These malls and the nearby avenue honor William Howard (1725-1777). Howard was the owner of the Revolutionary War-era Rising Sun Tavern, at the intersection of Bedford and Jamaica Turnpikes (now the corner of Broadway and Jamaica Avenue). Also known as the Howard Halfway House, because of its location between Brooklyn Village and the Town of Jamaica, the tavern lodged travelers, served as a gathering place, and sold basic supplies to area farmers. Its design was unusual for America in that it had two bars: one for the tavern’s Dutch patrons and another for their slaves.
In August 1776, British General William Howe (1729-1814) and his army advanced on Colonial troops in what became the Battle of Brooklyn. Legend has it that late one night, Howe stopped at the Rising Sun Tavern and took Howard and his family prisoner. Howard supported American independence and tried to resist the General, but Howe threatened to have him shot if he did not comply with his demands.
Fearing for their lives, Howard and his 14-year-old son William (1762-1854) led the British along the Rockaway Path (through what is now the Evergreen Cemetery) to Jamaica. Believing that Jamaica Pass was heavily defended by American troops, Howard, William, and Howe went around it. However, when they arrived at the end of the Rockaway Path, they found only five Colonial soldiers guarding the pass. The British took the guards by surprise and easily captured them.
This story is one version of the beginning of the infamous Battle of Brooklyn, a rout that ended only when General George Washington (1732-1799) took advantage of British hesitancy in a nighttime retreat to Manhattan. This bold move salvaged the army but couldn’t save New York, which was entirely occupied by the British a few weeks later.
The Howard family remained prominent in the area after the Revolutionary War (1776-1783). William Howard’s descendant Phillip Howard Reid opened a flour and feed store at Atlantic and Alabama Avenues in 1857. When the store’s 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. Reid realized that his establishment had more potential as a hotel than as a store, and he opened his own Howard House.
In 1839, Howard Avenue was laid out between Broadway and the Eastern Parkway Extension 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 the Eastern Parkway Extension and Kings Highway, they are not fully integrated into the Brooklyn parkway system that evolved from the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), who designed Eastern and Ocean Parkways. Nevertheless, the malls complement the parkways, which are lined with attractive two-story homes and provide a calm, scenic streetscape.