Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Little Taste Of History (36)

Topic: First Mayor of Brooklyn


The first Mayor of Brooklyn. He was born in New York, of Irish parents, September 21, 1795, and when he was yet an infant his father purchased a small farm at Flatbush. After receiving a good English education George learned his father's trade, that of painter and glazier, which he followed for some years. When a young man he was noted for his convivial habits, and was often heard to sing the praises of "Cruiskeen Lawn," but in after years and up to the time of his death he was more extensively known as a rigid temperance man. The first office held by him was that of one of the trustees of the village of Brooklyn in 1826. While in that position he was so strong in his "efforts to exclude hogs from the streets, and to shut up the shops of unlicensed liquor dealers," that he aroused considerable opposition to himself, and when, in 1833, he was a candidate for President of the village, he had a narrow escape from defeat. The following year he was elected Mayor of the city, and served one year, discharging the duties of his office faithfully and conscientiously. In 1844 he was a temperance candidate for Mayor, and in the following year the Whig nominee for the same office, but was defeated both times. When the Know Nothing party was formed, Mr. Hall joined it, and in 1854, on the occasion of the first election for Mayor after the consolidation of Williamsburgh with Brooklyn, was its candidate for that office. His opponent was Martin Kalbfleisch, who, being of Dutch birth, was strongly opposed by the Know Nothings. As an offset to this opposition, a rumor was started to the effect that Mr. Hall himself was born in Ireland, but he proved that he was born in New York, shortly after his parents came to this country. He was elected for two years, and thus became the first Mayor after consolidation, as he had been the first after the incorporation of the city. During his term of office the cholera prevailed here to such an extent as to cause a panic, but Mayor Hall, by prompt measures, did much to prevent the spread of the disease and allay the fears of the people. He went right into the thickest of the scourge, caused the prompt removal of victims, had the houses cleaned out, and took other measures to suppress the disease, in which he was successful; but he was attacked by the disease and only saved himself by resisting it to the utmost, fairly "fighting it off." For his noble efforts in behalf of the people he was presented by his fellow citizens with the house No. 37 Livingston street, in which he afterward lived and died. Mr. Hall last ran for office as the Republican candidate for Register, in 1861, but was defeated. He was for several years President of the Fireman's Trust Insurance Company, which position secured him a moderate competency. His death took place April 16, 1868, and his funeral was one of the largest that has ever taken place in this city. Mr. Hall was strong in will, firm in opinion and generous in nature. There are two portraits of him among the Mayors of Brooklyn. The first one represents him when Mayor in 1834, and shows a man about forty years of age, with dark brown hair, rounded head with good forehead, full, but not fat face, small side whiskers, kindly eyes and firm mouth. The second picture was taken twenty years later, when he was again Mayor, and is, in the general outline, the same as the first; but age has whitened the hair, wrinkled the face and made even firmer the firm mouth. It represents him as he is remembered by many people who saw him on the streets five or six years ago.

The notable events during Mayor Hall's first term were, a financial panic; the introduction of omnibuses; a proposition, which was decided to be feasible, to furnish the city "with water from the springs at the Wallabout, at a cost of $100,000, including reservoirs, pumping engine, and eleven miles of pipe;" the decision, at a public meeting, to purchase the present site of the City Hall at $50,000, and the permission to the Jamaica Railroad Company to use Atlantic avenue for railroad purposes. (21)

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