Serendipity, Thy Name is Goat

The text of the email read as follows: “Don’t ask how I got to your page but I may have what you are looking for…..”

Sometimes the universe surprises me.  Something amazing happens, and I have no explanation for it.  My father would call that a miracle.  I will call it serendipity.

We all have icons in our lives.  Some are more obvious than others.   Growing up in the largest of the five boroughs in New York City,  I could point to structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bank Building or the Cyclone as being Brooklyn icons.  But, there are more personal icons.  Those are things that may be small and significant to a neighborhood, a block, or a family.  Examples in my life included the letter “F’ on the front end of the subway train that serviced my neighborhood.  The F Train was transportation to adventure. It would take you to Manhattan and, with a change of subway line, would take you anywhere in the city.

prospect panthers

Panthers of Prospect Park (3rd Street Entrance)

The Panthers at the Third Street entrance to Prospect Park guarded the approach to a different universe in my imagination away from the traffic and buzz of my neighborhood.  (They are not lions! Google it if you don’t believe me, I’ll wait.)

And then there was Fred Goat.  I have been on a mission to find a photo of Fred Goat since last October.  That tasking came from my godmother, my Aunt Anne.  This post is, in fact, my third on the subject.  The other two posts are:

To summarize, Fred Goat was a logo that adorned the side of the turret on the building at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn.  In the 1940’s and 1950’s, my maternal grandfather would encourage his daughters to say good night to Fred Goat as they passed by on the journey from my grandmother’s family home on Dean Street to their home in  Park Slope.  The tradition continued with my siblings in the 1960’s as we made a similar journey home from the venerable old brownstone on Dean Street to our home on 4th Street near the park. As a child, I would look at that castle-like structure, and I would imagine it was ruled over by a goat named Fred.

 

 

My search for a photo had yielded me various shots of the exterior of the building, but none had an angle I wanted with Fred on the side of the turret. I worked with the Brooklyn Public Library, the NYC Municipal Archives, the New York Times and other potential sources of the holy grail of Fred Goat photos.  But my efforts went unrewarded.

That is until last night. I noticed that an email had arrived in this blog’s admin account as I was working on some old family photos.  The text of the email read as follows: “Don’t ask how I got to your page but I may have what you are looking for…..” I took a look at the name of the sender, and I knew the universe might be up to something.  I replied to the email hopeful that I was about to be reunited with an icon from my past.

The email was from the great, great, great granddaughter of  Fred Goat (the entrepreneur, not my mythical goat).  I don’t know how she stumbled on my blog.

Fred Goat2

Courtesy of the Goat Family

Perhaps, one of my 23 subscribers let it slip that I was looking for a photo of her family’s old business in Brooklyn.  My subscribers are, after all, a very exclusive and influential group! I would like to know how she stumbled on me, but I promised not to ask. So this me, not asking.

Just before ten last night, another email came in with two photos attached.

Ladies, Gentleman, and exclusive and influential subscribers, I give you Fred Goat!

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The Fred Goat Company, corner of 3rd Avenue and Dean Street.  Courtesy of the Goat Family

We all have quirky family traditions.  At least I hope and wish we all do. The real Goat family probably never knew what was being whispered from the back seat of a random Ford Country Squire station wagon to the logo on their building. That secret is out now.  Without ever knowing it, there was a connection between the families.  Of course, you didn’t know about us, and the younger members of my family thought you might be real goats.

Aunt Anne, here is your photo courtesy of the Goat Family.  I will start working on quest #2 (that is another story for another evening).

My thanks to K.G. for sending this along. Please know that from southern Virginia to coastal Massachusetts, my Mom, siblings, aunts, cousins and maybe some nieces and nephews are going to be saying goodnight to Fred Goat tonight.  Some are doing so for the first time.

Goodnight, Fred Goat!

Addressing My Past

If you know anything about me, you will know I like to research and discover things about my ancestors.  I do because, until a few years ago, I did not know all that much about them.  Either side of the family was pretty much a mystery except for the O’Connells. For me, the O’Connells were my maternal grandmother, Regina, and her brothers Edward and James.  Edward was her twin and James was my godfather.

I have spent a lot of time looking through sites like Ancestry.com, FindaGrave.com, and Newspapers.com  for names and dates of family events. I have also researched the family homes in Brooklyn. This week I plugged in an address to see what would turn up. The house at 164 Dean Street is in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn.  During my lifetime it was “Uncle Ed’s house.”

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164 Dean Street, circa 1940, NYC Municipal Archives

It came into my family in March 1907 with the deed going to John Boyle (my third great-grandfather).  With the death of John Boyle, it passed into the hands of the O’Connell family, specifically my great-grandfather, Edward F. O’Connell.  It passed to my Great Uncle, Edward A. O’Connell in 1941 and James O’Connell was added to the deed soon after.

It was common for multiple family units in the immigrant Irish community to fill these venerable old Brownstones. From 1907 through the late 1980’s, 164 Dean Street was the home of many of the Irish names that run in my family; Boyle, Cooke, Mahoney, and O’Connell.

