Do you know the way to Shell Bank Canal?
Eye on Real Estate: Gerritsen Beach's waterway is shorter than the Gowanus Canal, but so scenic
Where is Brooklyn’s other canal?
These days, everybody in the known universe can point the way to the toxic yet trendy 1.8-mile-long Gowanus Canal.
But what about Shell Bank Canal? Have you even heard of it?
It’s in Gerritsen Beach, a south-central waterfront Brooklyn neighborhood that you either know and love devotedly or have only read about in post-Superstorm Sandy news stories.
Shell Bank Canal is tremendously picturesque.
It is lined by boat docks jutting out of the back yards of private homes.
If you don’t live in one of these homes, you can see the canal from several streets that dead-end along its shoreline.
The canal is just one-third of a mile long. It runs the entire width — or nearly the entire width — of Gerritsen Beach.
The canal doesn’t quite bisect the neighborhood, which is situated on a slim peninsula. To the east, it comes to an end behind the Gerritsen Beach Library, which is located at 2808 Gerritsen Ave.
Its western end flows into the waters of Shell Bank Creek.
A development firm called Realty Associates created Shell Bank Canal in the early 1920s by dredging a creek. Realty Associates also built oodles of summer bungalows and laid out roads for the neighborhood.
‘The seashore in the city’
In due time, the bungalows were winterized.
At this juncture, we should mention that the bungalows of Gerritsen Beach are as picturesque as its canal.
Over the years, some of these homes have been enlarged. Since Superstorm Sandy, some have been raised up on new foundations or rebuilt from the ground up to make them less vulnerable to floods. The renovated and rebuilt homes are absolutely beautiful.
Now, back to the subject of Realty Associates. The developer, which had an office at 162 Remsen St. in Brooklyn Heights, declared itself “The World’s Largest Home Builders” in an April 6, 1930 advertisement in our very own Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
The advertisement called Gerritsen Beach “an ideal all-year home community at the seashore in the city.”
The ad lists Realty Associates’ asking prices for its Gerritsen Beach houses as $4,550 and up.
To give you an idea of present-day Gerritsen Beach property prices, we checked city Finance Department records and found two recently closed sales.
A house at 32 Gotham Ave. sold for $640,000 and a house at 20 Florence Ave. sold for $350,000, the records indicate. Both transactions were completed in October.
Gerritsen Beach was largely rural until Realty Associates came along, although the area was part of one of Brooklyn’s original six towns, Gravesend, whose existence dates back to the 1640s.
According to “The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn,” a book that was edited by Kenneth Jackson and John Manbeck, Gerritsen Beach is named after Wolfert Gerritsen van Kouwenhoven.
In the early 1600s, the Dutch West India Company offered a group of people including him the acreage where the present-day neighborhood is located.
A beloved neighborhood come hell or high water
Modern-day Gerritsen Beach has about 1,800 houses. Narrow streets are laid out in two separate grids, one of them north of Shell Bank Canal, the other south of it.
People sometimes refer to the part of the neighborhood that’s north of the canal as the New Section and call the south side the Old Section.
The street names in both sections are in alphabetical order, with one set of names for the Old Section’s streets and another set of names for the New Section’s streets.
It’s customary for families who live in Gerritsen Beach to stay in the neighborhood generation after generation. They are devoted to it come hell or high water.
Superstorm Sandy hit them with hellish high water in October 2012. A 10-foot storm surge flooded nearly all their houses.
They’ve been rebuilding.
To honor residents’ determination and resilience, we recently took photos of their unique and beautiful neighborhood.
P.S.: Shell Bank Canal’s not the only Gerritsen Beach waterfront scenery with a wow factor.
At the end of Gerritsen Avenue, there’s publicly accessible shoreline along Plumb Beach Channel. When you stand on the sand, unless you have a camera with a telephoto lens, you won’t really notice the cars on the Belt Parkway, which is on the channel’s far shoreline.
Also, Shell Bank Creek, which can be seen from the dead ends of numerous streets, is photogenic. Sunsets along the creek are terrific.
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