Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Three photos of ‘Buildings: ‘New’ and older’

July 31, 2020 Phil Kaufman
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My father, Irving Kaufman (1910 – 1982), was a professional photographer who started in Brooklyn in the mid 1930s working for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He captured thousands of images of Brooklyn through the 1950s. I have recently digitized a great many of them. My father’s profile can be found here.

This week’s theme:

I’ve called this week’s theme “Buildings: ‘New’ and older.” Since the photos I’m displaying were taken at least 80 years ago, none of them qualify as new today. But many of them were fairly new at the time these photos were taken. Since these “new” buildings are already old today, the other ones have to be called “older.”

Once past my confusing attempt at accurate language, what remains is a display of interesting Brooklyn buildings from the 1930s. In most cases, the buildings were not incidental or in the background, but were the reason for the photograph. Some were meant for the Eagle, to display an interesting or important new site. Others were for a specific client who wanted a record of their property before or just after rebuilding or relocating. Finally, some shots were taken simply because they appealed to my father, as evidenced by his identifying many as taken on “One Sunday Afternoon.”

Today’s photos:

We’ll close the week with another three interesting “older” buildings – a YMCA, a public school and a police precinct, all clearly outdated for public buildings, even in the 1930s. They’re all minimally identified, but with no date better than the mid- to late-30s, and no location more than Brooklyn. Nevertheless, please enjoy.

Quaint: Flatbush YMCA, mid-1930s

With today’s health and fitness culture (albeit on hold for now), a “Y” of this size and age really does seem quaint. The Y’s of the past provided inexpensive housing and perhaps some religious activity or other services, not the exercise and communal programs of today. Maybe this building was, in fact, more of a boarding house, which is what it looks like, than an athletic center.


A real school bell: Public School 48, c. 1935

That looks like a real bell up in the tower. Would a student find it a treat or a chore to be responsible for ringing it? There were still quite a number of schools that looked like this in Brooklyn in the 1930s. The equivalent today might be the schools that were built by the WPA in the 1930s to replace these wood-frame relics. Think of the transition for students and staff moving from this to a multi-story sturdy brick building with new furnishings and plenty of space. Look around Brooklyn neighborhoods and you’ll still see those “new” schools of the 30s, though often with a new wing or two and several make-overs behind them.


Hard to believe: 63rd Precinct, mid-1930s

Imagining this as a police precinct headquarters is even more difficult than relating to the “Y” or the public school of the 30s. It makes sense, however, when you consider that policing may have changed even more than schooling or boarding or recreation over these past 80 years. Except for the flagpole and the inconspicuous sign over the entrance, this could be (and probably once was) just another residence like others on the street.

An index of Kaufman’s Brooklyn posts may be found here.

Irving Kaufman’s profile may be found here.

I invite you to submit comments, memories, images of Brooklyn, and especially any additional background information you can supply about the photos posted here to [email protected]. I’d also be glad to supply information about buying prints of any of the images seen here. Many of my father’s images are also available for viewing and purchase at All prints purchased will be the product of professional scanning and editing.

Weekly collection 13: Photos of ‘Buildings: ‘New’ and older’

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  1. OneObservantOne

    The schoolhouse looks exactly like a schoolhouse identified as “PS 48, at Church Street (now 152nd Street) and South Road, Jamaica, in 1932, shortly after it closed when the new PS 48 was built, leaving the original waiting for a new purpose or its demolition.” on the Queens Chronicle website. I just googled PS 48 and flipped through the images.The picture appears to be reversed here.