I went into Newspapers.com and found The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the daily paper for Brooklyn for 114 years from 1841 to 1955.  What I found was a little bit of a revelation.  I caught some of my ancestors living their daily lives.  The first thing to catch my eye with the Dean Street address was a letter written by my, then 10-year-old, grandmother to the children’s page published in May 1917 seeking admission to the Humane Club.  It seems to have been a column written by someone who went by “Aunt Jean.”

The newspaper did a lot of society reporting and it actually reported on parties on Dean Street.  Mary Boyle Cooke (my second great-grandmother) celebrated her 81st birthday:

Mrs Anthony Cooke Birthday

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun, Nov 14, 1937 – Page 18

There were parties for my cousin William “Billy” J. Mahoney, Jr. (1st cousin, 2 X removed)  The first was his 21 birthday party, the second announced his return home on furlough from the army.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sun, Dec 14, 1941 – Page 20

With all those “Misses” invited, I think his mother, my second great-aunt “Gertie”, may have been trying to marry Billy off in 1941.

Billy would, like so many young men during that time, join the Army.  He went to boot camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  Either during a break in training or before heading over to the European theater he came home on a furlough and his mother threw him another party.

Billy Mahoney home on furlough

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thu, Jun 10, 1943 – Page 4

I think the second event was a lot more bittersweet than the 21st birthday celebration.  Billy would go on to fight in Europe where he was wounded in action.  He came home to Dean Street and took care of his mother.  He never did marry.

My great Uncle Ed (Edward A. O’Connell) was an interesting character.  He was a banker,  a talented artist and a bit of an amateur historian of the Fire Department in New York City.  In his study on the third floor of the brownstone on Dean Street he had painted a borough map of Brooklyn with the locations of all the fire houses, call boxes and graphics of some of the equipment.  I don’t know if any photographs of the wall were ever taken.  If there are any out there, I would love a copy.  On 24 October 1948 his work appeared in the Old Timers section of the paper.  Both the graphic and the write-up were his work.

Graphic.png

Text FDNY

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 24 October 1948, page 24

I was originally looking for information on births and deaths. I found the life in between.

Revelation

In Search of Fred Goat



It all started with a homework assignment from my Aunt/God mother at the Kelly Family Reunion in October.  She wanted a photo of Fred Goat.

I remember Fred Goat from my childhood. We lived in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn  during the 1960’s, just down the street from my maternal  grandmother’s house.  Nana, as we called her,  often hosted major holiday and family dinners at her house. After those dinners, my father would usually end up driving my  great-uncle and a cousin, both bachelors, home to the brownstone that they lived in on Dean Street in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. My mother called the two of them “the Dukes of Dean Street”. On the return trip, after we had dropped off the Dukes, we would wish Fred Goat a good night.

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Office for Metropolitan History

I really don’t know how the tradition started.  I know that my mother’s sisters would say good night to him when their father would drive them home from Dean Street in the 1940’s and 50’s.  Fred was always at the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue. Day or night, year after year he would be standing silent vigil.  “Fred Goat” was the logo of The Fred Goat Company.  It adorned the top of the turret of the building that once was home to the Federal Brewing Company .  The Fred Goat Company took over the building in 1914 and began manufacturing  and repairing machinery.

You would think that a landmark such as Fred Goat would be a an easy find on the “Google Machine”.  Alas, no photo of the old goat has revealed itself to me on the internet.   So I had to do some detective work.  No easy feat from here in southern Virginia.

The turret of the building was on the corner of 3rd Ave.  I found  a letter in the real estate section of the NY Times on Oct 18, 2012 to Christopher Gray asking for information on the building. It was written by the same aunt who had tasked me to find Fred.   I found the owner of the company’s obituary in the online archive of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Archives from Feb 7, 1939 and confirmed the information on the building.  I next went to the NYC Department of Taxation website.  Between 1939 and 1941, and again in the mid-1980s, the city photographed every house and building in the five boroughs.  I ordered a photo of the building from the 1940 collection. It arrived on 18 November 2016.

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NYC Municipal Archives

As luck would have it, the angle of the photo does not allow a look at the logo on the turret seen in the photo just to the left and above the street light.

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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 4th, 1925 – page 20

The ad from the Brooklyn Eagle shows the logo that was at the top of the turret on the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue.  But a photo of the tower with “Fred” still eludes  me.

The building has gone through a lot of changes since the 1960’s. The top of the turret has been removed, Fred was painted over.   The eight story section of the building shown in the first illustration has had several floors removed.

federal-breweries-of-brooklyn

The search will continue.  I will try to track down the descendants of Mr. Fred Goat, you know, his kids ( I couldn’t resist).  Perhaps one of them has the photo I seek.  Maybe someone reading this will have it and drop me a line.  I may have to go up to Brooklyn to see if I can find any other architectural archives for the City or in the Brooklyn Public Library.  Somewhere out there is a photograph of the turret at the corner of Dean Street and 3rd Avenue with Fred Goat overlooking the traffic below. Someday, I will be able to say “Good Night” to Fred Goat once more.