2006-08-24 / Little Old Canarsie

Little Old Canarsie

The Dye Was Cast - All Over The Place!
John Denton


During the years of 1914 to 1918 of World War I, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany took serious a joking remark passed by our President Teddy Roosevelt when he made a visit over there and was shown the large army of soldiers goosetepping by in a review. Our President Teddy said, "If I had that army I could lick the world," and Kaiser Bill thought he could do it.

During that time America could no longer get dyes imported, a man named Becker had a small tin building down on Washington Avenue in Brooklyn and made the precious dyes needed by clothing manufacturers. Business was getting too big and he looked for larger quarters and found a good lo-cation here at East 83rd Street and what is now Ditmas Avenue along side of the Long Island Rail Road

The large building in front was used for the office and many small shacks scattered all around to mix the chemicals for the different color dyes. This business gave employment to many Canarsiens and after the day's work the men came home with all colors of the rainbow on their hands and faces.

One day, the people of Canarsie were frightened by a large explosion when one of the small buildings blew up and shook things up. The waste dyes went into the sewer and emptied into Paerdegat Basin and polluted Jamaica Bay so badly it caused it to be bannned for bathing and taking oysters or clams after January 1, 1920.

When the war ended in 1918 and dyes again were imported by the W.S.A. the Becker Aniline & Chemical Co. moved out and the buildings laid idle for a few years. This land (what today is known as part of East Flatbush) was part of the town of Flatlands and was known in the early 1900s as the Rugby section of Brooklyn, which took in all land from the L.I.R.R. to Church Avenue from Utica Avenue to Rockaway Avenue. The stop of the Manhattan Beach Rail Road at about East 92nd Street and the L.I.R.R. was known as Rugby Station and the next stop before Utica Avenue, about where Avenue D is, was Kouwenhoven Place named after a large family of early Dutch who had farms all through the section.

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