Quogue through the Lens of George Bradford Brainerd, ca. 1875

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George Bradford Brainerd, born in 1845, was a lifelong Brooklynite. He was a civil engineer by trade and for 17 years Deputy Water Purveyor for the City of Brooklyn, spending much of his time traversing the city by streetcar. As an accomplished amateur photographer, he almost always traveled with cameras, ones he had crafted himself.

Brainerd’s interest in photography began in 1858, at the age of 13. He was fascinated by the mechanism of the camera and the mechanical possibilities of the relatively new photographic technologies. Early on, Brainerd created his own cameras from cigar boxes and the lenses from opera glasses in order to create primitive ambrotypes.

By the time of his death, in 1887, at the age of 41, Brainerd had taken more than 2,500 photographs. Most were of Brooklyn’s urban landscape — bridges and train depots, engine houses, etc. — but many were rural scenes of upstate New York, Connecticut – and Long Island.

In addition to being an accomplished in early photography, Brainerd was also dedicated to life-long scholarship in a number of arenas: linguistics, botany, geology, medicine, mineralogy, and taxidermy. He had a working knowledge of 12 languages.

Brainerd, at right with a fellow photographer, taking a break in Hempstead, c. 1875.

To capture his images, Brainerd used the collodion wet plate process, which created a glass negative. Using glass produced an exceptionally sharp, more stable and detailed negative. Also, several prints could be produced from one negative.

The photographer, however, was on the clock: the entire process, including exposure and processing, had to happen before the collodion emulsion dried – approx. 10-15 minutes.

It was an arduous process of many steps and necessitated a portable darkroom such as a tent for use in the field.

In the mid-1880s, a brain tumor led to a stroke and paralysis. Smoking and frequent exposure to toxic photography chemicals likely contributed to his tumor.

Brainerd died on April 13, 1887, at the age of 41. He is buried in his native Haddam Neck, CT, a town his ancestors helped found in the early 1700s.

Brainerd smoking his pipe
Brainerd smoking his pipe, ca. 1885

After his death, Brainerd’s sister gave his 2,500 photographs and 1,900 glass plate negatives, dating from 1872 to 1885, each labeled with the scene and subject, to the Brooklyn Academy of Photography, which he had helped establish.

When the Academy dissolved in the early 20th century, the photographs went to the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn Library, among others. The surviving 1,900 glass plate negatives were donated to the Brooklyn Museum, where they were stored in the basement.

In the 1930s, a group of Works Progress Administration artists, photographers, and technicians were hired to clean and restore the negatives, which had deteriorated badly. In 1937, the museum mounted the first exhibition of Brainerd prints, scenes of Brooklyn and Long Island.

Brainerd, at left, with an unidentified companion, ca. 1875.
Brainerd, at left, with an unidentified companion, ca. 1875.

Railroad Station, Quogue, New York
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

brainerd photo of train station

In July 1844, railway service was established from Brooklyn to Riverhead, bringing large numbers of summer visitors. Boarding houses sprang up rapidly and “every thrifty and intelligent farmer formed the habit of taking in summer boarders for four months out of the year.” (Letter of Charles H. Barnam, who spent the summer in Quogue in 1855.)

In 1870, a branch of the railroad was extended from Manorville through Eastport, and onto Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. The boarding house business boomed. The L.I.R.R. built a platform and shed for the new stop located halfway between Quogue and Atlanticville (East Quogue). Quogue residents wanted the train depot on the newly laid Post Road (now Old Depot Road) – and since they were paying for it, felt justified. In summer 1875, after much controversy, the depot was built on the SW corner of Post’s Road and the tracks (pictured). In 1882, the L.I.R.R. built a larger station on Station Road, off Route 104, by the railroad track. This was replaced in 1907 by a brick station, which was demolished in 1964. The stop was discontinued in 1998.

While welcomed by boarding house keepers, the railroad was bitterly resented by others. Cordwood was a big business in Quogue and sparks from the wood-burning locomotives caused devastating forest fires, leaving very little lumber. This ultimately ended the cordwood business.

A Western Union Telegraph office was located inside the depot; outside, barrels of oysters, clams, eels, and other seafood waited to be shipped to New York City. The fishing industry helped make up for the loss of the cordwood business.

Road to Quogue, Long Island, ca. 1875
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Rail passengers disembarking at Quogue traveled this road by carriage or on foot through the scrub oak woods, about a mile and a half to Quogue Street. It may have been Post Road, later Old Depot Road, or what is now Route 114.

Brainerd and his assistant most likely walked to the village of Quogue.

Schoolhouse, Quogue, Long Island
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Brainerd took this photograph from the southern end of Post Road (now Old Depot Road) looking east on Quogue Street.

At left, the 1822 schoolhouse; off in the distance, Civil War Capt. Frederick Hallock’s house; center, the Post House; at right, whaling Capt. Henry Gardiner House.

Left, Quogue’s first Schoolhouse, built in 1822, in its original location on the north side of Quogue Street.

When Post’s Road (Old Depot Road) opened to provide access to the new train depot in 1876, the Schoolhouse was relocated about 400 yards north. In 1893, a new two-room school was constructed on Jessup Avenue, and the old building was abandoned. Abram S. Post bought it and moved it a short distance to his property, east of the Library. He used it as a workshop.

In 1948, the Post family donated the schoolhouse to the Quogue Library, to be run as a museum by the library’s newly formed Historical Committee, the forerunner of the Quogue Historical Society. First set behind the Library, it was moved in 2019 for the fourth time, to the east side of the library grounds, where it awaits restoration.

