Thursday, August 31, 2006

Old Time Gowanus Canal: "The Lavender Lake"

Lavender Lake
Of all the pages on the wonderful Forgotten New York site, one of the closest to GL's heart is "The Lavender Lake," which provides much detail and a lot of photos of our namesake Big G. Here, you'll find tons of info, like the following on the South Brooklyn Seine's history:
It was created in 1849 (finished in the 1860s) by narrowing its predecessor, the Gowanus Creek, into a one and a half mile long commercial waterway to provide commercial access to Gowanus Bay. Developer Edwin Litchfield formed the Brooklyn Improvement Company for the express purpose of dredging the Gowanus Creek, then a fresh stream, and making it navigable. With the creation of the new waterway, barges brought in sandstone from New Jersey that was used to build the beautiful brownstones that today still line the streets of surrounding Boerum Hill and park Slope. Unfortunately the buildup of the area contributed to the pollution of the canal, which would go on for over a century: the surrounding area's raw sewage would be pumped directly into the canal, and the new gasworks, coal yards and soap factories along the canal's length also dropped tons of pollutants directly into it as the years went by. As early as the 1880s the canal was foul and miasmic and its color had changed to a dark Pepto-Bismol shade, prompting locals to call it "Lavender Lake."
So, now, you know, in case you didn't.

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