The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for October 2012

immemorial past

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not unlike the woodland elves described in Tolkien stories, the Dutch had been diminishing for some time in their former free holds, and by the middle of the 19th century they had largely departed for that place where the burning thermonuclear eye of god goes at the end of the day. Their old haunts had grown lousy with the English, Germans, and Irish by this point in time anyway and they must have realized that their time had come to an end on Long Island’s western tip. Sightings of them continued right up to the beginning of the 20th century, but these days the Dutch in Ridgewood are functionally extinct. There may still be one or two, but these are anachronistic individuals.

from onderdonkhouse.org

The Vander Ende-Onderdonk House, located in Ridgewood on the border of Queens and Brooklyn, is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in New York City. Peter Stuyvesant granted the land it sits on in the mid-seventeenth century, and by 1660, Hendrick Barents Smidt occupied a small house on the site. In 1709, Paulus Vander Ende of Flatbush purchased the farm and began construction of the current house. The building was a prominent marker in the 1769 settlement of the boundary dispute between Bushwick in Kings County and Newtown in Queens County.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Reports from the time describe an odd and curiously industrious people, possessed of peculiar notions considered alien and sinister by the English (and eventually American) gentry who replaced them. These Dutchmen allowed property to fall into the hands of female heirs, considered their slaves to be indentured servants rather than livestock, and even tolerated congregations of Jews and Catholics gathering for their sabbaths (provided that they show discretion and deference, of course). Savages, atavist savages, they were.

from 1910’s “Genealogy of the Onderdonk Family in America By Elmer Onderdonk“, courtesy google books

“On Saturday, Sept. 21, 1776, the day after the great fire in N. Y., a detachment of Col. Birch’s 17th Light Dragoons visited Great Neck, Cow Neck, and in the afternoon they reached the house of Adrian Onderdonk, which they instantly surrounded, when an officer went in and searched every part up and down stairs, thrusting his sword into every secret place. The object of their pursuit happened to be at home, and on being arrested, he asked the reason of it, and in reply was informed “that your neighbors complain of you.” The officer then mounted his horse and rode off with the troopers, perhaps in quest of other Whigs on Cow Neck.

Adrian Onderdonk was taken as far as Flushing and shut up in the Friends Meeting House that night. The next day he was taken to New York, and on his arrival at the city he with other prisoners were paraded, with a gang of loose women marching before them to add insult to suffering.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When they went into the west, these Knickerbockers failed to leave behind much other than a few place names and old houses, and the English speaking world was never apt to do much more than mention them in passing. Certainly, there were some Dutchmen who remained in their anglicized home, and their names are writ large across the historical record. Roosevelt, Van Cortlandt, Vanderbilt- all conjure some immediate memory or reactive instinct in modern audiences- but all in connection with Manhattan or “New York” rather than Long Island.

from 1911’s “American Prisoners of the Revolution, by Danske Dandridge“, courtesy google books

After nearly four weeks imprisonment the friends of Adrian Onderdonk procured his release. He was brought home in a wagon in the night, so pale, thin, and feeble from bodily suffering that his family scarcely recognized him. His constitution was shattered and he never recovered his former strength.

Onderdonk says that women often brought food for the prisoners in little baskets, which, after examination, were handed in. Now and then the guard might intercept what was sent, or Cunningham, if the humor took him, as he passed through the hall, might kick over vessels of soup, placed there by the charitable for the poor and friendless prisoners.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Authors and orators created a narrative in the early middle 19th century about these original european colonizers of the New York archipelago, a whimsical and semi ironic one, and they came to be regarded as a primitive group of peasant “hay seeds”. Washington Irving and others wove together an image of a good natured yet quite illiterate and impressionable race of farmers and merchants often at the mercy of superstition and fate. Not much mention of religious remonstrances or the complicated political deals entered into with powerful aborigine nation states (which surrounded and vastly outnumbered them) is commonly spoken of, but lurks just below the surface of the English speaking origin mythology of the United States.

from bklyn-genealogy-info.com, where they have historic photos of the place!!!

It is called the ONDERDONK House because on April 27, 1821, Adrian ONDERDONK purchased the 58-acre farm with the house and barn for $6,000. The farm extended south from Flushing Avenue to what is now Catalpa Avenue. During the 1820’s, Adrian ONDERDONK erected a small frame addition to the stone house immediately above the remnants of the foundation of the 1660 building. Its architectural features are typical of Dutch buildings in this period: a gambrel roof, Dutch doors, central hallway and double hung windows with shutters.

