Memory Lane: Abels & Gold Realty Co.
It is a grand structure, built with detail and in a distinct style, the way homes used to be built. 1281 39th street, at the corner of 39th street and 13th Avenue, still stands there today, and has stood silently overlooking the area as it has changed so drastically.
It was erected in the year 1931 in a beautiful Beux Arts style—heavy on detail around the windows and with a heavy cornice overhanging the roof edge. Mr. Yisroel Kadisnky, a professor at Touro College and contributor to urban history website Forgotten New York, and author of the recent release “Hidden Water of New York, observes:
“The horizontal brick lines and cornices at 1281 39th Street appear to be inspired by Renaissance revival designs, which were part of the beaux arts style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The tendency to decorate a building includes the swirls on the fire escape banister, keystones above the third floor windows, and the turret windows on the corner that gives the building a rounded corner.”
The edifice stands, imposing, above a bustling business and shopping center… and yet, the memory of its builders—who developed a respectable portion of Boro Park and its surrounding neighborhoods—hearken back to a time when this very stretch was filled with jostling pushcarts, and its air permeated with the scent of garlic, curing pickles, and freshly slaughtered chickens.
It was a time when builders took pride in their workmanship and their craftsmanship—which may be why, although it may have been overlooked throughout the many years that it was inscribed high atop the building, it features a very interesting inscription: THE ABELS & GOLD BUILDING.
So who were Abels and Gold?
The Real Estate Record and Guide, in a March 1905 (111 years ago) edition write about the growth of the Brooklyn Real Estate market, in a piece entitled “Brooklyn’s Outlook for Building.” It gives a view of the development that was taking place at the time. “C.S. Conkling, representing a Manhattan company, has purchased six hundred lots north of Borough Park between 41st sts and 44th sts, and 13th and 16th avs, for building purposes. The Abels-Gold Building Co. has brought seventy eights lots on 6th av, between 52nd and 55th sts, and it said that dwellings will be erected…”
A further search of the archives reveals the publication Real Estate, published by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, from the year 1907 and an article entitled A Real Estate Story.
“When people buy real estate lots, homes, stores and flats or apartments, they look around before putting up money. No one wants to get the worst of it, and they won’t if they can help it—and there is just one way to make sure. Look around first. Don’t take anyone’s word, but know for yourself.
That is the secret, in a nutshell, of the unparalleled success of Abels Gold Realty Company. And if you spend but a moment to read this story—it’s like a fairy tale, but every word of it is history—you will find out how, on a capital of $1,700, a business exceeding $3,500,000 was transacted in the short space of two years…
“Louis Gold, prior to 1904, was a Manhattan insurance man. He lived across the East River and heard of the great opportunities in Brooklyn real estate…. He had a good friend in Pittsburgh, Simon Abels, a clothing merchant and capitalist. He sent for him and told him of some plans he had made. The ides interested Mr. Abels, and the Abels Gold Realty Company was started with humbled offices on fifty-First Street.
Some of Mr. Gold’s purchases had shown the way things were going to go in South Brooklyn, and Bay Ridge, and the new company began there. During 1904 they bought over 1,000 lots, on which they erected three and four –story tenements. They sold so quickly that they were astonished. Early in 1905 they took the money that they had made the year before and brought Fifth Avenue lot, from Thirty Sixth street to Fifty Third Street (this remains today a bustling business promenade, and this anecdote lines up with the information in the previous article, stating that these men would be developing this area).
It goes on to relate their success that had spread to Borough Park and Bay Ridge, and how they literally could not keep up with the demand.
Looking at the development of Boro Park today, it seems that builders can’t either keep up with the demand—only this development is happening on property, and in levels that we didn’t even know existed.
For now, the words Abels & Gold will continue to serve as a reminder of a simpler time in Boro Park of old.