Historic, but not famous

William C. Kingsley, Brooklyn Bridge contractor

William C. Kingsley (1833–1885) was a construction contractor as one of the main figures involved in the creation of the Brooklyn Bridge. Kingsley settled in Brooklyn in 1856 and worked as a contractor for the Brooklyn water works. His construction firm, Kingsley and Keeney, was given large contracts to build Prospect Park and the Hempstead Reservoir. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the largest and most important projects he worked on.

He became the driving force behind the Bridge project, hiring Colonel Julius Walker Adams, a civil engineer who had worked with him on the Brooklyn sewers, to come up with a design and to prepare cost estimates. Neither man was experienced in bridge building and their proposal for the bridge was a very low $5 million bid. This bid allowed the bridge to get political buy in and Kingsley became a major shareholder in the bridge company organized in 1867. The bridge was eventually built by John and Washington and Emily Roebling for three times that amount.

In 1875, Kingsley joined the board of trustees of the Brooklyn Bridge, and became the second president of the board in 1882, upon the first board president’s death. Kingsley held that position on May 24, 1883, the day that the Brooklyn Bridge opened.

Kingsley is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery. His monument was cut from granite stone that was once a part of the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

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Historic, but not famous

Charles Higgins, ink maker

Charles M. Higgins (1854-1929) began his ink business about 1880. His first ink was Higgin’s India ink. By 1888, magazines like Harper’s Weekly, were using his ink for their drawings. His first successes were with artists when many publications recommended his drawing and waterproof inks. He began using famous artist testimonials to promote his drawing products.

His success allowed him to advertise widely as he expanded his line of products. He introduced laundry Ink, Higgins Indelible Ink and a vegetable mucilage, not a starch or flour based products like other companies wee making but a new chemical discovery. Patent registrations increased as he developed more ink typesfrom 1880s and into the 20th century.

Higgins was born in Ireland and came to American as a child, settling in Brooklyn.  In the 1890s he moved his Brooklyn headquarters to 168-172 Eighth st. By the turn of the century, he has offices in New York, Chicago and London with his products selling world-wide.

Green-Wood cemetery’s famed Minerva statue was commissioned by Higgins in 1920 to commemorate the Battle of Brooklyn of 1776, a historical event Mr. Higgins was passionate about. The Higgins mausoleum stands directly behind the statue.

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Historic, but not famous

David Sharps, Hudson Waterfront Museum

David Sharps, after working as a street performer and serving long stints on cruise ships, found himself studying theatrical movement in Paris. While there, he lived on a houseboat on the Seine. When he returned to New York, David wanted to continue living on a boat, so a tugboat captain introduced him to the Lehigh Valley No. 79 Barge, which he bought for $1.

 

The barge had 300 tons of mud in it, and it took 7 years to restore it a seaworthy condition. In 1992, a conference led by the legendary Pete Seeger was the cornerstone of Sharps finding Red Hook Brooklyn, the next home for the barge.

 

The Waterfront Museum arrived in Red Hook back in 1994 and looks back to the days of the working waterfront industry on the shores of Brooklyn. The barge is located at Pier 44 and the museum’s open hours are Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., though groups can visit on other days by appointment. There are also special showboat performances, including theater, dance, puppetry, and even circus acts, performed by Sharps and his friends.

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Historic, but not famous

Anthony Janszoon van Salee, landholder, merchant, and creditor

Anthony Janszoon van Salee (1607–1676) was an original settler of and prominent landholder, merchant, and creditor in New Netherlands. Van Salee is believed to be the son of  a Dutch pirate and a  Moorish mother. He was likely raised as a Muslim; he may have been the first of this background to settle in the New World. Though upon settling in New Amsterdam,  he and his wife practiced Christianity.

He was born in Spain and captured off the coast, becoming a pirate before returning to his family and moving to Morocco. He married a German woman in 1629 and they moved to New Amsterdam the next year as colonists for the Dutch India East Company. By 1639 Anthony had become one of the largest landholders on the island, as well as a prosperous farmer. It is believed much of the money to purchase the property came from his pirate days. He moved to the Gravesend Brooklyn area after a dispute with the Dutch Reform church on the island of Manhattan and held over 200 acres.

Van Salee reportedly was a defender of minorities in the colony. Sometimes this included waving pistols at slave overseers.  Janszoon is credited, in 1643, with building the first “European” settlement in New Utrecht. His notable descendants include the Vanderbilt dynasty and President Warren G. Harding.

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