The Crescent Athletic Club

Brooklyn Athletic Club Grounds (I)

9th and 10th Streets, 9th Avenue (now Prospect Park West), 8th Avenue.

Also known as the Hill, the Athletic Grounds, Long Island Athletic Club Grounds around 1884, Adelphi Athletic Club Grounds around 1885, Crescent Athletic Club Grounds (I) from 1886 to 1889.

The Brooklyn Athletic Club built a clubhouse here in 1879 and engaged in track and field, lacrosse, and the old game of wicket at these grounds. Contests were often held in the moonlight. July 4, 1879, saw a special program of base ball, football, archery, croquet, cycling, and of course a full range of track events, lasting from 7 o'clock in the morning until 7 o'clock in the evening. On August 27, 1880, a grand match of wicket was held at the Athletic Grounds, between the best thirty of the Bristol Wicket Club and their counterparts from the Ansonia Wicket Club of Brooklyn. Bristol took the honors by a score of 162 to 127.

In 1881, the entire clubhouse was moved to 7th Street and 5th Avenue, although the grounds remained in place. On August 22, 1885, a benefit was held for William Fallon, trackmaster of the club:

Many prominent athletes took part in the different events, which were very exciting. Running, throwing the heavy hammer, a boy's race, and a ball match between the Vernon Social and All Exchange nines. The following gentlemen carried off the honors of the day: Messrs. Atkins, G.E. Crustable, Dennis Dunn, William Martin, E. Corbett, Edward E. Flynt, E.G. Coles, William Hill, F.W. Martin, Henry Ayres, A.W. Demenet. The base ball match was won by the Vernon Social.

The Adelphi and Long Island Athletic Clubs were at home here for a time, when the ground was said to have "an ample, flat ball field and a fine cinder track," but the most notable tenant was the Crescent Athletic Club. The Crescents began in 1884 as the Crescent Football Club, inspired by the Yale-Princeton game and formed by Messrs. Ford, Terry, and Lamarche. After an undefeated season at football, the club was reorganized in 1886 as the Crescent Athletic Club, with Walter Camp as president. The Crescents hired the Brooklyn Athletic Club Grounds, and won the local football championship, scoring 98 goals and conceding none against such opponents as the Brooklyn Athletic Club and the Brooklyn Hill team. In 1887, as part of the new American Foot Ball Union, the Crescents again won out, scoring 140 goals to none during the season.

During this time the Crescent Club also began to partake in other sports, such as lawn tennis on ice, and track and field, sometimes here and sometimes at Washington Park. In 1887, the club extended the grounds and added clay tennis courts. The football team continued undefeated in local play, losing only in exhibitions against Yale and Princeton. By 1889, the Crescents had become so successful and popular that new grounds were needed.

1888 Sanborn map of the first home of the Crescent A.C.

Crescent Athletic Club Grounds (II)

Bay Shore Road, 1st Avenue, 83rd and 85th Streets.

The amateur Crescent Athletic Club, with a membership over 300 and now seeing itself as the "future model athletic club of Brooklyn," merged with the Nereid Rowing Club in 1889. The combined club acquired an elaborate boat house at Bay Ridge, paying the Van Brunt and Bergen estates $51,500 for the expansive property adjacent to the shore, stretching back to 2nd Avenue between 83rd and 85th Streets. Soon the Crescent Club would compete in sailing, rowing, tennis, track, lacrosse, baseball, football, rugby, cricket, golf, hockey, shooting, basketball, and other sports.

1891 - the Van Brunt home becomes a lavish clubhouse

The grounds were enlarged and improved in stages through the 1890s. The old Van Brunt homestead, greatly modified, served as a clubhouse. In 1897, a nine hole golf course was added, and in 1898 this was expanded to eighteen holes. The Crescents, wealthy sports lovers with money to spend, had created arguably the most beautiful playing fields ever seen in Brooklyn.

In the early 1900s, a superb clubhouse designed by Frank Freeman for social events and indoor sports, such as billiards and bowling, was built at Clinton and Pierrepont Streets in Brooklyn Heights. This building survives today as St. Ann's School.

Crescent Grounds, 1898, with golf course

The golf course, which was on land leased by the club, would last until 1919, when the Van Brunt Estate gave in to constant pressure to free more land for housing, and began to sell that area to developers. The main grounds, with facilities for tennis, lacrosse, and baseball, and of course the boat house, were owned by the Crescent Club and survived the sale.

On June 7, 1890, The Crescent nine hosted the Englewood Field Club, a regular rival. The game was scoreless through five innings, then more desperate play saw the lead swing back and forth until the Crescents tied it, 3 to 3 after nine innings. The tense battle continued without further score until the thirteenth inning, when Englewood left fielder Van Orden muffed a "sky scraper" from his opposite number C. Halsted, and the Crescents escaped with a 4-3 win.

Lacrosse in 1900, baseball in 1913

Among many other achievements, the Crescents dominated the inaugural season of the Intercity Amateur Baseball League in 1900, winning the pennant easily. On May 30, 1929, after the New Mooners had waited four decades for a no hitter at their grounds, Lee Schaenen beat the Dongan Knights of Columbus, 11 to 0, giving up no hits and no walks while striking out ten. Only an error by shortstop Notine prevented a perfect game. First baseman Joe Brascher smacked a three run homer in the sixth inning.

A long view of the Crescent Grounds during the club tennis tournament, 1910

Views of the Crescent A.C. Grounds
Overhead photo taken from NYCityMap

The Crescents merged with the local Hamilton Club and moved to an even larger home - over 500 acres - in Huntington, Long Island in 1931. This put a considerable financial strain on the club, and the Bay Ridge ground was sold off in 1936. The final piece was transformed in 1940 and 1941 when Fort Hamilton High was built, and the remaining athletic space within the school grounds was renovated again in 2001, with an artificial playing surface. The grounds remain today as Fort Hamilton High Athletic Field, serving Fort Hamilton High School's track, football, baseball, and softball teams, as well as being open for public use.

Fort Hamilton High beat James Madison High, 1 to 0, on April 28, 2009. The teams scraped out just two hits apiece, while there were 18 strikeouts. Charles Salino took the win for Fort Hamilton, and Edward Lenahan was the unlucky loser. The Tigers went on to a 12-4 record for the season.

Fort Hamilton High's athletic grounds - under construction
in 1940, and from overhead in 1996 and 2006
Construction photograph courtesy Brooklyn Public Library—Brooklyn Collection
Overhead photos taken from Google Maps and NYCityMap

Fort Hamilton High Athletic Field in 2009 is brought to you by
Andrew Ross (
and David Dyte (
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