Little Old Canarsie
For many years, the late John Denton graced pages of the Canarsie Courier with his column "Little Old Canarsie." Born here in 1900, Denton's knowledge of the area and memories of his life in Canarsie, from the time he was a boy until he died at the age of 85, quaintly chronicled the early history of the community, from the era when there was nothing here but dirt roads, to modern times.
In keeping with its popularity - and to further inform our newer readers of our quaint, vast, and most of all interesting history - we are running his column "Little Old Canarsie" again. We think it is fitting that it be run, where suitable, almost as written, with the jargon (we hope not too many misspellings) and idiosyncrasies of the day just as originally written.
About the time when all the land west of what is now known as Remsen Avenue and Flatlands Avenue was a dirt road about as wide as East 92nd Street, there were just about 25 scattered homes in the entire area from Church Lane to what is now Bedell Lane, formerly Canarsie Lane. This land only reached west to about what is now East 82nd Street and was about 5 or 6 feet lower than what it is now. After that was the meadowland all the way to Utica Avenue, except the creek running through at the time, now known as Paerdegat Basin at its present width. But in those days it was Bedfords Creek.
In the early teens, some of the families living in this area were the Hohnsons, and Edward Rowland, our Republican leader. The Phil Millers, The Sandborns, The John J. McLaughlin Family, The Fishers Family, The Buttimans Family, The Coles Family, Pastor Hull of Grace M.P. Church, in the parsonage that once stood on Church Lane across from Staubs Florist, which was next to the Canarsie cemetery.
In those day, you could travel on Church Lane, which was known on the city maps as the "Road to Lotts House." As far as what is now known as East 84th Street, where it then was known as Varken Hook's Road, which continued through the woods up to Canarsie Lane, where it went past the Schenk-Lotts House under the sharp turn at East 85th under the arch of the Long Island Railroad tracks, to let anyone who wished to get to the city as there were only two outlets in those days.
The other was Rockaway Avenue. In the early teens, most of the lots in the entire area were sold for about 50 or a hundred dollars, which was 25x100 in those days, later changed to 20x100. These were bought by fine Italian families from the East New York section and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn, who put up homes on the grade which was there at the time and all the area became known as Little Italy. They raised large families and had their little farms to plant all the vegetables they needed as these men worked very hard and had only weekends to cultivate their farms.
Among the early settlers were the Puma Family, Pollari Family, Frank (the iceman), Tassielo Family, the (Butchers ) Stabile Family, the Bongiornos family, the LaFeminas who had a large family, the Padovano Family and the Fierro Family.