Walt Whitman was fired as editor from the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper because of his opinions on slavery.

So there we were, Mr. Hawke and I, walking the streets of Brooklyn, exploring a place we’d never been before. It was July 20.

We’d taken the train from Columbus Circle, overlooking that the particular one we stepped onto, an air-conditioned refuge from the skin-melting Manhattan underground, doesn’t stop at City Hall.

No matter, we decided. We’ll ride on closer to the museum and walk the bridge on the way back. Yeah! That’s the way to do it without being my usual over-planning self. Laid-back and rolling with the punches!

And then, there we were, headed down Flatbush Avenue, straight into (the other) Grand Army Plaza with its humongous arch and statuary (dedicated to the other side of the war :D). And across to the towering Brooklyn Public Library.

Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza - central arch with statuary

Another statue up in the weeds?!

And down to the Brooklyn Museum with its awesome-looking Andy Warhol exhibit. . .which. . .was. . .closed!!! What? Closed on a Tuesday? Arrgghhh. I didn’t even think to check the website for that. On a Monday, maybe, but Tuesday, too?!

So there we were, still rolling with it, appreciating the fact that so much of what we’d seen we wouldn’t have had we followed a specific plan of action as usual.

Sure, it was sweltering, but we’d seen much worse in New York. We always plan to visit in late July, not only because it’s SUMMER BREAK (!!), but also because we like to celebrate our wedding anniversary in the city where we were married. (Yep, down at the court house. :P) And it’s almost always very hot. This year wasn’t one of the hottest, since there was usually a breeze blowing that week, but it was still hot.

Coolest brownstone ever - @ Henry & Pierrepont streets =)

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Promenade

Sweat and all, we made our way from Prospect Park east, all the way to the East River, where Brooklyn Heights’ streets are lined with brownstones I could seriously imagine making a life in. We stopped and bought Haagen Dazs on Montague Street; then, we strolled along the Promenade with its majestic views of the Manhattan skyline and clear down to Liberty Island.

We knew the Brooklyn Bridge was north, and we were headed that way. But a straight shot, it is not. Thankfully. ;)

At one intersection, we took a left toward the river instead of the right that would’ve saved us some steep hill-climbing to the Bridge trail, and it was SO worth it.

No. 1 Front Street

Directly across the street from the famed Grimaldi’s, where people were lined up down the entire block waiting to enjoy their brick-oven pizza, and the old No. 1 Front St. building, which was once a bank in what’s referred to now as DUMBO, or Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, we saw the Eagle archway at the top of this post.

Walt Whitman plaque on the Eagle building

I could tell the building was very old from its brick. It reminded me of the old buildings that were used as Civil War prisons in downtown Danville (my hometown). My dad’s one of the “local historians,” so I guess I’ve picked up on a bit of it over the years. :P

And then we read the plaque to the left of the arch:

WALT WHITMAN (1819-1892)

He gave America, and poetry itself, a new voice

On this site, from 1841 to 1892, stood the offices of the Brooklyn Eagle, in its time, a powerful paper. From 1846 to 1848, Whitman, not yet 30 but a seasoned journalist, served as its editor. For his stand against slavery in newly admitted states, the owner fired him. His years here gave him a ring-side seat on the young democracy that he would soon celebrate in his great work, “Leaves of Grass” (1855). These poems would change the way people thought about — and wrote — poetry.

“I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence.
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt…”

-Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

erected by the Eagle Tenants Corporation 1989

Me and Kevin on the Brooklyn Bridge

Whoa! Now this was serendipity. If things had turned out the way we’d sorta planned, we never would’ve found this place.

Old Walt would have definitely approved. :)

Afterward, we pretty quickly found our way to the Brooklyn Bridge trail and walked across, stopping along the way to take in the amazing scenery and to read about the construction of the bridge, and feeling energized by the education we were stumbling across on our unplanned way.

I’ll tell you this: It was an experience we will never forget.

This is also posted at my teaching website, mrshawke-dot-com.

3 Responses to “Exploring Brooklyn: Whitman’s Eagle & more”

  1. Lee Ann Spillane says:

    Love it. What a fantastic find that day must have been.

  2. [...] really wish I had read Jo Hawke’s post on Brooklyn Bridge before doing it as she has so many cool tips of extra things we could have done! The Brooklyn [...]

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