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Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Five ‘Construction scenes’

August 6, 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:

Last week’s selections showed a number of Brooklyn’s “new” and “older” buildings. This week I’ll show a group of buildings (or other infrastructure projects) in the making. My father photographed a lot of construction sites for the Eagle in the 30s, and a few other sites for private clients in later years.

Construction sites often draw interest in their own right, regardless of what’s being built. There’s a reason why many urban sites provide windows into the scene so passers-by can have a look. That’s why I think these images will be interesting to you on their own, even the few that are unidentified. But many show work in progress on buildings that are still around and may be familiar to many: the Brooklyn Museum, the Central Library, Brooklyn College, Floyd Bennett Field, schools, a local library, a hospital, etc.

Today’s photos:

Today’s pictures all feature schools. Yes, we had a whole week of “Schools” recently, but today’s photos show schools under construction. Two capture high schools and the other shows Brooklyn College.

Indoor work: Bayside High School, Queens, January 24, 1936

Even when schools are finished from the outside, and all the plumbing, electricity, floors and ceiling are complete inside, furnishings and equipment are still needed. Here, workers install desks and lab tables. How many of you remember (as I do) sitting at desks exactly like these in your public school classrooms?


Another trip to Queens: Newtown High School, Elmhurst,  September 12, 1935 and October 11, 1935

Sorry to take you out of Brooklyn twice in one day, but for some reason my father had excursions to two Queens high schools within a few months of each other early in his Brooklyn career. The first picture shows students building a greenhouse at a “Parental School Tract” actually a mile or so from the school. The second picture shows workers creating an athletic field several blocks from the school.

This expanse looks even more undeveloped than the site of Brooklyn College did. But development was rapid; by the mid-50s this scene would be packed with single and multi-family residences, and booming commerce on nearby Queens and Woodhaven boulevards. However, surrounded as it is, the field is still there 85 years later.


Now this looks like a college: Brooklyn College campus buildings, c. 1937

This picture was undated and unidentified. But going by the architecture alone, it’s clear that these are college buildings nearing completion. The photo shows the quadrangle with the library at the far end, Boylan Hall (left) and Ingersoll Hall (right) forming three sides of the quad.

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 14: Photos of ‘Construction scenes’

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  1. Andrew Porter

    When I started attending school in NYC in the 1950s, having moved here from Detroit, I sat in seat/desks like those in the first picture. But at the time didn’t know what the round hole in the desk was. Discovered years later it was where you put the glass jar holding the ink for your pen!

    The unique feature of the desks was that your seat was the front of the desk behind you. All attached quite firmly to the floor of the room.