Red Hook Point in the mid-1800s was just beginning to be developed. In an irregular way, shanties dotted the shoreline. Some of the residents of these homes would sit under their awnings scanning the waters for loose timbers and other prizes they could sell.
Competition for the bounty could be fierce as neighbors rowed vigorously to get to the floating object first. A vast number of logs were shipped to Red Hook, destined to become buildings, ships and a myriad of other things. The logs were often stored, and not uncommonly moved in the water and, particularly in storm tossed waters, some would escape.
Residents along the beaches of Red Hook also earned money by renting their boats to anglers.
This story, as reported in the Brooklyn Eagle, March 1851, also noted that the area was undergoing a dramatic change as the shanties were being removed to make way for a grid of new streets.
[See below for more lumber related stories, from crabs to spars.]
Full transcription of the Brooklyn Eagle, April 11, 1851 article:
Red Hook Point. – It had been justly remarked that one part of the world does not know how the other part lives – meaning, we presume, that the privations, struggles, and trials of the poor are unknown to the wealthier classes. It might with as much propriety be remarked that one part of Brooklyn does not know how the other part lives; for we will venture to say that the manner in which some of the inhabitants of Red Hook obtain a livelihood will induce many of our readers to admit that “there are more things in heaven and earth than were dreamed of in their philosophy.” A number of persons who live on the beach have “cast their bread upon the waters” of Gowanus Bay, though it sometimes takes a great many days to return to them.
They keep a number of boats which, in summer, are occasionally hired by some enthusiastic angler, at the rate of one shilling an hour.
The owners of the boats sit all the day long, in storm and calm, under protection of the awnings in front of their house, and with a telescope with which each has provided himself, keep continually skimming the surface of the bay. It happens, perhaps, to be a fine day, and one of the watchers perceives a speck upon the waters. Laying aside his telescope, he slips quietly to one of his boats, and, seizing a couple of oars, pushes off from the shore. But the chase is not left to himself. His next neighbor has seen the same object, or sees his preparations, and immediately sets off to dispute the possession of the prize. Such a regular regatta as now takes place, beats the prize affairs all to smash. At last the best oarsman nears the object, and if turn out to be, as is generally the case, a log of wood, he ties a rope to the end of it and makes it fast to his boat, and then sets sail for shore. A great quantity of timber is thus secured, the sale of which is the most prolific source of income which these persons possess.
The appearance of the Point resembles very much that of a California village, as it for the most part consists of an immense number of shanties, set down in the most independent manner, without any regard to streets, lanes, or alleys. But, well-a-day! This matter of fact march of improvement has reached the Point! – Street Commissioner Lawrence has been there, lately, removing old landmarks, and the result is that many of the shanties are ordered to be removed without delay; new streets are even now in course of formation where they once stood, and in a few years an old inhabitant of the Point will find himself a stranger in the place here once sojourned. “Sich is life,” however, and more especially Brooklyn life.