“Spellbinders, Large & Small, Once held sway in Historic Hall”
With the presidential campaign just around the corner, attention of old-timers turns to Prospect Hall, a South Brooklyn landmark for nearly 40 years in which many a Presidential candidate and candidates for lesser office have held their audiences spellbound.
Many persons who recall the night in an early part of the century when William Jennings Bryan addressed an enthusiastic crowd there—a crowd so large that the policemen were stationed a close intervals throughout the aisles. Governor Hughes, now Chief Justice Hughes of the Supreme Court also has spoken in the hall and long before the South Pole was discovered the famous explorer Roald Amundsen lectured there. Senator Patrick McCarren, a power in Brooklyn politics in the early 1900s has held his audiences in his grasp in that hall and there have been numerous other spellbinders who have held forth from the rostrum in that historic place.
It was way back in 1880 that 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 completed, 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.
The present building is a fireproof structure. It was completed in 1902.