A recent article on the discovery of a Paris apartment left untouched since the beginning of World War II reminded me of how rare and precious are our images of nineteenth- and early twentieth century interiors. While our collection contains hundreds of photographs of exteriors of that period, The Peet Residence and the Pope Mansion are two among only a handful of houses whose interiors are preserved for us today through the magic of photography. So it was particularly delightful to come across an album containing exterior and interior shots of a grand house on Shore Road near Fort Hamilton, called "Shore Acres." Sad to say, that last sentence contains just about all I have so far been able to piece together about this building. A printed introduction to the album reads as follows:
"Shore Acres--Located on the beautiful shore driveway of Brooklyn, a magnificent boulevard winding along the shore of New York Bay, high above the water, where the picturesque hills of Staten Island and the adjoining Highlands of New Jersey form a natural background for the ocean liners, war vessels and pleasure craft flying flags of all nations, contributing a panoramic picture that never palls, and of which one never tires. Here among the beautiful flowers the salt laden breezes direct from the open sea soothes the tired mind and finds contentment and rest."
The garage. Can you identify the year and make of the cars?
The chicken run
The music room, with pipe organ
The billiard room
Steak night at the Rathskeller
The study room
Unfortunately, there was another Shore Acres on Staten Island, yet another in Bayside, a Shore Acres Realty Company, and last but not least, a popular play by James A. Herne of the same name. In these circumstances, tracing the history of a building via internet sources is rather like searching for an ancestor named John Smith. And so these few images--about a quarter of the whole collection--are almost all I have to offer. Was it a private house or a hotel? (The Rathskeller and assembled male company, and the existence of the album, would suggest the latter.) An impressive wine cellar, numerous bedrooms, tennis courts, fruit, flower and vegetable gardens, greenhouses, a dining room and reception hall, a conservatory, bathrooms with showers and bathtubs, an art studio, a bowling alley, a laundry room and an "electric bath and massage room" complete the offerings of what appears to have been a delightful and no doubt expensive establishment. As a date I am hazarding a guess at the early 1900s, although the mention of "war vessels" might give us a more precise date between 1917 and 1918. Shore Road in those days before the ubiquitous automobile made the Belt Parkway seem desirable must have been a handsome thoroughfare, and Shore Acres was surely one of its finer ornaments.