Immediately west of the ONDERDONK Farm was the COVERT Farm of 48 acres. It is thought the original Dutch grant covered what was in the early 1800s the ONDERDONK and COVERT farms.

In 1819, Adrian ONDERDONK, married Anna WYCKOFF, daughter of Peter WYCKOFF, who had a large farm nearby on Flushing Avenue.

In 1865, Gertrude ONDERDONK SCHOONMAKER, daughter of Adrian ONDERDONK, was the owner of the farms. She sold off 30 acres, but continued to live on the farm.

In the 1890s, she sub-divided the balances of the farm and sold building lots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Progressive revisionism, a style of historical interpretation which reinforces a certain political philosophy popular in the United States during the middle and late 20th century, embraces a version of the “noble savage” concept. This is an old trope in European thought, which presupposes that the so called American Indians were possessed of neither property nor base motives prior to the arrival of the Europeans, and lived in some sort of vast peaceful commune with each other that celebrated naught but the world of nature. The “noble savage” population of North and South America concept originates centuries ago with Columbus, and has caused a terrific amount of carnage and suffering since.

from wikipedia

Originally, Ridgewood was part of the Dutch settlement Boswijk (Bushwick) and was later incorporated into the village of Breuckelen (Brooklyn). A legacy of this past stands today; Onderdonk House, which was erected in 1709. The house is the oldest Dutch Colonial stone house in New York City. Also located at the Onderdonk House site is Arbitration Rock, which was a marker for the disputed boundary between Bushwick and Newtown and essentially Brooklyn and Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual history of the aboriginal occupants of North America, in the time before the plagues of Europe were unleashed upon them, is less than bucolic according to a fragmentary and badly documented historical recod. To the north were found Seneca and Mohicans, to the east were the Rockaway, south and west were found the Lenape. These were just the big guys- the regional players- and a complicated web of suzerainty and an homage based economy sustained and involved thousands of smaller groups in a web of trade and diplomatic relations. The first attempt at establishing a colony in Maspeth failed precisely because the Dutch had underestimated the strength, sophistication, and reach of one of these tribal groups- and the States General and Dutch East India Company decided that it would just be easier to buy the land from the Indians than fight them for it. The Indians, by all reports, could not believe that these odd trouser wearing people from overseas wanted to actually live year round in a swamp. NY State, incidentally, has preserved several of the property contracts entered into by the Dutch with the natives.

from wikipedia

The Arbitration Rock was set in 1769 as the boundary marker between the two Long Island townships of Newtown and Bushwick. Since Newtown was in Queens County and Bushwick in Kings County, this rock the size of a Volkswagen Beetle also served to mark the dividing line between these two colonial New York counties.

An acrimonious dispute over the boundary lines between the two townships had started as far back as 1661. “The feeling ran so high than men of one community would stone those of another.” To a large extent, the dispute reflected the conflict between the original Dutch settlers of Bushwick with the burgeoning English colonists of Newtown, New York.

In 1768, “a bill was passed in the legislature for a commission to draw a line to designate the boundary between the two townships.” In 1769, the borderline between the two towns and counties was established measured from this large rock that would ultimately be referred to as the “Arbitration Rock”. Still the dispute was not settled until 1880, when the state sent surveyors to verify the point on the old rock made in 1661.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned, earlier this week, your humble narrator had found himself drawn to the Onderdonk site on Flushing Avenue in Ridgewood in the name of attending a meeting of the Newtown Creek Alliance. In a somewhat metaphoric setting – beneath a big tent- the group discussed current projects and certain plans for the near future. The Ridgewood Historic Society Group acted as our hosts, and this- like the disappearance of both the Indians and the Dutch from western Long Island- requires comment. Thanks are offered to them for their hospitality.

from nyc-arts.org

On display inside the house are objects found during excavations conducted in the 1970s and 1980s as well as architectural and historical exhibits. The house was built by Paulus Vander Ende, a Dutch farmer, about 1709. The smaller wooden wing was erected much later. In the early 1800s, the house was purchased by the Onderdonk family. After the last Onderdonk moved out, successive owners used the house as a livery stable, speakeasy, office and, most recently, as a factory for parts for the Apollo space program. The Greater Ridgewood Historical Society was formed to save the house, which was nearly destroyed by fire in 1975. It opened to the public in 1982.

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 17, 2012 at 12:15 am

strange narratives

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Work is under way on certain subjects of a rather esoteric nature around HQ this week. A good amount of my attention is being focused on the particular section of Newtown Creek bulkhead pictured above, an area whose street facing side adjoins 47th street between Grand Avenue and 58th road. This was part of the aluminum manufacturing operation conducted by the ALCOA corporation during the second world war, spoken of at length by the departed Frank Principe. A general call for information is put forward to surviving Maspethicans and Blissvilians for any information which they might possess on the area- contact me here if you’ve got any tales to tell about the place which you can share.

