Dead Horse Bay

Dead Horse Bay Brooklynundefined

Abandoned Brooklyn/Dead Horse Bay
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
Written By Downtown Brooklyn Partnership

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Audio Commentary:

A haunting history

Dead Horse Bay is said to be haunted, perhaps by the ghosts of the many carriage horses condemned to death in glue factories located here in the late19th and early 20th centuries. From the 1850s until the1930s, Dead Horse Bay was home to more than 20 horse rendering plants, fish oil factories, and garbage incineration facilities. The putrefying stench that resulted was blamed for lowering home values even miles downwind. 

By the time cars overtook horses as the main mode of transportation in the 1930s, only one horse factory remained, and the site was converted to a dumping ground for trash. The resulting landfill quickly grew so mountainous that it was closed and capped. The cap failed in the 1950s, and the trash came tumbling down onto the beach and into the ocean, where much of it still stands.

one person's trash is another person's historic artifact

Today, the beach is haunted only by the remaining trash from our past. Glass bottles, vintage ceramics and toys, shoes and insoles, swaths of panty hose, and bits of horse bone can still be found at Dead Horse Bay. These cultural artifacts provide a glimpse into what life was like more than 75 years ago. But be warned: As part of the National Park system, it is illegal to remove anything from the site (though if the artists and collectors that regularly comb the beach to find treasures among the trash are any indication, this rule is largely unenforced).

London faced a similar problem along the River Thames, where trash pickers and treasure hunters scavenged for items that others considered to be pieces of history. They created an incentive for people to donate their findings to local cultural institutions once they were through with them. Someday that could be the solution for Dead Horse Bay.

Cover photo from EHB_2541 via Flickr

Abandoned Brooklyn

Dead Horse Bay

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