Canarsie's Lanes & Alleys Are Part Of Local History
By Linda Steinmuller
Before Remsen Avenue existed, children walked to P.S. 114, a wooden schoolhouse, through School Lane, which ran alongside of "Pop" James' Grocery and Candy Store. School Lane was originally known as Cobb's Lane - a corruption of Kopf's Lane, named for Peter Kopf, who owned a grocery store on East 92nd Street, and was known locally as "Honest Peter."
The schoolhouse was destroyed by fire in 1907, and temporarily moved to Harms' Hall - a place where minstrel and Punch & Judy shows performed - on Rockaway Parkway and Smith's Lane. P.S. 114, which recently celebrated its centennial anniversary ( see June 21 issue at canarsiecourier.com ) was built in 1912 on Remsen Avenue and Glenwood Road.
Smith's Lane runs from East 92nd Street to Rockaway Parkway, between Farragut and Glenwood roads. The lane was named for Joseph Smith, who was a local merchant during the Civil War. His house was on East 92nd Street and attached to a dry goods store, which he owned and operated. The store is now a private residence and the house was replaced by condos. The lane is currently more of a private driveway than a public street, and is divided into two sections. An old hand-lettered wooden sign, indicating the lane, still stands near a driveway.
Skidmore Lane, which once ran continuously from East 92nd Street to Rockaway Parkway, between Flatlands Avenue and Avenue J, now ends at East 94th Street and is mostly private driveways. This narrow road is named for Isaac Skidmore, a prominent merchant, who ran a general store that served as a recruiting station during the Civil War. The merchant also served as postmaster, operating a contract postal station out of the general store. The Skidmores were English immigrants and among Canarsie's oldest families. Other prominent family members include Joel Skidmore, a tax collector for the Town of Flatlands during the 1860s, and John Skidmore, who blew the whistle every time the Canarsie shuttle, trolleys, and buses left the Rockaway Parkway station for the trip to the shore.
Schenck Place runs from Canarsie Road to East 91st Street, between Avenues M & N, and was named for Dutch landowner James Schenck. He had a house in what is now Canarsie Beach Park (also called Seaview Park). In 1929, that house was dismantled and moved to the Brooklyn Museum. Schenck was among the victims of "The Canarsie Riots," which occurred in the 1850s when he was severely beaten and robbed of a valuable watch.
A few hundred feet south of Schenck Place is Matthews Lane that begins on Canarsie Road and ends at Avenue N, between East 91st and 92nd streets. The L-shaped lane, one of the few in the city that changes direction abruptly, was named for John Matthews, who was a justice of the peace. Judge Matthews presided over the trial of farmer John Redfern, who owned 150 pigs and 150 cows , which was a violation of the day's health code that permitted each resident to own a maximum of five pigs and five cows. Redfern was later accused of feeding swill to the cattle, and selling diseased meat.
Nolan's Lane runs from East 94th to East 96th streets (across from P.S./I.S. 66), between Foster Avenue and Avenue D, and was named after John H. Nolan, who was known as the Little Drummer Boy in the Battle of Cedar Creek. He later became an undertaker and managed Canarsie's first funeral establishment, a branch of L. Ruoff and Sons. He is buried in Canarsie Cemetery, where an elaborate monument recounts his role in the skirmish.
Varkens Hook Road connects Glenwood and Farragut roads between East 86th and East 87th streets. It is a vestige of a longer road that originally ran from Bedell Lane to Church Lane. The name derives from the Dutch - "Varcken" means "pig" and "Hoek" means street corner, but could also mean "market." Therefore, Varkens Hook Road is Pigs' Corner Road or Pig Market Road. It was either a place where pigs were driven on the way to market or sold right in the street. It ran by John Redfern's pig farm so the area became known as "Hog Point" or "Hog Point Cedars." The road, which was not paved until the 1980s, was one of the main routes to the city in the early teens, started at Church Lane.