I’m aware that the “office” to the plant was on the corner of 49th street at 47-10 Grand Avenue, incidentally, and know a bit about the heavy FBI presence during the 1940’s which area wags commented upon contemporaneously.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Crossing over from Queens to the Brooklyn side of the bridge, where Grand Avenue transmogrifies into Grand Street, one finds first a large shipping hub commensurate with dozens of trucks and then the Charles J. King scrap metal operation. The truck yard, it seems, occupies the footprint of a factory which built and sold prefabricated houses- a novel concept in the early 20th century. They would assemble an entire dwelling on site and then ship it out via truck or rail to all points of the compass.

An operation of some size and reputation, this is another part of the story here in DUGSBO which is in the process of research and production.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, it would seem that the enormous Feldman lumber operation on Grand Street has been a lumber yard for literally more than a century- the business and parcel merely changing hands over the years. I’ve seen photos!

The process of discovering the history and presenting the same in a cogent fashion isn’t something which one commits to in the fashion of a police detective, at least not for your humble narrator.

It is odd sometimes, for the Newtown Creek seemingly does not like giving its secrets up easily, nor in a timely fashion that is suitable for publication.

The story of the place instead oozes out of the pages of wormy newspapers and elder tomes, suggesting rather than describing an answer to the eternal question- “who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?”.

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

blurred and fragmentary

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scions who run the Newtown Creek Alliance declared that we all gather for a meeting recently, and not wanting to be mocked in absentia (rather in person), your humble narrator set out for the gathering. Only issue with this caucus was that it was being held in far off Ridgewood at the Onderdonk house, which is a pretty long walk from Newtown Pentacle HQ here in Astoria. After having moved things around, schedule wise, a vast scuttle was instituted. The shot above depicts the East Branch of the Newtown Creek at its terminus on Metropolitan Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, I decided to check out the Scott Avenue footbridge. This is a rusted metal and rotting concrete structure which rises over the tracks of the LIRR’s Bushwick Branch, allowing pedestrian traffic egress to Flushing Avenue- a structure seen from distance but never traversed. Due to the aforementioned distance from my quarters, it will be admitted, this is the section of the Newtown Creek watershed with which I am the least familiar and one which still offers pleasant surprises when visited. In the shot above, what you’re looking at is the northward facing tracks of the Bushwick Branch as they head towards Fresh Ponds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The inverse view, to the south and the infinity of Brooklyn. The train cars, homogenous and numerous, are awaiting service by the NY and Atlantic freight railway. What is colloquially known as the “garbage train”, they are gathered for usage at the Varick Street Waste Management facility which is nearby and adjoins the bitter end of the Newtown Creek tributary known as English Kills near Johnson and Morgan avenues. The undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens is also present in this shot, although I cannot tell you exactly where. Additionally, I am unsure as to whether these cars were loaded with their putrescent charge when I gathered these images.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Newtown Pentacle postings “approaching locomotive” and “skillfully wafted” discuss the Bushwick Branch and the Waste Management facility at Varick Street in some detail, why not check them out? Luckily, lords and ladies, your humble narrator goes to these spots so you don’t have to. If you did want to see some of the wonders described within these postings- why not consider coming on one of the upcoming excursions I’ll be leading?

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

raised place

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the Marie J. Turecamo, a Moran tug, getting all iconic on the East River. This tug has been discussed in earlier posts at this, your Newtown Pentacle, specifically the posting “Circumnavigation 1” from which the following is quoted:

…along came the Marie J. Turecamo tugboat- a 2,250 HP twin screw tug operated by Moran Towing. It was originally built as the Traveller in 1968, by Tangier Marine Transport which operated out of the Main Iron Works facility in Houma, LA.

from morantug.com

Moran is a leading provider of marine towing and transportation services, a 150-year-old corporation that was founded as a small towing company in New York Harbor and grew to preeminence in the industry. The cornerstone of our success has been a long-standing reputation for safe, efficient service, achieved through a combination of first-rate people and outstanding vessels and equipment.

Over the course of its history Moran has steadily expanded and diversified, and today offers a versatile range of services stemming from its core capabilities in ship docking, contract towing, LNG activities and marine transportation. Our tug fleet serves the most ports of any operator in the eastern United States, and services LNG terminals along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts and the West Coast of Mexico. The Moran barge fleet serves the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, the Great Lakes, the inland waters of the U.S. eastern seaboard, and the Gulf of Mexico. We also provide worldwide marine transportation services, including operations in the Caribbean and periodic voyages to South America and overseas waters.

