2006-07-20 / Little Old Canarsie

Little Old Canarsie

How "The Wallabout" Became The Brooklyn Terminal Market
John Denton

Just about the years of 1914 to 1918, when we had the days of the First World War, Canarsie Lane started at E.92nd St. and wound its way to about E.87th St. and made a sharp turn up past the former Lott mansion, which was now occupied by a well-known farmer Alphonse Fiero, who had both sides of all the vacant land planted with all kinds of vegetables.

The land came to a sharp turn under the arch of the L.I.R.R. where many an accident happened to those who were lucky enough to own one of the new cars that were coming out to replace the horse and buggy. Some of the names of these were, of course, the Model T-Ford, Maxwells, Durants, Chevys, Sutz Bearcat, Locomobile, Packards, Rolls Royce, Overland Whippets, Nash, Wintons and may others.

When you went around the curve you would pass the Becker Aniline & Dye Works, which covered the large area along what is now Ditmas Ave. on one side and the embankment of the railroad on the other. This dye works employed a few old time Canarsiens who would come home from work at night with their clothes and face and hand's looking like the colors of the rainbow. Many times there was an explosion on the premises that could be heard all over Canarsie. When the men were mixing the chemicals in one of the tin shacks that were scattered all over the premises.

Afterward, they built a large red building to use for the works and then when the Armistice came on Nov. 11th, 1918, and the U.S. was able to again import the dyes and chemicals from Germany, the Becker plant closed down and was empty and idle a few years. Then the Bklyn Union Gas Co. took over the property and remodeled the buildings which they still occupy.

Besides the dye works, most of the land was used by the farmers of Canarsie and all of this area which is now known as East Flatbush, in those days, was known as the Rugby section when it was layed out with street and sidewalks and for many years these lots were more or less used as a dumping ground for old tine lizzies and other refuse.

After the building boom of 1920 to 1929, many new homes were built along with a lot of factories, garages and gas stations all along Ditmas Ave. Then came the fa-mous Cobe Diner on the corner of Remsen and Ditmas. On the side of the embankment of the railroad was the pumping station and waterworks where the water was pumped out of the ground to supply certain parts of Flatbush with water. After they got Catskill water, this building was used as a wholesale banana place until it was torn down and this area is now occupied by a tremendous large building belonging to the chain of Key Food Stores.

The rest of this land was used by the City of N.Y. to build the Brooklyn Terminal Market around the 1940's for the merchants of the Wallabout Market, who had to get out of their old place to allow the government to enlarge the Bklyn Navy Yard, which they needed after 1940 to build the ships and aircraft carriers. This market today, is one of the busiest spots in town in the early morning hours when all the various merchants come to buy their fruits and vegetables and groceries and plants and bushes for the landscaping business.

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