In the distance, across Penniman Creek, is Civil War Capt. Frederick Hallock’s house, built in the late 18th century and called Second Neck Farmhouse. In 1909, “linseed oil tycoon” George Penniman purchased the house and demolished it to build a large brick mansion. The mansion was torn down in 1950.

The homes of John H. Post, left, and whaling Capt. Henry Gardiner. Both became boarding houses in the 1880s, both run by Henry Gardiner.

Untitled, Quogue, Long Island
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

View west on Quogue Street. As more and more boarding houses were built, Quogue Street became known as Boarding House Row. By the 1880s, there were 13 on Quogue Street.

Left to Right: Quogue House, Presbyterian Chapel, Cooper House, Ocean House, Foster House.

Quogue, Long Island, ca. 1875
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Brainerd shot this view of Quogue Street (looking west) from Old Depot Road. The Ocean House, at right, was not a converted residence, as were most boarding houses, but was built in 1850 by John Post specifically to lodge guests. A popular gathering place for business and pleasure, the Ocean House burned down in 1894.

Just up the road from the Ocean House stood a charming ice cream shop, the Cooper House in the trees, the Presbyterian Chapel, center, and the Quogue House, at left.

Close-up of Quogue’s Ice Cream Shop.

Quogue House.

In 1873, Eurystheus Wells of Aquebogue built a three-story boarding house at the head of Beach Lane leading to the ocean. Its location was said to be “one of the best if not the best in the village” at the time, boasting views in all directions.

Later the house was run by Wells’s nephew Selden Hallock and his family as a popular gathering place, expanding it and offering first-class amenities.

After the Hallocks died, the hotel changed hands, languishing on Quogue Street until after World War II, when a group of Quogue residents bought it with the hope of reviving its original character. Ultimately, these efforts were not successful, and the structure was demolished in 1955.

Church, Quogue, Long Island, ca. 1875
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Built in 1870, the Presbyterian Chapel stands on the southwest corner of Quogue Street and Beach Lane. In the early 19th century, before Quogue had a church, Sunday school classes and midweek prayer meetings were held in the one-room schoolhouse.

In 1870, the congregation of the Westhampton Presbyterian Church on Quiogue built this mission chapel, known at the time as the Quogue Lecture Room, on land leased from the Herrick family.

In 1908-1909, the chapel was renovated, and its front door was moved to the Beach Lane entrance.

Boarding House, Quogue, Long Island
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

The Cooper House was built in the 1840s as the residence of whaling Capt. E.H. Cooper, on the north side of Quogue Street at the bend (across form the Quogue House).

The three-story portion, at right, was added in 1868 when E.H. Cooper’s son, Franklin, turned the private residence into a summer boarding house. Behind the building stood a two-story annex, a barn, and the “barracks,” where the helped lived.

In 1895, John G. Wendel, a New York City businessman, bought the Cooper House and made extensive renovations, adding a dining wing and modern brick kitchen. Fondly called the Coop-Coop, the house flourished in the early 20th century, but after sustaining extensive damage in the Hurricane of 1938, it closed.

All that remains is the brick kitchen wing; the rest was razed, and the dining wing was moved by barge to a house in Westhampton Beach.

Street in Quogue, ca. 1875
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Located on the west end of Boarding House Row, the Hallock House, at right, on Quogue Street, was built in 1824 as a farmhouse, but soon began taking in boarders arriving by stagecoach, which stopped across the street. In 1835, Quogue was the second overnight stop on the three-day stagecoach run from Brooklyn to East Hampton.

The building was enlarged in 1871 by John Dayton Hallock to accommodate 45 summer guests arriving by rail. The house changed hands throughout the 20th century. In 2012, it underwent extensive renovations and is now operated as it the Quogue Club at Hallock House.

At left is the Jessup Pierson House, and far left is the Presbyterian Chapel.

More detail: the Jessup Pierson House stood on the southwest corner of Quogue Street and Jessup Lane. The rear portion was built by Egbert Jessup in 1842 and enlarged and remodeled to board summer guests in the 1880s. Mrs. Florence Pierson, born a Jessup, ran the boarding house until the early 20th century. Now a private residence, it is said that many of the bedrooms still have the old boarding house room numbers on the doors.

At left is the Presbyterian Chapel on the corner of Beach Lane.

Beach at Quogue, Long Island, ca. 1875
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

Ocean bathing became all the rage during the boarding house era of the late 19th century. Coaches and carriages transported boarding house guests down Quogue Road (now Beach Lane) to Hallock’s Beach, seen here.

Wooden cabanas, left, were set up as changing stations, and an arbor, right, was built to provide shade. Hallock’s Beach later became the Quogue Bathing Station and, today, the Surf Club.

A close-up detail of the beach arbor at Hallock’s Beach.

Detail of the Hallock’s Beach cabanas, with horse-drawn carriages unloading beachgoers.

From the Beach, Quogue, Long Island, ca. 1875
Courtesy Brooklyn Museum

This photograph, taken from the beach looking north, shows a rare view of all the residences and boarding houses along Quogue Street in the 1870s. In the foreground are a barn and Ogden’s Pond, just east of Beach Lane.

Remarkably, eight of the fifteen buildings (italicized on following pages, west to east along Quogue Street) survive today.

From the beach, looking northwest over Ogden’s Pond to Quogue Street.

From the beach, looking north over Ogden’s Pond to Quogue Street.

From the beach, looking east to Quogue Street.