Another appearance of the tug, wherein it played a similar iconic role and chewed a different bit of harbor scenery was in the posting “curious customs“.

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Cherry

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

When your humble narrator was just a lad, this model of automobile was as ubiquitous as the penny. Changing vehicles fashions, age, and the vagaries of the free market- of course- have seen them reduced in number. Recently, while exiting from the East River Ferry in Greenpoint, one observed this late model Volkswagen in all its atavist glory.

from wikipedia

The Volkswagen Beetle, officially called the Volkswagen Type 1 (or informally the Volkswagen Bug), is an economy car produced by the German auto maker Volkswagen (VW) from 1938 until 2003. With over 21 million manufactured in an air-cooled, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive configuration, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design platform, worldwide.

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 13, 2012 at 12:15 am

it shines and shakes and laughs

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

How one has missed the filth and degradation. Rendering the urgency of returning to these places, lonely and swept by a poisonous fume called wind, and finding the lessons offered has been a source of great angst for your humble narrator. It is difficult to describe my personal experience with these lots and parcels, or defend my deep affection for something like the former Phelps Dodge property at Laurel Hill. This is a shunned place, avoided by all given a choice, yet one finds himself moving inexorably toward it after pinning cap to head and telling “Our Lady of the Pentacle” that “I’m going out for a walk”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is little honey to be found here, unless one uses the euphemism favored by DEP employees for the material they handle. Everywhere is a concretized and apocalyptic post industrial landscape and active culture of garbage handlers and warehouse employees. Barren, the landscape enjoys only the crudest amenities. Street trees are quickly shattered by trucks, and a loose sandy gravel seemingly composed of powderized automotive glass reflects a weak and diffuse light transmitted by the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For one such as myself, a ghastly and shambling outcast scuttling about in a filthy black raincoat, the only thought a place like Maspeth Creek can evince is “Hallelujah”. Every suspicion about the truth of the great human hive is manifest here, and condemnation of society at large is readily at hand. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to this forgotten valley of corrupted nature, as it mirrors the sickness in my own thoughts. An inch behind my eyes, I believe, is naught but black mayonnaise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe I am “all ‘effed up”, but to me, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. “Welcome to Newtown Creek”, say I, with hardly any sense or ironic humor or twee dispatch.

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 13th Kill Van Kull tour, please click here

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 12, 2012 at 12:15 am

embowered banks

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Walking through Calvary Cemetery recently, directly following the so called Hunters Moon recently enjoyed by all, your humble narrator decided to check in on “The Tree fed by a Morbid Nutrition” which has been observed as the site of occult activity in the recent past. The postings “Triskadekaphobic Paranoia” and “Update on the Calvary Knots” discussed the tree and its locale in some detail. It’s a lonely spot at a high elevation, a lost corner in the emerald devastations of Calvary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The four paper bags were artfully concealed, and neatly arranged. It was only while walking a widdershin circumnavigation of the loathsome arbor that they were noticed. The path taken by most is alien to one such as myself, and long experience suggests that it is often profitable to investigate the hidden. Accordingly, a pocket tool was employed and one of the little sacks was inspected.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The jingle of coins was detected, although not visually observed. Magickal practice often involves direct involvement with bodily fluids and other esoteric compounds- some pharmacological in nature and possibly psychoactive- and it is best to not touch such artifacts with bare skin. Additionally, for those of you who subscribe to a supranormal world view which includes the presence of invisible intelligences and intangible entities possessed of power beyond human imagination, there are other possible exposures which might emanate from violating a ritual altar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The package included some sort of vegetable or fruit, which had an incision midway through its ovum. Normally, it would be time for one to speculate on either the magickal or occult philosophy represented by this peasant altar, but frankly- leaving four sacks of incised vegetative matter and coinage in a deserted cemetery altar is one thing which I do not wish to speculate upon. A growing sense of dread and paranoid wonderings began to envelop me and I decided to just leave this thing to itself. In Calvary Cemetery, and all burial grounds, one hopes to leave naught but a single set of footprints behind, and carry nothing but photographs back out through the stout iron gates.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The (possible) Witch Knots were still in place on neighboring monuments, it should be mentioned.

Also- Upcoming tours…

for an expanded description of the October 13th Kill Van Kull tour, please click here

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 11, 2012 at 12:15 am

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