Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Glue and Gore!

Staten Island may have its Fresh Kills, but Brooklyn has its fair share of gore. Or gores, rather.

If I were to tell you that there was a large gore on Orient Avenue in east Williamsburg, and that it was the former location of a famous glue factory, oh I can just imagine the thoughts that run through your head.

Don't worry; no horses were harmed in the making of this blog entry. An antiquated meaning of the word 'gore', according to an old English usage, is "a triangular piece of material inserted in a garment, sail, etc., to give it greater width or a desired shape."

Small triangular patches at the convergence of two streets are also called gores.

Although Manhattan clearly has many triangular blocks, few today are called gores. Many have been built upon through clever architectural designs, like the Flatiron Building. An extraordinary illustrated 1913 New York Times article documents some abandoned 'useless' gores in lower Manhattan, including one on Madison Street and 'New Bowery'.

"It is so small that nothing could be built on it without encroaching on city property, and even if tin sheeting were used for walls a man could hardly stand with comfort within the plot. Yet this tiny and useless bit of real estate is regularly assessed for taxation, and it figures at a valuation of $50."

Brooklyn however still uses the gore distinction for many of its 'triangular tracts', including Underhill Gore, Memorial Gore and Grant Gore.

Cooper Gore at Orient and Metropolitan Avenues is also referred to more charmingly as Orient Grove. It was originally named Cooper Gore for Peter Cooper, cracking industrialist and later founder of Cooper Union. So yes, this means Cooper has his own gore, his own park, his own village and his own post office.

Cooper had a highly successful glue factory in Kips Bay that was later transferred to Masbeth Avenue, not far from the gore. Cooper retired from glue in 1865 and the company sold. By 1897, this little triangular tract of land was named for him and turned into a eensy-weensy park with a place to play tennis.

See, even the most 'useless' sliver of land in New York has its story.

Orient 'Grove'/Cooper Gore is just down the street from the slightly greener, obviously bigger Cooper Park.

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