The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

obscure world

with 3 comments

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in prior postings, 58th road and Maspeth Avenue were once connected by a plank road which last crossed the Newtown Creek in 1875 and which was established as early as the 1830’s. What’s important about this is that the street grid in this spot hasn’t appreciably changed since the late 19th century, and it’s one of the few places around the creek where maps require little or no “interpretation”. That’s the Maspeth Avenue side pictured above.

- photo from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy google books

One of those little nuggets which has fascinated me since beginning to learn about the Creek has been references to “Conrad Wissel’s Dead Animal Wharf” or alternately “night soil dock”. Imagine my surprise when I found a photo of the place from 1896 the other night. In the far left corner of the frame, you can just make out the Maspeth Avenue Plank Road. Wo!

- photo from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy google books

A little photoshopping has been applied here, improving contrast and attempting to remove some of the moire in google books’s scan of the original.

- map from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy digitalgallery.nypl.org

The NY Public Library hosts the image above, which is the map that was included in the volume that the photo originates in. Click the image to access a zoom able version, whose key lists the Wissel’s dock as number 16.

- map from 1896’s Report By Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Dept. of Health, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Health Board, courtesy digitalgallery.nypl.org

In this detail from the map, number 16 is clearly just west of the Maspeth Avenue Street end. That’s one mystery solved.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s another view in modern times, the Wissel property would be just starting on the right side of the frame. The shot is from the Queens side, of course, as is the original- and captured at approximately where the “18” is on the detail of the map. The 1896 photographer would have standing around 500 feet to the right of this vantage point.

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3 Responses

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  1. Mitch, brilliant sleuthing. You’ve out-Holmesed Holmes.

    georgetheatheist

    May 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm

  2. […] described in the recent posting “Obscure World“, the location of Conrad Wissel’s notorious “Dead Animal and Night Soil […]

  3. […] May 2012- obscure world […]


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