Saturday, May 14, 2011

From Brooklyn to Kingston and Back: Welcome to The Lincoln Eagle

I ran into Bob Marnell at Steve Marnell's Woodstock Music Trade Show at the Holiday Inn in Kingston, NY.  Bob, an IBM employee who moved to South Carolina from Kingston, told me that he is hard at work creating the online version of his brother's, Mike Marnell's, Lincoln Eagle.  A beta site is up at:

The story that the Marnell brothers chose to put up as the first article is the history of their ancestors' founding of The Brooklyn Eagle in the 1840s, its rise into becoming the largest newspaper in the world, its decline, and its closing in the 1950s.  A big part of the article is about the links between Brooklyn and Kingston. What a coincidence: I teach at Brooklyn College and am heading there tomorrow am!

Lei Isaacs writes in The Lincoln Eagle:

There are many links connecting Brooklyn and The Brooklyn Eagle to Kingston. Perhaps the most visible is an enormous, quirky house with a blue awning located at 58 St. James Street. Isaac Van Anden had a sister, who had two sons, William and Charles Hester, who eventually took the paper over from Isaac Van Anden, who died on August 4, 1875.

Around 1884, Charles Hester was one of the many tourists who have been drawn to the Kingston area over the decades by the combination of fresh air, access to transportation, and proximity to The City which, in 1884, was not New York City but Brooklyn. Brooklyn had become a city in 1834, and had annexed the surrounding five towns of New Amersfoort, Midwout, New Utrecht, Boswisk and Gravesend. Referring to itself as “The city of homes and churches,” Brooklyn contrasted itself to New York City, “the home of Crime Government.”

There had been several Hester families in what is now uptown Kingston for many decades, including several on Fair Street. In 1883 the Kingston City Directory listed the establishment of the domicile of Charles W. Hester at “58 St. James Street at the corner of Clinton. “ (The building that now stands between 58 St. James Street and the corner of Clinton was an outbuilding for the original grand house.) Marnell recalls that Charles Hester “Built the house for his wife and never worked another day in his life.” The building is still a quirky monument to the best in the excesses of Victorian architecture, embellished with dormers, balconies, lacework and the exquisite wrap-around porch, now enhanced with the modern blue awning.

According to available records, Charles W. Hester retired to 58 St. James Street in about 1896. It was a pivotal time for Brooklyn and for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In 1890 the cornerstone for the new Brooklyn Daily Eagle building was laid at the corner of Johnson and Washington Avenues across the street form Borough Hall. Until then, the paper had been published on Fulton Street.
The Brooklyn Eagle The Brooklyn Eagle Then: Now, it's the Brooklyn Supreme Court.

The Eagle moved into its new building in 1892. In 1894, a popular vote was cast to consolidate Brooklyn with the City of New York. The Brooklyn Eagle passionately and vociferously opposed the annexation. In 1897, when Charles Hester was enjoying the view of St. James Street from one of his balconies, Brooklyn was the fourth largest city in the United States. In spite of the warnings in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that annexation would cause real estate values to plummet and would have a disastrous effect on the quality of life, Brooklyn became a borough of New York City in early 1898. Neither Brooklyn nor its daily newspaper would ever be quite as grand again.

Sometime in 1903, Charles V. Hester died, having not lived to enjoy retirement to his mansion for even a decade. His widow, Mary F. Hester, and children Natalie and Arthur, continued to live in the mansion briefly, but they had moved out by 1906. Later, the splendid house became the home of Reverend Hillman, and for decades it has been a quiet apartment house, its exciting history largely unknown by its residents.

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