Brooklyn's unofficial museum: Reggie Bridges’s house

March 29, 2017

Dr. Tim Gilmore of visits the house of Reggie Bridges. A residence that is arguably the unofficial museum of gentrifying Brooklyn's forgotten history.

Brooklyn: Reggie Bridges’s House / WATG Radio / Unofficial Brooklyn Museum

For half a century, Reginald Bridges’s 544 square foot shotgun house has hummed with the magnetic density of Brooklyn’s long life. Most larger houses have lived far less.  For half a century, Reggie’s called this house home. After Hurricane Dora tossed the roof off his childhood home at 119 Chelsea Street in 1964, the Bridges family moved around the corner to 1107 Jackson.

It was here that Reggie and his little brother Harold started Brooklyn’s own radio station, WATG, We Are the Greatest, in 1968. It was here that Reggie started archiving photographs and flyers and newspaper articles and bus schedules and obituaries and anything else that related to Brooklyn in the 1960s. It was here that his little brother died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in his old car out front in 1978. It’s here that Reggie lived alone with his diabetic father, taking care of him the last years of his life. It’s here his father died in 1999. It’s here that Reggie oversees a kind of unofficial museum of neighborhood history, built of his lifelong collection.

He points to a blurred image of a woman in uniform, wearing a long skirt, a hat, and a tie. One shoulder arches higher than the other. She doesn’t smile.

“Now that’s Miss Josephine Statums,” he says and hammers an index finger at her image affixed to a large folded posterboard. “She was our patrol lady when I was going to school,” he says.

Josephine Statums

A handwritten caption beside her photo says, “Kids from Brooklyn went to Forest Park Elementary School during this time! Josephine Statums Brooklyn’s School Patrol Lady on the corner of Forest Street and Myrtle Avenue across from Setzer’s Grocery Store.”

Reggie stands up straight and smiles wide, sweating, occasionally wracked by a hacking cough. “I saw her just last week,” he says, excited. She’s 92 years old, Reggie is 61, and though they hadn’t seen each other in years, she recognized him instantly.

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