Brooklyn Boro

Kaufman’s Brooklyn: Six ‘Construction scenes’

August 7, 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.

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Today’s photos:

We close the week with a three-pair display. The first pair shows some roadwork, the second some indoor work, and the third a standard outdoor construction scene of a Brooklyn landmark.

Grand Boulevard? unidentified and undated

This is quite a road. It runs through what seems like a standard residential area, but disappears on the horizon and is wide enough for another row of houses down the middle. The street sign in the second picture is blurry, to say the least, but it might say East 24th or 28th St. If so, I have an inkling where this might be, but I challenge you to suggest something stronger than my inkling.


Muralist at Work: Artist’s studio, Nassau Street, Manhattan, September 28, 1936

This is an Italian artist working indoors in Manhattan. What does that have to do with construction in Brooklyn? Well, as my father’s notes say, “Olindo Ricci shown at work on mural which depicts scene in Alexandrian Library. Mural will hang in the library of Brooklyn College, now under construction.” Does anybody recognize it? Does anybody know if it’s still there?


Not yet a landmark: New Central Library building, Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway, September 1, 1938

There’s a long story behind the construction of the Brooklyn Central Library. If you look up its basics, you find “Built: 1911 – 1940.” The project began with all good intentions and plans. But cost overruns, political disputes, war and the Depression halted progress. For stylistic as well as more practical reasons, the powers that be decided, in the 1930s, to start over. The new work began in 1938 and was finished by late 1940.

Before I researched this, my father’s hastily typed and abbreviated note was rather cryptic: “2nd Central Library Bld’g rises alongside 1st and uncompleted building which is being torn down.” Actually, some of the original building’s façade is still visible in the parking lot.

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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