We always love an unexpected peek at the vintage signs in our neighborhood, and Newkirk Plaza, the oldest open air shopping mall in the US, is a great place in particular to consider the past. As Lost City puts it:
Newkirk Plaza isn’t new. That’s apparent from clapping eyes on the shops, which look like they probably did a brisk business in egg creams and hula-hoops once upon a time.
Like the old Albemarle Road footbridge, which was eventually dismantled, no one is really rushing to claim ownership of the property over the former Newkirk Avenue/current Newkirk Plaza subway stop. Lost City continues:
It has a weird ownership set-up. The Transit Authority owns the deck and station and the Department of Transportation owns the bridge [note: we’re not even sure the DOT does at this point]. Plus, the buildings on the Plaza are possessed by private owners. This division of property may partly explain why the place looks like such a time capsule; what are the chances that all three parties ever agree on anything, improvement-wise?
In addition to the regularly visible nostalgia-inducing signage on the Plaza, we recently noticed that 6 Newkirk, currently the Plaza Hair Salon, was in the middle of an awning revamp–exposing a funky old sign for the Newkirk Plaza Bootery. It got us wondering what else had occupied number 6, and the surrounding spaces, over the past 100 years.
In 1962, 6 Newkirk Plaza was Waldell Hobbies. On either side of it was a fur store and a shoe shop, and just down the way (somehow at 7 Newkirk Plaza) was Paul’s Barber Shop, which had been on the Plaza almost since its inception and remains to this day as Leon’s Fantasy Cut.
One could also chow down on a steak during the trip, if he or she worked up an appetite from all that shoe shopping, hair styling, and fur buying.
Oh, and flowers, too! If the furs proved to be too expensive, you could at least pick up some roses for your sweetheart on your way to or from Lipton Chemist at 14 Newkirk Plaza.
The shots above and below from Raquel Ramati’s book How to Save Your Own Street give us an idea of how the Plaza had changed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Forgotten NY has a fascinating look at Newkirk Plaza too, including the origin and meaning of its name.
I had originally thought of “Newkirk” as a Scottish name meaning new church, but it turns out it’s yet another of Brooklyn’s many Dutch appellations and honors the immigrant Nieukercke family, through whose farm the avenue was built in the late 1800s. The family had arrived in the colonies in 1659. As it happens the name translates to new church in Dutch as well.
The mall has had a less-than-stellar reputation in the past (“Newcrack Plaza,” anyone?), but recent initiatives like the Newkirk Plaza passageway mural, hard work by the Friends of Newkirk Plaza, and recent station rehab have helped to clean the place up a bit, thankfully without sacrificing all the relics of the last century.
If you grew up on the Plaza, what are some of your favorite shops or memories? Any of the Bootery, in particular?