanchions was wrecked by an accident-inducing speedster in 1992, the WMCA arranged for a new pillar to be installed. A former resident, Barry Katz, contributed an industrial strength steel box and urged that it be used as a time capsule. Accordingly President Joe Mislowack filled it up with a mint set of coins contributed by Lennie Grau, along with the address list of dues-paying West Midwoodians (Hint! Hint!), and a video of the neighborhood. The box remains buried under the stanchion at the southwest corner of Rugby Road & Foster Avenue. Notes Joe, “I hope when a future generation finds it, they know how to play a VHS tape.”

1931: PPS Pillar at
Westminster Rd & Church Ave
Toppled by Sedan & Mail Truck. Oops.

2018: Foster & Argyle

2019: The Distinctive
West Midwood Hole

The Stories Your House Could Tell: 1315 Glenwood Road

A for Albemarle, G for Glenwood

In 1901 at the request of the Germania realty company, the Board of Aldermen voted to rename “Avenue G” Glenwood Road. And just as another realtor, Dean Alvord, had managed to transform “Avenue A” into Albemarle Road two years earlier, Glenwood Road would soon become the centerpiece of a new development then being carved out of the Lott Woods, from Flatbush Avenue to Coney Island Avenue. 

1901: December 15. Brooklyn Eagle.
Anglophilia Grips Developers

After Germania had cut down the trees and laid out the streets, it created a central garden mall on Glenwood, patterned after Alvord’s Albemarle Road, forming a southern bookend to Victorian Flatbush. Then it installed gas/electric/sewer lines to each empty lot, created sidewalks and paved the roads. By the Fall of 1905, quite a few new houses had already been erected on Glenwood Road, many by master builder John Corbin and his architect, Benjamin Dreisler. In fact, Dreisler himself had just moved into one of their new creations at the northeastern end of this garden strip, bordering the surface-level trolley railway – now occupied by the Finkel family. 

1906: Grade Crossing Elimination at Newkirk Avenue.
Note "South Midwood Station" Sign, Upper Right.

On October 5,1905 Corbin and Dreisler submitted to the Buildings Department plans for one of their more distinctive houses at what would become 1315 Glenwood Road: “A two story and attic frame dwelling, 26 x 36.4, one family, shingle roof, steam heat, cost $6,500.” The large home would contain two staircases, one for servants, but as we shall see, nary a maid would ever live here. 

As Spring approached, the house was sold, on March 10, 1906, to Lena Schilling, a 63 year old widow born in Germany. Lena's recently deceased husband, Joseph, led an interesting life. A reform Democrat in a midtown Republican district, he was narrowly elected a NYC Alderman in 1894 as a fusion candidate for the Republican Party, which aimed to overthrow the corrupt Tammany Hall control of the City. 

1896: May 22. New York World. 

But Schilling essentially sold his vote, allowing Tammany to gerrymander Manhattan’s Assembly districts. As a reward, in 1898 he was appointed the Superintendent of City Hospital on Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island), which cared for the indigent and inmates in the nearby City Penitentiary. But some lives are hard to pigeon hole: Schilling weeded out corruption, changing the Hospital from a slaughterhouse to a respected institution. 

1901: March 19. New York World.
Schilling WasAlways Good Copy.

1900 Census: Schilling Family On Blackwells Island.
Served as Warden, City Hospital

On February 23, 1904, Schilling took the ferry from the Island to vote in a special congressional election. He was fond of beer as many a news story featuring the “fat and ruddy” politician in beer-soaked environs will attest. Naturally, he dropped by a German saloon on 1st Avenue and while hoisting a stein, keeled over with a massive heart attack. He was only 52. Tammany bosses packed his funeral and the cortege to Lutheran Cemetery in Brooklyn was a long one. 

With her husband gone, Lena needed to move her large family from their quarters on the Island, and the search eventually led her to what had become the “South Midwood” stop on the Brighton line in the new suburb of West South Midwood. A son (Louis, born 1884) and daughter (Susan, born 1887) provided income as a pipe mechanic and office stenographer respectively, allowing the mortgaged Schillings to hang on until the First World War, when hard times forced them to relocate to an apartment above a new row of storefront buildings on Avenue H at East 16th Street.  

1910 Census: 1315 Avenue G Listed Lines 7 to 10

1920 Census: Schillings Have Moved to 1614 Avenue H

The large Hubert Gardiner family, who had been renting a house in Bedford Stuyvesant, now took possession of 1315 Glenwood Road. Soon after they moved in, a son, Leslie, was drafted (a month before the Armistice), leaving his six siblings behind. According to the 1920 Census, Hubert Gardiner was a 62 year old Irish-immigrant bookbinder employing his eldest son in a very successful shop at 80 Lafayette Street in Manhattan. The Gardiners were well-to-do and owned a summer home in Huletts Landing, Lake George. Hubert died there suddenly in July 1929 after suffering a heart attack while playing golf. He’s buried in the family plot at Holy Cross Cemetery.

1920 Census: 1315 Avenue G - The Gardiner Family

His widowed spouse Ellen held onto the house, with sons Hubert (taking over the binding business) & Edwin (a Dentist) becoming the breadwinners. In 1939, Dr. Edwin Gardiner (1903-1976) married Mary Lynch of East 31st St and even at this late date, the press notice provided the Dentist’s address as “1315 Avenue G.” 

