William Howard (1725-1777) owned the Rising Sun Tavern, also known as the Howard Halfway House because of its location between Brooklyn Village and the town of Jamaica at the intersection of the Bedford and Jamaica Turnpikes (now the corner of Broadway and Jamaica Avenue). The tavern lodged travelers, served as a gathering place, and sold basic supplies to the area farmers. Its design was unusual – the Rising Sun had two bars, segregated so its Dutch patrons would not have to endure the perceived indignity of drinking with their slaves.
In August 1776, British General William Howe (1729-1814) advanced on American troops, culminating in the Battle of Brooklyn. During the middle of the night he stopped at the Rising Sun Tavern and took Howard and his family prisoner. Howard supported American independence and tried to refuse aiding the general. Howe threatened to have Howard shot in the head if he did not comply, so Howard and his fourteen year-old son, also named William (1762-1854), led the British along the Rockaway Path (which ran through what is now the Evergreen Cemetery). They were able to avoid Jamaica Pass, which they thought was heavily defended by American troops. There were, however, only five American soldiers at Jamaica Pass. They were supposed to fall back and raise the alarm at the approach of British troops. By circumventing the pass with Howard’s help, the English took the lookout by surprise and easily captured its few guards. The British then attacked the American troops from behind their fortified position, nearly destroying it in its first military defeat. General George Washington barely escaped from New York with his troops.
The Howard family remained prominent in the area after the end of the Revolutionary War. A descendant of William Howard, Phillip Howard Reid, opened a flour and feed store at Atlantic and Alabama Avenues in 1857. When the porch became a depot for trains to Rockaway Beach on the Long Island and Canarsie Steam Railroads, people began using it as a gathering place, and Reid quickly recognized that it had the potential to make him more money as a hotel. So, like his ancestor, he opened his own Howard House.
In 1839, Howard Avenue between Broadway and Eastern Parkway Extension was laid out on the map of the City of Brooklyn. The Howard Malls are green spaces that run down the center of the street between Blake and Dumont Avenues. Because they do not connect to Eastern Parkway Extension and Kings Highway, they are not fully integrated with the Brooklyn parkway system that evolved from the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), who designed the Eastern and Ocean Parkways. Nevertheless, the malls complement the parkways and create a pleasantly calm and scenic streetscape lined with attractive two-story homes.