A Walking Tour of Williamsburg
1.Our first stop will be at the home of Dr. Andrew Wilson Lawrence, located on 588 Bedford Avenue at Ross Street. There are other ways to get to Williamsburg, but we'll use our same starting point of Grand Army Plaza, as described in Getting There.
Once again, start walking east along Eastern Parkway, as we did on our way to Crown Heights. This time, take a left and head north on Bedford Avenue. This should be an interesting walk/bus ride.
Bedford Avenue is the longest street in Brooklyn, stretching 10.2 miles (16.4 km) and 132 blocks from Greenpoint south to Sheepshead Bay, and passing through the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Flatbush and Midwood. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedford_Avenue_(Brooklyn)
Continue north on Bedford Avenue into Williamsburg, until you get to Ross Street, where you might find the house nearby.
If you have wheels, you may opt for a faster route, going over the Williamsburg Bridge from Manhattan, then heading south on the BQE to Bedford Avenue.
Either way, hopefully you'll come to the house where Arthur and Virginia Somers celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary along with a large party of Lawrences, on Halloween of 1904.
2. Walk down the block to 599 Bedford Avenue, which is the address listed on the obituary of Andrew Wilson Lawrence (Virginia's father and my great-great-grandfather) in The Brooklyn Eagle, August 1, 1917.
3.The Gormans lived just around the corner from the Lawrences, at 199 Rodney Street. To get there, pointing northwest on Bedford Ave, just turn right onto Rodney Street.
Ellen Elizabeth "Nellie" Lawrence, daughter of Andrew and Ellen Lawrence, married John Joseph Gorman on February 11, 1897. Their daughter Rie Gorman married Martin MaCormack, and their son John Francis (Frank) McCormack has been correponding with me about the Gormans. Frank wrote: "My mother, Rie Gorman was a granddaughter of Andrew Wilson Lawrence. She often spoke of her Uncle Arthur and Aunt Virginia, although I was too young to know them. I have a copy of a Lawrence genealogy which she said was prepared by her Uncle Ivy (Irving Lawrence) about 1932. Now my Lawrence family database lists over 1200 descendents of Enoch Lawrence(b 1806) & Ellen Vanderwart (sic)."
4. John Joseph Gorman owned Gorman's Store, which was located somewhere along Grand Street, in the area north of the Williamsburg Bridge. Drive north on Bedford or take public transportation (about a 15 minute bus ride) to Grand Street, which has many galleries and boutiques.
At the foot of Grand Street is Grand Ferry State Park , which is worth visiting. In the 19th century, before the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge, the Grand Street Ferry connected Grand Street, Brooklyn to Grand Street, Manhattan. Grand Street runs roughly northeast until crossing the English Kills into Queens, whereupon Grand Street becomes Grand Avenue.
Grand Street Stores
The following article has an interesting description of Grand street in 1892:
Eastern District Stores. The Streets where the principal shops are located
Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online July 6, 1892
This is a fun letter from John Gorman's son Joe to his brother Charley, telling him about Gorman's Fall Opening in 1901, which includes a description of a visit from Ed Sullivan (since TV celebrity Ed Sullivan was born in 1901. this must have been a different Ed Sullivan)!
5. Next, go north on Bedford Avenue to North 7th Street, where Andrew and Ellen Lawrence initially set up housekeeping in Williamsburg, then proceed on to North 10th Street, where the Lawrences had "a fine garden" and lived for many years. "Mr. Lawrence delights in telling of the old town of Williamsburgh as it was then, when most of the section now designated as the Eastern District of Brooklyn was fields and hills, and a trip to New York was a considerable journey."
6. While in the neighborhood, stop by East River State Park, which stretches along the East River near North 9th and 10th Streets, and offers breathtaking views of Manhattan.
Some interesting articles from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle give us a flavor of the old Williamsburgh:
A Hundred Years Ago. From the hamlet of Williamsburgh to the Eastern District
Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online, December 16, 1883
Buried Williamsburgh. Another stage in the development of the "E.D."
Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online, Mar 18, 1888
From the Eastern District. Mr Burrows relates reminiscences of ancient
Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online, Mar 18, 1896