“Old Prospect Hall, Scene of Many A Historic Event”
Prospect Hall, known to practically every South Brooklyn and Bay Ridge resident through the balls, dances and rallies staged there by most of the local social and political organizations, is host to many memories of stirring political events and dazzling social affairs.
Echoes of the brave outbursts of applause that greeted the oratory of men like William Jennings Bryan, Charles E. Hughes and Roald Amundsen in bygone days must still ring through the great ballroom occasionally after the dancers of some local club or organization have deserted the hall which rears its proud four-story front on Prospect Avenue near Fifth Avenue.
Rousing political rallies have been held here. A great throng jammed the hall when Charles E. Hughes, then Governor of this State, made an address here. It was more than 25 years ago that William Jennings Bryan, “the Great Commoner,” crowded Prospect Hall to hear the silver-voiced orator make a political speech.
Patrick J. McCarren,, old warhorse of the turbulent politics of three decades ago, held a great rally here in the heyday of his leadership of Kings County Democracy. Many others, long since dead heard the applause of the crowd from the platform of Prospect Hall.
Henry Stimson, later Governor General Stimson of the Philippines Islands, headed the speakers at a great rally held here in behalf of his candidacy for the Governorship of the New York more than 20 years ago.
Prominent men who have since appeared at Prospect Hall included former governor Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Gaynor and Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, who spoke at a political rally here not many months before his death at a Texas flying field.
One of the greatest gatherings of Scandinavians ever held in Greater New York took place when Raoul Amundsen just returned from his expedition to the Northwest Passage, told of his exploration. That was more than 30 years ago, before the explorer, who lost his life in the Arctic, has made his famous discovery of the South Pole.
The present hall is not the first Prospect Hall built on that site. The original Prospect Hall, built in 1892, was burned in 1900 and the present structure was put up in 1902.
Early in 1880, a group of political and social leaders foremost in activities of a public nature felt the need of some large hall in South Brooklyn to accommodate their growing needs. They went to John A. Kolle, father of the present owner of Prospect Hall, and interested him in a project to build a large hall where social gatherings could be held with all the facilities then on hand. In 1890, Mr. Kolle bought the property on Prospect Avenue, then one of the most frequented streets in that section.
In 1891 ground was broken and on Thanksgiving Day 1892, the hall opened to the public with a reception and play. The building was then hardly complete but the Edison Electric Company succeeded in installing the first electric light system to be had in a Brooklyn hall.
The event of switching on the lights was witnessed by a very large crowd of people. The affairs held in that hall included banquets, weddings and theatrical performances.
But the life of the building was a short one. For on the night of Dec. 11, 1900, bristling with cold and snow, it was destroyed by a fire a few hours after an affair was held. So John Kolle?s dream, as he called it, was wiped out in one night.
Again the same group of societies and leaders called upon Kolle and asked him to rebuild his hall. Courage and forethought prompted him to accede to popular demand and he set out to build a new structure, the present one, now in the hands of his son, William Kolle