|Should you go?|
|Time spent||25 minutes|
|Best thing I saw or learned||In an era when museums (including this one) are full of touch screens, I was happy to see an old-school board game version of the Battle of Brooklyn. Uh-oh, you drew a Hessian card! Except you’re the British, so that’s awesome for you!|
The Old Stone House isn’t actually all that old. And it’s not properly a house, though it is at least partially constructed from stone. Today’s Old Stone House replicates the Vechte-Cortelyou House, dating to 1699. The original’s history touches on Brooklyn’s earliest days, the Revolutionary War, and the dawn of the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, the house was demolished in the late 1800s.
That would’ve been that except that in 1934 the omnipresent (and nigh omnipotent) Robert Moses reconstructed it, mainly to serve as restrooms for Washington Park. The reconstruction used at least some of the stones from the original building, but unlike many of the house museums of the city, there’s nothing historic about the interior rooms or furnishings. Rather, the building contains a small museum focused mainly on the Battle of Brooklyn, with a little about the Vechte family.
Audience and Program
Mainly a kids museum, the displays are geared to the interests, attention span, and average height of the younger set. And yet, as a gathering place for the neighborhood, it aims at older people too. They show contemporary art in an upstairs space, and host theater and events with intriguing names like “Gin in June.”
The Battle of Brooklyn took place literally in the front garden, as a teeny but fairly dramatic diorama attests. 400 self-sacrificing Marylanders–like the Spartans only one-third more of them–kept a couple thousand redcoats busy long enough for Washington and his troops to slink away to Upper Manhattan, thence to base himself at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, and eventually abandon New York for the rest of the war.
In museumological terms, the Old Stone House is rather straightforward. Its displays deploy a mix of technologies, culminating in a touchscreen-based day-by-day review of the Battle of Brooklyn, which I found hard to follow.
A family tree shows how the Revolution divided families between loyalists and revolutionaries. It also names some of the slaves who worked for the Vechte family, though of course no one bothered to record how they felt about independence, or anything else about their thoughts and beliefs. Still, I like that they don’t sweep the Vechte’s slaves under the historic rug. Another brief display on slavery observes how surprisingly prevalent it was in revolutionary Brooklyn. One in three Kings County residents was a slave, and half of Dutch households owned them.
There’s little to see about the Dodgers, but the original Old Stone House served as the team’s clubhouse in the late 1800s. Their first ballpark, long since gone, was in Washington Park, before they moved to the legendary (and also long-gone) Ebbets Field.
Moving upstairs, the current contemporary art show, titled “Multilocational,” featured work by two artists touching on themes of migration and acculturation. Sort of a smaller riff on Lehman College’s Alien Nations show.
Who should visit? The Old Stone House is a quintessential local museum. It programs for its community, and that’s sufficient. Coming from Manhattan made me something of an exotic visitor to their parts. You might consider going if you are a huge fan of the Battle of Brooklyn or the history of baseball. Otherwise, plenty of other museums offer a better view of Brooklyn and New York City history.
|Address||336 Third Street, Brooklyn|