When the Massac County Historical Society received the photo a few years ago, the only thing members knew was that it was of Brookport.
While they couldn’t pinpoint the year, residents Ann Douglas and Cheryl Hoyer did help fill in several other blanks.
The photo is taken from East Fourth Street and looks west, just east of Fourth’s intersection with George Street.
On the corner of Fourth and George, at the photo’s left hand side, was the Church of Christ. The Church of God bought the building around 1965, and the Church of Christ constructed a new building on the corner of West Third and Crockett streets. In the years since, Third and Crockett Street the Church of Christ has closed, and the Church of God is in a new metal building on Highway 45 outside of Brookport.
On the right side of the photo, the first fully visible building is labelled E.S. Kerr. Its awning refers to shoes. In the late 1970s, the building became Bill Morrow’s Novelty Shop. It has since been torn down.
The name for the first building on the right side of the photo isn’t visible, but the gas pump area says Red Crown Gasoline. The pumps were removed at some point. Later on, the late Pat Souders first opened Pat’s Market here before building his grocery store on Second Street. Currently, the former gas station building is a house.
Douglas noted the houses on the left hand side of the photo, past the church building, are still there, while the ones on the right are gone.
Go another block west, and there is Fourth Street’s intersection with Ohio Street, or Highway 45, which divides Brookport’s streets into west and east and leads to Metropolis. A block further is West Fourth Street’s the intersection with Ferry Street, which, since 2003 is the location of Brookport Elementary School.
Farther down the unpaved Fourth Street, in the photo’s left side, was the location of Brookport High School, which was between Ferry and Crockett streets on the south side of West Fourth Street. The BHS gym, now called the Harry Statham Gymnasium, is all that remains from that era.
Douglas also explained that in the Brookport’s early days, numbered streets actually had names; for example, Third Street was called Catherine Street. The name of the main road, Ohio Street, or Highway 45, changed when the bridge was built in the late 1920s..
As for the year? A car is barely visible at the very end of East Fourth Street, located where Brookport Elementary now is. The car looks like a Model T, which could place the photo from the 1910s to 1940s.
Douglas noted that Abby Deegan McMahan wrote an article for the 1955 bicentennial about the history of Brookport. Remembering from her childhood, McMahan mentions that 1907 “was time for rejoicing, Brooklyn now had its own public water system” The original water tower was dedicated in 1906. McMahan writes on that “in 1909, we began hoping for electricity.” Electricity was in the city by 1913 and “then we put away our coal oil lamps, replacing them with bright lights, which indeed gave us a citified air,” McMahan wrote.
Brookport was founded by Charles Pell in 1855, and originally named “Pellonia” after him. It declined within a few years after its founding, but saw a resurgence in the late 1880s with the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad nearby. It was reincorporated as “Brooklyn” in 1888. The name was changed to “Brookport,” a word blending of “Brooklyn” and “port,” in 1901.