The New York Transit Museum will feature a very cool photography exhibit documenting the last day of the Myrtle Ave El – the elevated train that ran down Myrtle Avenue from 1888 – 1969. Go far enough down Myrtle, near Bushwick, and you can still see the El’s structure, never fully taken down. It’s crazy to imagine so many NYC streets beneath elevated trains!
The press release includes some wonderful historical facts about the line and the exhibit:
Opening in 1888, the Myrtle Avenue el ran from downtown Brooklyn to Queens, passing through Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Ridgewood, and Middle Village. After eighty years, to the dismay of many passengers, the Myrtle Avenue el closed in 1969 and was demolished the following year. Yet, in the mid-20th century, the el’s wooden train cars and antiquated stations still held fond memories for riders who grew up in those neighborhoods.
THE LAST DAY OF THE MYRTLE AVENUE EL: Photographs by Theresa King is a photo essay shot in a single day forty years ago. The photographer recalls, “At midnight on October 3, 1969 over a thousand people eagerly awaited a train – not just any train, but the final train to run on Brooklyn’s Myrtle Avenue elevated line. These people were taking the last ride on this historic elevated train. As soon as they crammed on, the train rolled along from Brooklyn’s Jay Street station to the Metropolitan Avenue station in Queens. At the end of this sad journey, some passengers took artifacts to remember this very special old timer and bid a fond farewell. The pictures were taken during this last day at various stations along the Myrtle Avenue el in Brooklyn. During my childhood, I rode this train daily and loved the look of the station stops and the train itself. When I realized the line was due for demolition, I wanted to document a part of Brooklyn’s past that would be no more.”
Myrtle Avenue—named for the myrtle trees that once grew in the area – has been a major roadway since the early 1800’s. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Knickerbocker Stage Coach Line ran omnibus service on the avenue. In April 1888 the Myrtle Avenue elevated train began operation from downtown Brooklyn to Grand Avenue Junction, where Pratt Institute had opened one year earlier. That September, the line was extended west to Sands Street, where passengers could transfer to a cable car to cross the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. In 1889 it was extended east to Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick, and then to Metropolitan Avenue in Queens in 1906. When it first opened the neighborhoods along the western end of Myrtle Avenue – downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, and Clinton Hill, were already densely populated. The Brooklyn Bridge had been completed five years earlier and omnibus lines and railroads served the area. Beyond Grand Avenue Junction, however, the area was still mostly rural, and much of eastern Myrtle Avenue developed along with the el. Bushwick’s housing and industry boomed in the late 1880’s, as German immigrants opened successful large-scale breweries, and Ridgewood developed just after the line was extended there in the prosperous years before World War I. But beginning in the 1930s, with the decline of business along Brooklyn’s once vibrant waterfront and the opening of what is today the G subway line, ridership on the Myrtle Avenue el began a decline that would culminate with the closing of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1966.
The exhibit features color and black and white photographs by Theresa King, along with historic photographs, archival material, and station signage from the New York Transit Museum collection.
New York Transit Museum
Located on the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn Heights
Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Admission: $5 Adults, $3 children (3-17) and Seniors (62+)
Seniors admitted free every Wednesday