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Pigtown

Mar 5, 2009 1:45 PM | 24 comments

Some new pictures of Pigtown by E.E. Rutter that have made their way to us, started me wondering where exactly Pigtown was.  I am now in a position to answer that question: it was, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of April 6, 1921, and allowing for some flexibility of boundaries, "that part of Flatbush which is bounded on the north by Malbone st., on the south by Midwood st., on the east by Albany Ave and on the west by Nostrand ave."  The images show tracts of wasteland, ash dumps, garbage piles,  stark new dwellings fronting empty blocks defined by crudely laid out streets, and a few scattered holdout shanties. Goats roam free, but at least in 1923 when these pictures were taken, not a single pig thrusts its snout before the camera. Malbone Street became Empire Boulevard in December 1918, after a disastrous subway accident associated the name "Malbone" forever in people's minds with death and horror. Pigtown map

Another name for the district that appears in early articles is "Oaklands", but Pigtown seems to have suited the character of the place rather better.   In the 1880s, there were pigs, for sure. The residents of Flatbush were up in arms over the prospect of the development of a Hospital for Contagious Diseases near Pigtown. During the discussions, it came to light that in the vicinity of East New York Avenue there were in 1888 over one thousand pigs, a matter which had "agitated the health authorities for a long time." A Mr McKnight, a man with a gift for a colorful turn of phrase suggested that "it was straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel to kick at a few pigs and take in a hospital for contagious diseases..." However strong the arguments of Mr McKnight and his cohorts, the hospital was built, appearing on the Rand McNally map of 1912 on Fenimore Street between Kingston and Albany Avenues.

In 1891 a Pigtown pig was raffled and won by a Judge Sweeney, who lived west of Pigtown on Vernon, now Tilden Ave. It was stolen in the night by a pair of practical jokers who turned out to be a town constable and an assistant keeper of the hall of records. So much for the law-abiding citizens of Flatbush.

Pigtown does seem to have been a rough place. In 1896 a Thomas McCormack, known as the "Terror of Pigtown" smashed John Divine's nose, swallowed two live canaries in a Flatbush barber's shop, and then took five bullets in an argument with a Michael Lynch.  We know that McCormack lived to continue his depredations, because three months later he is in the news again, his exploits exaggerated to comic book proportions.  According to a larceny report of June 26, 1896, McCormack had taken not five but  twelve bullets, seven of them remaining in his body.

Another Pigtown character of note was a Louis or Thomas Calandrilla who it was said could "swing every vote in the district."  As his name suggests,  Italians  as well as Irish contributed to the area's population. They formed a mutual aid society, the founding of which was celebrated with a festival and a salute of guns on June 24, 1902. But by the 1920s, the reports of fights and burglaries give way to reports of plans for new development.  The penitentiary closes, most of the goats are gone,  influential members of the community form the Marconi Realty Corporation, and plans are afoot to rename the area "Crown Slope," a name that apparently failed to thrive. Roads are cut through the wasteland, sewers are laid, and houses are built that conform to the New York City building code. As one journalist writes in 1924, "It looks as if the Pigtown of 1916 is doomed...to merge itself into the surrounding middle class neighborhood and to be transformed into what perhaps maybe described as a more tidy and respectable, if less interesting Flatbush home section."

Comments

3/6/2009 1:07:57 AM #

Thanks for the detailed description of the evolution of pigtown.  Seems that most not so great neighborhoods have a chance at changing into something that can be livable...but over time and with a little bit of character background.

Ajlouny

3/12/2009 9:43:37 PM #

Joy:  this is the stuff of dreams, of dreams of fiction, only it is real, or was real.  The Pigtown story is full of juicy bits that can be spun off into so many different directions, a fragrant ground to jump into and spin around...I can't tell you how many different ideas and stories were generated by your piece!  Thanks!

John Ptak

7/21/2009 9:56:13 PM #

i lived in pigtown from my birth in 1953,until i left in 1978.25 years most good,some not so good,in the town.
i like the crown slope name,too bad it didnt catch on.it is currently called wingate,after george w wingate h.s.in the heart of the town.

joe cool

9/14/2009 12:13:38 PM #

My name ia Andrea Malbone

Andrea

2/1/2010 9:07:26 PM #

Great name for an upscale bar or an experimental novel: "Two Live Canaries in a Flatbush Barber's Shop."

Meg Feeley

3/6/2010 8:33:19 PM #

I lived in Pigtown in 1963 ish   The buildings are still standing, I saw them on google map!!  I remember some good times at the pizza place on Albny and ENY av!!  The price went up from 15 to 25 cents a slice!

cheryl

3/17/2010 8:20:00 PM #

lived in miami ct 1955-1962 went to wingate h.s
st.francis on maple st. pigtown a great neighborhood.

michael pinto

6/30/2010 12:45:55 PM #

My family ran Damato's Bar and been in Pigtown back in the 19th century. We have a group if anyones interested in joining with people from our neighborhood.  pigtonians@yahoogroups.com
   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pigtonians/

Ralph Jr.

