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Marine Parkers go back in time with old pictures

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Photo gallery

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Gather round: Marine Parkers came out to see Hughes’s historic flight.
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A road less traveled: A stretch of Kings Highway near the Flatlands-Marine Park border around 1921, when the nabe had a more country feel.
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Build it up: Houses going up near the Lott House in 1925.
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Family: A group of brothers on the Lott House property around 1920.

It’s a blast from the past.

In the early 20th century, Marine Park was mostly a spread of farmland, but by the 1930s, it was a thriving neighborhood centered around an award-winning park. The area’s rich history can sometimes get lost, however, in the shadow of the popular Kings Plaza shopping center that most outsiders associate with the nabe, according to local boosters and history buffs who are trying to reconnect residents with the past by sharing old photos on the internet.

“It’s a community that’s really rich with a lot of history and an enormous amount of pride,” said local realtor Jerry Minsky. “Marine Park is much more than a shopping mall.”

Minsky, who moved to Marine Park in 2017 from Downtown, started posting pictures of early 20th-century Marine Park on Facebook out of his personal fascination with local history. He didn’t expect other locals to take interest in them, but said people started to like them due to the strong sense of community brought on by the relative isolation of the neighborhood, which lacks a subway stop.

“My sense is that the community, by nature of having been slightly isolated transportationwise, has a lot of local people aware of the things that I post,” said Minsky.

Minsky posts pictures of the neighborhood before World War II on the Facebook page “Marine Park, Brooklyn NY.....Uncensored,” showing a quiet, hardly developed area, and he said people often recognize their own small corners of the neighborhood in the pics, even though they look very different now. Some photos show homes whose only neighbors were farm fields.

Many of Marine Park’s major milestones have been photographed, including famed aviator and tycoon Howard Hughes’s 1938 flight around the world, which began and ended at Floyd Bennett Field.

Marine Park, though now a modern neighborhood, still maintains much of its original look — as well as its relative affordability — according to Minsky.

“It’s very uncommon to live in such an aesthetically pleasing neighborhood that its affordability allows,” said Minsky.

There are lots of photographs of Marine Park in the last century, largely due to its origins as a relatively new middle-class area, and the fact that Marine Parkers never stray too far from home, according to an urban archaeologist from Marine Park.

“Many people moving there were middle-class, second-generation immigrants who had an interest in taking family photos,” said Alyssa Loorya. “It’s always been a family-oriented area. Many people who grew up there maintain a connection to it.”

Marine Park first experienced an influx of residents in the 1920s, having previously been mostly farmland, Loorya said, making it one of the borough’s newer neighborhoods.

Photos of the 19th-century Hendrick I. Lott House tell the story of Marine Park’s transformation. The Lott House is one of the last remaining Dutch Colonial farmhouses in Brooklyn. Loorya is vice president of the Friends of the Lott House, which works to preserve the home. She said her favorite old pictures of Marine Park are ones that show building starting around the house — construction that ultimately made Marine Park what it is today.

“It’s a great moment in history,” she said. “Within one lifetime there was growing up on a farm, to suburbia going up all around it.”

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at alucente@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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