It’s only fitting that the former site of the home of Edwin F. Horne, one of the founders of the Smart Set Athletic Club, which was dedicated to community building and racial uplift through sports and physical activity, is now Jackie Robinson Playground, adjacent to P.S. 21 Crispus Attucks Elementary School. Such black history karma is actually more common than you might expect, especially in Brooklyn.
Horne lived at 189 Chauncey Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and was an officer of the club, many of whose members were educated professionals who by virtue of their positions and backgrounds were among New York City’s African American social elite.
Let’s keep going where the karma leads us. Horne’s son Edwin F. “Teddy” Horne, Jr. played for the Smart Set Athletic Club’s basketball teams during the early 1910s. Not long after his hoops career ended, Teddy married a local girl named Edna Scottron.
Even though Edna was also a member of that Smart Set social circle, to Teddy she was literally an “around the way girl.” That’s because she lived at 467 Monroe Street, a few blocks away. The site of her old home is now Israel Putnam Playground, adjacent to P.S. 44 Marcus Garvey Elementary School. Basketball aficionados will recognize that Israel Putnam is a.k.a. Soul In The Hole, home of Brooklyn’s oldest “streetball” tournament.
The new couple, Teddy and Edna, soon had a lovely daughter who they named Lena. Yes, that Lena.
Edna’s grandfather was the famous inventor Samuel R. Scottron. He lived just up the street from her at 598 Monroe. Among other items, he patented the common curtain rod.
Samuel parlayed his patents into a lucrative manufacturing business and was not only one of Brooklyn’s wealthiest African Americans but also was a powerful community activist and a member of the borough’s board of education.
Speaking of rich black folks, here’s what the New York Times had to say about Brooklyn’s “wealthy Negro citizens” in the early 1900s:
It will be news to many white persons to learn that many negro men own and occupy brownstone dwellings in fashionable neighborhoods, employ white servants, and ride in their own carriages behind horses driven by liveried coachmen. Some not only own the houses they live in, but also houses tenanted by rich white families, and there are negro men in New York whose wealth is well along toward the million-dollar mark.
The Times continued:
Most of the wealthy negroes of this neighborhood live in Brooklyn. As soon as negro men amass a comfortable fortune they move from this city across the East River, because they can find in Brooklyn more economical and satisfactory investments.
Edna had had a distinct advantage in terms of meeting eligible bachelors because she lived in the same house with her cousin Charlie Scottron who was the captain of the Smart Set Athletic Club’s basketball team.
Other teammates also lived nearby and some share similar African American history karma. George and Arthur Trice lived at 386 Van Buren Street, a site that today overlooks Jesse Owens Playground.
Ferdinand Accooe lived at 297 Bridge Street, which today is the site of the MetroTech Center where the offices of the Brooklyn Nets are located. Chester Moore’s home was at 489 Gates on the corner of Marcy Avenue, which today is the site of the Louis Armstrong Houses.
The Smart Set Athletic Club’s basketball team was managed by George Lattimore, who lived at 710 Hancock Street, and it was promoted by J. Hoffman Woods, whose home was at 257 MacDonough Street, both in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
A couple of the guys lived more than a few blocks away from Bed-Stuy, however they were the exception. Charles Hammond’s home was at 156 Berkeley Place over in Park Slope. Harry Brown resided at 382 Essex Street in East New York a few blocks from Lester Trice, the older brother of George and Arthur and the Smart Set club’s assistant manager, who lived at 446 Cleveland Street.
As you’ve seen in my posts this week, the Smart Set Athletic Club and its members were basketball innovators.
- They formed the first formally organized and independent African American basketball team
- They won the first two Colored Basketball World’s Championships
- They staged indoor tennis-basketball doubleheaders
- They held multi-sport athletic carnivals
- They played in the first inter-city basketball game between two African American teams
- And more!
One other thing. These ladies and gentlemen lived on blocks in Bed-Stuy that were occupied almost entirely by whites. Which is to say that they were on the front lines of cultural exchange and diversity. (If you wanna put it that way.)
So, next time you’re in Brooklyn, go to its Bedford-Stuyvesant section and remember Spike Lee’s movie Do The Right Thing. But also actually do the right thing and make history now by remembering the Smart Set Athletic Club, the pioneers who helped pave the way for “tha shoes,” Soul In The Hole, and the game of basketball that we know and love today.