Ralph Damato Jr.

1/11/2011 9:24:38 PM #

I was born and raised there went to P S 91.And Saint Blaise church.We lived there three generations, everyone new  my mothers family the Cerullo family all thirteen kids. Some how we were all related cousins aunts uncles. I don't know about the crime. We would walk home late on a summer night and neighbors were always there watching out for you.

Roseann Caporale Vitale

2/6/2011 2:49:21 PM #

I lived on Maple St from the time I was born in 1940 until my first daughter was born in 1966. Like you Cousin Roseann Your Grandmother was my Aunt my Mother was related to the Cerullo family. Your Mother called her Aunt Rose.Your Grandmother was my Aunt. I now live in Nassau county and have nothing but fine memories of PIGTOWN and family.

Jim Ciampa

2/21/2011 10:49:44 AM #

I lived on hawthorn street from 63-70 when pigtown was pigtown  friends with  cipelletti and dinapoli & divito
ps pigtown boys

vincent catalano

2/21/2011 2:00:01 PM #

I was born in 1947 & lived on Empire & Kingston. Michael Cerullo was my best friend. He lived on Lefferts Blvd. opp/Lamont Ct.  We played stickball at PS91.  I was married at St. Blaise.

Rich Waskewicz

4/16/2011 2:54:02 PM #

i lived on kingston ave across from wingate h.s...i went to st. francis on nostrand ..any body remembers lupo's on bklyn ave.and his brother had the butcher next door..How about the two shoemakers on kingston ave...we left the area in 1971..my dads rocky merola...

michael merola

7/8/2011 9:34:19 PM #

I lived at 249 Maple with 5 brothers and 2 sisters went to SFA. Born 1947 Hungout at wingate park which became a major gathering point for Pigtown Boys tuff times tuff kids.

Carmelo Di Nome

11/8/2011 5:23:53 AM #

I once read a police fiction paperback called "Pigtown" which takes place in those streets.  Mentions some of the local landmarks such as Toomey's Grill.

Mike Rapp

12/31/2011 9:40:59 AM #

Lived in pigtown, went to SFA in 1956, lived on nostrand av & rutland rd. Remember Closes candy store on nostrand. I did hang out in wingate park, the area in those days seemed safe

Jim Healy

5/10/2012 8:03:36 PM #

It was something to find info about Pigtown Brooklyn. Wow.. I was born and raised there. My family owned Kings County Nurseries on NY Ave..
Mike Merola

Michael Merola

5/10/2012 8:10:09 PM #

I was Born on Linden Blvd and NY Ave in 1957, In the years 1962-1978 I lived on Midwood Sreet and Troy Avenue across from Boys High Field. What an
Amazing  change in the Neighborhood through the years.
Mike Merola

Michael Merola

9/6/2012 12:46:36 PM #

Joe Di Napoli lived on Rutland Rd across from Wingate High School. Then moved to Kingston Ave hung out in the candy store on the Kingston & Midwood Ave, married Fran De Julio from Maple St 43 years ago. A big hello to all my friends from Pigtown

Joe & Fran Di Napoli

11/9/2012 9:28:00 AM #

IF ANYONE IS INTERESTED IN ATTENDING A PIGTOWN REUNION IN PIGTOWN, BROOKLYN -

CONTACT EMAIL:
CETERAETC@AOL.COM

MICHELECETERA

12/13/2012 10:18:50 PM #

PIGTOWN REUNION, SEPTEMBER 27, 2013

PLEASE CONTACT MICHAEL CETERA OR JOE COLLICA IF YOU WISH TO ATTEND....FREE TICKETS WILL BE PROVIDED

MICHELECETERA

1/31/2013 6:29:03 AM #

correction

the above date is an error.
the reunion is scheduled for july 27.
pass the word.

MICHELE CETERA

4/13/2013 3:37:55 PM #

I was born  and raised at 533 Albany Ave. across from P.S. 91 . Great memories of the park at East New York and Albany Ave. I traveled all over the world with the US Navy
the only place you to get a Mush Sandwich was on East NY Ave called Dalees for those of you that don't know what a Mush is its a Italian bread mustard and sauerkraut no frankfurter I guess we were poor and didn't know it .  

joe miele

4/19/2013 6:20:52 PM #

I grew up living above Mc Gills bar and grill on albany ave & midwood st. Knew many people,Fran De Julio & husband
Joe Di Napoli. ( Fran was a good friend of my sisters June & Theresa ) Mike Cetera, Joey Ronzo, Ritchie Kamel, Frank Giellorenzo,all the Occhiuzzio boys, and many more.
Attended PS 91, PS232 Jhs, and Grady Vo Tech in Brighton Bch. I remember the "mush", Greenberg's grocery and the candy store on albany & rutland rd. Lots of fond memories. Sure wish I could attend the reunion, good luck with it, looks like the neighborhood has turned into a getto.

Hoyt Richberg

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