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Shanties, 4th Avenue, Brooklyn

George Bradford Brainerd


George Bradford Brainerd’s photograph of Fourth Avenue, close to the southern edge of Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, shows the low-cost dwellings lining the street in the late nineteenth century. Crowded tenement buildings replaced the shanties about 1900, and until recently the wide and heavily trafficked avenue retained much of its neglected character. Over the last few years, however, gentrification reached this lower section of Park Slope, and the old tenement buildings are now being razed or upgraded to make space for more expensive housing.

Further south, Red Hook is undergoing a similar transformation. With easy access to the open sea, Red Hook became a busy industrial area in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dominated by the activities of the port and inexpensive housing for workers of local businesses. By the time of Lynn Saville’s photograph in the late 1990s, however, many of the industrial structures had long been abandoned and artists and artisans were occupying the former warehouses. The demolition earlier this year of the sugar refinery in the background of Saville’s picture signals the definite turn of the neighborhood in a new direction. An explosion of residential and retail construction and a recently inaugurated cruise-ship terminal are examples of the contentious redevelopment of the area.
MEDIUM Gelatin silver print
DATES 1885 (printed later from the glass plate negative)
DIMENSIONS 10 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. (27.6 x 35.3 cm)
CREDIT LINE Brooklyn Museum Collection
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
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