1930 Census. 1315 Glenwood Road.
Still Avenue G (Easier To Write).

1939: July 9. Brooklyn Eagle
The Dentist Takes a Bride.

1940 Census: Gardiners Still Residing at 1315 Ave G

In June 1945, with the war in Europe at an end, house prices started to rise. Then President Truman spurred a buying stampede by announcing support for raising federal mortgage down-payment requirements from 20% to 35%. As a result the Gardiners were able to quickly sell their residence of 28 years to Rose Dreiling for $12,000.

1940. City Tax Photo

Official records for 1315 Glenwood Road listed only Rose Dreiling, a 59 year old German immigrant, as the new owner. Alas, her spouse Louis had been financially-challenged since filing for bankruptcy protection in 1939 with debts of $2,930 (52 grand today). 

1930 Incorporation of Louis Dreilling's Securities Business

1939: June 26. Bankruptcy Filing for
Louis Dreilling.

Louis Dreiling had emigrated to New York from Hungary as a 21 year old in 1902, speaking only Magyar. He became a theater manager and enjoyed great success in the Roaring 20s speculating in the stock market, buying a home in Williamsburg valued at $19,000. 

He then opened a securities-trading business at the dawn of the Depression. Oops. Work as a plumber followed, then unemployment, with the family relocating to a rented house in Midwood, where they were supported by a daughter’s teaching salary and Eastern European lodgers. 

1946: June 30. NY Times Wedding Notice 

Louis died four years after the move to Glenwood Road, but he lived long enough to see his son David begin an extraordinary medical career. Dr. David Dreiling served his entire career at Mt. Sinai Hospital and in 1990 retired to Florida where he passed away a year later. The many tributes which followed cited his “significant and long-lasting contributions to the field of surgery, to pancreatic research and to our clinical understanding of disease and its processes.” Most of the Dreiling family is buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens.

1991: Sep 27. NY Times Obituary 

In July of 1954 Rose Dreiling sold the home to Herman & Clare Gerber of 1175 East 13th Street for $14,000 after the Gerbers’ teenage son spotted a For Sale sign on the impressive-looking house. Herman, the son of Russian immigrants, graduated St. John's Law School in Brooklyn in 1933 and was admitted to the bar five months later. Prior to that he was an auditor at a hospital. His wife Clare then worked as a stenographer for an attorney, which might have led Herman to his second profession as the Depression worsened. When Clare passed away in April 1975, Herman put the house up for sale and moved out to East Islip. Eight years later he joined his wife in Suffolk County’s New Montefiore Cemetery.

1976: Traditional Mislowack Christmas Wreath Debuts

When Joe & Lisa Mislowack bought their home from Herman Gerber, it had been on the market for a year. From the mid1960s, through the 1970s, Flatbush had been red-lined by lending institutions, so obtaining any mortgage, let alone an affordable one, was difficult. The Mislowacks had to fight hard to get one. They also had to insist on seeing 1315 Glenwood Road because of the broker biases common at the time: white buyers were led away from mixed neighborhoods like Flatbush, which was termed “a risk to go all black.” However, it was the diversity of Flatbush, its solid housing stock and the beauty of the neighborhoods which attracted the Mislowacks here from their apartment on Avenue U in Gravesend. After seeing dozens of homes in surrounding areas – according to Lisa’s list, it was 65! – they decided to bid on the only house they ever looked at in West Midwood. Herman Gerber wanted  $80,000 but after a year of no nibbles, he settled for the $60,000 the Mislowacks offered.

1976: Joe Doing Varnishing Work 1st Floor.
Note Wine on Mantel
In August of 1994 the NY Daily News featured a story on the tender-loving care the Mislowacks had lavished on their “Painted Lady” home. 

1994: Aug 28. NY Daily News Feature 

During a recent visit with Joe, he talked about some of the work he and Lisa undertook (freeing pocket doors nailed shut, restoring long-neglected wainscoting, etc.) and offered delightful details (what to do with old annunciator buttons for servants that were never used, placing a 30-foot ladder on a table atop the porch roof to reach the apex of the house during the first of their painting jobs). I felt like I was listening to a great undiscovered episode of This Old House. In more than 40 years of jogging and wandering around Victorian Flatbush, Joe has only found two houses that were cut from the same Corbin mold, although exterior changes would make them hard to find unless you were a Mislowack. 

1994. Joe Painting.

In addition to succeeding Herman Gerber on Glenwood Road, Joe also replaced him on what was then called “The Board of Governors” of the West Midwood Community Association, at the request of President Mike Weiss. In 1988, Joe began a 14 year run as President of the Association, a period he remembers as being marked by complaints about dog poop, speeding vehicles, slow vehicles (student drivers) and toppled stanchions. 

“Looking back,” says Joe, “Lisa and I were really nervous about buying the house. We were newlyweds, there was an energy crisis that made us worry about heating this huge place – we weren’t exactly rolling in dough. But every inch of this home is filled with such great memories …Bianca and Alexa growing up…me and Lisa planning our next paint job…I don’t regret a single day living here.” 

2018: Christmas Wreath Tradition Continues