My second visitto the Brooklyn Historical Society was defiantly better than the first, I don’t infer the first was bad, but my classmates and I learn much more about the organization rather than what documents alone are. The second encounter with the society began when we headed outside in an attempt to learn about the exterior of the building. The librarians told us the faces which stuck out of the building are of famous people, some of which are William Shakespeare, Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin to name a few. Immediately after I heard this I asked (somewhere along the lines of) “If the BHS houses the history of Brooklyn, then why does it have the faces of people who have nothing to do with actual history of the borough.” Julie, one of the two librarians, said originally the BHS didn’t only keep documentations of Brooklyn, and it was only till later in its history that the organization focused on the borough alone. What followed was a discussion on the architecture of the building, specifically the details of the façade, which had to do with the way wealth was demonstrated through these elegant details.
Finally once we had arrived in the great reading room the librarians educated us about the Brooklyn Fire of December 5, 1876. As the librarians spoke I realized the relation between the English course and architecture. The Brooklyn fire was probably a major contributor to the establishment of building codes for the structural dimensions of the building was what made it difficult for people to exit, which in turn resulted in more casualties. After the brief introduction of the tragic event that claimed the lives of approximately 300 people, three groups were formed to further analyze specific areas of the actual day of the event and some of the results that followed. The group I was a part of looked over case files, which consisted letters, accounts, and expenses. Specifically my group within a group studied the bills. The bills were funeral expenses such as coffins, cemetery transportation, etc. We
noted these expenses ranged from forty to one-hundred and fifty dollars, and later learned from the second half of the group that most individuals earned some twenty dollars a week, which meant these bills, made up some two months’ worth of earnings at the times. The group and I also realized some bills were not always sent out to family members of the victims, but to the city government, and even a few wealthy people helped pay a portion.