Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Seedy Home

From the 1939 WPA Guide to New York City:

Prospect Park West is an equally fine neighborhood, which west of Sixth Avenue changes into an area of seedy houses, industrial plants, and warehouses. In the latter section dwells a small colony of Newfoundlanders, known to the neighborhood as "blue noses" or "fish," who gain a livelihood on the fishing smacks that go down to the sea from Sheepshead Bay.

I love reading this paragraph. Partly for its air of raffish romance and partly because one of those seedy houses is the place I call home.  Even as late as the early 1980s, much of the south of the Slope west of Sixth & below 9th was considered no-go territory by the realtors introducing young, white, urban professionals to Brooklyn.  Neither the area's demographics nor much of the (wooden) housing stock made the cut.  The passage makes me curious, too, about those earlier Newfoundlanders - seafarers, longshoremen, carpenters, and ironworkers - who settled here, South Brooklyn through to Bay Ridge, some staying for good, but others eventually heading back to their families up north. There's plenty available to read about Scandinavians in Brooklyn, but less about the fish & the Nova Scotian blue noses.  I got talking to a Newfie a couple of weeks back, on the Coney Island boardwalk, and I thought of the WPA guide.
Off to the Central Library to dig around.

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