A Walking Tour of Crown Heights

1.We'll start our tour where the A points to Paul Robeson High School, at 140 Albany Avenue. This was formerly Alexander Hamilton High School, which had been given the bust of Arthur S. Somers after he died (see obit pages).

2. Walk west for 2 blocks on Bergen Street to Brooklyn Avenue and make a left. Here you will find the newest incarnation of The Brooklyn Children's Museum, the first children's museum in the United States.

Arthur S. Somers was instrumental in the founding of the museum in 1899. It proved to be extremely popular, and is still going strong so many years after it was first started, housed in a couple of Victorian mansions.

Across the street from the Brooklyn Children's Museum is where Froebel Academy used to be, at 176-178 Brooklyn Avenue. Valerie Somers and her little brother Andy both attended grammar school there.

3. Continue south on Brooklyn Avenue for 2 blocks to Sterling Place, then turn right and you will find 988 Sterling Place in the middle of the block, between Brooklyn Avenue and New York Avenue. This was the home of Virginia Lawrence and Arthur Somers and their children, Andrew, Frederick and Arthur. Andrew was my grandfather.

Google Maps pictures of 988 Sterlng Place

4. Now backtrack on Sterling Place back to Brooklyn Avenue, make a right and walk south for one block to St. John's Place. Here at 224 Brooklyn Avenue, you can visit the impressive Church of St. Gregory, R.C., where Somers weddings, funerals and baptisms took place.

You can also see the St Gregory the Great School which is located around the corner at 991 St. John's Place. This is an old picture of how it looked back then.

5. Continue south on Brooklyn Avenue for 5 blocks (crossing Eastern Parkway) to President Street, where you will find 1328 President Street, just in from the corner of Brooklyn Avenue. This is the house where Congressman Andrew Somers and his wife Ruth Edna raised their children Arthur, Andree, Edward, Valerie and Andrew Jr. Arthur was my father. Back in the day, this street was known as Congressman's Row.

Google Maps pictures of 1328 President Street

Two doors down from here is 1338 President Street, where the family moved after the older children had married and moved out.

Google Maps pictures of 1338 President Street

6. Continue west on President Street for a block and a half, then turn left on Nostrand Avenue and walk one block south to Carroll Street, which is where you will find Brooklyn Prep, located at 1186 Carroll Street, between Nostrand and Rogers Avenues. Brooklyn Preparatory School has since been renamed Medgar Evars High School. It was a Jesuit run all-boy school attended by Somers and Lawrence boys alike. Brooklyn Prep is also where Tom Ross, who grew up in Williamsburg Brooklyn, and married Andree Somers, went to school. Andree's brother Edward McCormick Somers also attended Brooklyn Prep, as did a slew of Lawrences, who commuted in from Flushing, Queens. I know this from my cousin Andrew Lawrence, who is now a neighbor of mine. His father, William Lawrence, also attended, as did two of his uncles, Andrew Lawrence and Lou Murtha. Lou Murtha was a track coach and teacher at Broolyn Prep for 25 years. The next generation of Lawrences, Andrew and his brother Bill, also attended, as did their cousin Raymond Dunne of Flushing (his Aunt Mary's eldest).

For some reason, Arthur Somers (my father) attended a different school: Poly Prep, also located in Brooklyn. He loved it, and often spoke fondly of it. His younger brother Andrew attended Saint Cecilia's High School in Englewood New Jersey, as by that time the Somers family no longer lived in Brooklyn.

6. Walk east on Carroll Street for six blocks until it dead-ends into Lincoln Terrace/Arthur S. Somers Park, at Rochester Ave. This park was renamed in honor of Arthur S. Somers after his death in 1932, then renamed back to Lincoln Terrace Park and finally is today named Lincoln Terrace/Arthur S. Somers Park. No complaints -- it's a great honor to share a park with a POTUS!

7. After leaving the park, walk west one block to Utica Avenue and hail a cab. Drive south on Utica and turn right on Clarendon Rd. to get to the entrance to Holy Cross Cemetery. There are a couple of family plots to visit here - the McCormick grave and the Somers grave. Buried in the Somers grave are Arthur and Virginia and the children who died as babies:

Edna May 1888- 1898
Virginia Ellen 1890- 1890
Arthur Sylvester 1890-1893

Buried in the McCormick grave are Ruth Edna McCormick and her husband, Andrew Lawrence Somers, her parents, Edward and Mary McCormick and her two sisters who died as children.

Lawrence Family

While many Lawrences are buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, some are also buried at Holy Cross Cemetery.

(click to enlarge)

An important name is missing from the letter: Virginia Lawrence Somers, our link to the Lawrence family. Since she had become a Somers, she was no longer listed as a Lawrence.

(click to enlarge)

Virginia Lawrence Somers died at age 61 in January 1926, of diabetes. Her namesake, Estelle Virgina Somers, was born on Oct. 18 1927, to Fred and Janet Somers. Note the misprint: Virginia's mother was Ellen McCloskey Lawrence.

8. Side trip to Gallagher's Funeral Home: This would have been worth taking years ago when Mr. Gallagher was still around. The Gallaghers were family friends. In fact Ruth Edna would sometimes go there to visit old Mrs. Gallagher, who was her godmother. Ruth Edna's daughter Valerie remembers being taken there as a child. Getting bored once with sitting in a chair, she left the room to explore, only to find herself in the company of a dead person! John Gallagher's files on family members provided valuable information in later years. The above response to Clytie Somers is what initially got her parents, Uncle Ed and Aunt Nancy, started on their genealogy research.

To get there, get back on Utica and drive south to Flatlands Avenue, then make a left on Flatlands and drive west to Flatbush, to where John T. Gallagher's Funeral Home is located at 2001 Flatbush Ave. To go to the old location, go north on Flatbush Avenue, then turn right at Church Avenue and continue east for about two blocks to 2549 Church Avenue.

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