Society of Old Brooklynites celebrates 139th anniversary

The Society of Old Brooklynites gathered at the Bay Ridge Manor on Saturday, June 22 to celebrate the group’s 139th birthday. Members wore old-style clothing that might not have seemed out of place during Prohibition as they watched a group from Young Dancers in Repertory perform several complex numbers.

“The society celebrates all that’s unique and old in Brooklyn,” said incoming board member Christopher Wiecha. 

Because May 31 also happened to be society member Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday, the anniversary luncheon was dedicated to Whitman. On hand at the Bay Ridge Manor was Tom Wysmuller, board member of the Walt Whitman birthplace in Huntington Station, Long Island.

Members’ appreciation for styles associated with bygone eras wasn’t limited to dance. After performing “The Star Spangled Banner,” baritone Daniel Sutin, a soloist for the Metropolitan Opera, performed a number of songs, some from classic operas, others from Broadway shows. His voice, unaccompanied by instruments, filled the large room and mesmerized listeners.

After Sutin’s performance, it was time to swear in the new officers. On hand to perform the ceremony was former State Sen. Marty Golden. Incoming officers included President George Broadhead, Vice President Ted General, Second Vice President Michael Spinner, Treasurer Sherman Silverman and Secretary Ellen Haywood.

The principal speaker for the luncheon was urban archaeologist and President of Chrysalis Archaeological Consultants, Alyssa Loorya. In addition to her work excavating sites of historic interest, Loorya is also vice president of the Friends of the Lott House.

Located in Marine Park, the Hendrick I. Lott House has been long regarded as a time capsule into Brooklyn and New York from their earliest period. Expanded from a portion built in 1720 by Johannes Lott, the house as it appears today was constructed by his grandson, Hendrick Lott, in 1800.

Marred slightly by technical issues that prevented projecting images onto the far wall, Loorya’s account of the data found in a site like the Lott House held the room spellbound.

The Society of Old Brooklynites is one of Brooklyn’s oldest and most venerable organizations. George Broadhead is the 49th elected president. He joins notable past presidents such as John Ward Hunter, the society’s first president, and the city of Brooklyn’s 17th. In addition, former Brooklyn Mayor Samuel Booth was one of the society’s original incorporators.

The society and its members are active in commemorating Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Fleet Week and many other events that honor the nation’s veterans. Of particular importance is participation in the Prison Ship Martyrs Memorial service at Fort Greene Park, which society members have done since the organization was first incorporated.

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