After all the hoohah over the last surviving remnant of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ home before Ebbets Field, it turns out that the wall in question isn’t actually so much a Dodgers wall after all. “I can say with absolute certainty that this wall was not part of Washington Park prior to the Brooklyn team’s departure [in 1912],” historian and Brooklynpix proprietor Brian Merlis declares in today Daily News. “It’s still an historic wall, but there’s no evidence … that it’s the original wall.”
This will come as no surprise to readers of the BrooklynBallparks.com site (run by my Field of Schemes colleague David Dyte), which for years now has been quietly laying out evidence that the windowed brick wall running along Third Avenue between 1st and 3rd Streets in Gowanus was built in 1914, after the Dodgers’ departure, when Washington Park was reconstructed to play host to the Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League. (The Feds, an upstart “third major league” that folded after two seasons, are best remembered today for having built Chicago’s Weeghman Park, which later got renamed for some chewing gum magnate.) Photos on the site show a wooden wall along Third Avenue during the days of the Dodgers (nee Trolley Dodgers, for the ubiquitous streetcars fans had to duck when crossing Fourth Avenue), and then no wall at all in construction photos taken in early 1914.
In an exclusive interview with Runnin’ Scared (hey, if the Post can do it, so can we), Dyte explains the chronology:
“At the end of 1912, the park was completely demolished to avoid giving a stadium to any potential competitors when the Dodgers moved to Ebbets Field. The Tip-Tops arrived in 1914, and built a brand new stadium in brick, concrete, and steel, modeled after Weeghman Park. After the Federal League folded, this stadium remained in use for high school sports, boxing, and assorted novelty events through the end of 1917. It was then converted to storage space to help with the war effort, and was ultimately demolished in 1926 by Consolidated Edison. The remaining wall is from that 1914 construction.”
Like Merlis, Dyte is quick to add that the wall is still of great historic value, as the only link to big-league baseball in Brooklyn, even if it’s not Marty Mark‘s beloved Bums. The Tip-Tops stadium, he notes, could rightly be considered “Brooklyn’s Wrigley Field,” as it was modeled on the then-new Fed League park in Chicago after consultation with Wrigley architect Zachary Taylor Davis.
The wall is in the news again this week because, after many fits and starts, Con Ed, which owns the Washington Park site, has erected scaffolding and is set to begin demolition of the post-Tip-Tops building that is now attached to the old stadium wall. Con Ed has promised, though, that it will preserve what it cannily calls the “baseball wall” — you know a public utility isn’t going to want to risk alienating either side in any lingering feuds between Dodger rooters and Tip-Top backers.