The site of the former home of Smart Set Athletic Club founding father Edwin F. Horne, grandfather of Lena Horne, is now a playground in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn.
It’s only fitting that the former site of Smart Set Athletic Club founding father Edwin F. Horne’s house is now a playground.
Horne, who lived at 189 Chauncey Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, was an officer of the club, whose members were socially elite African Americans.
Where he lived is now Jackie Robinson Playground, adjacent to P.S. 21 Crispus Attucks Elementary School.
Horne’s son, Edwin F. Horne, Jr., known as “Teddy”, played for the Smart Set’s basketball team.
He later married Edna Scottron, and they had a daughter, Lena. (Yes, that Lena.)
To Teddy Horne, Edna Scottron was an “around the way girl.” That’s because she lived at 467 Monroe Street, a few blocks away. Her old house is now Israel Putnam Playground, adjacent to P.S. 44 Marcus Garvey Elementary School.
Basketball aficionados will know that Israel Putnam is a.k.a. Soul In The Hole, home of Brooklyn’s oldest “streetball” tournament.
Edna’s grandfather, who lived up the street from her at 598 Monroe, was famous inventor Samuel R. Scottron. Among other items, he patented the common curtain rod and was one of Brooklyn’s wealthiest African Americans.
Speaking of rich black folks, here’s what the New York Times had to say about Brooklyn’s “wealthy Negro citizens” back at the turn of the last century:
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’s cousin, Charlie Scottron, who shared the same house, also played for the Smart Set Athletic Club’s basketball team and was its captain.
Other members of the Smart Set included Ferdinand Accooe (297 Bridge Street, now in the MetroTech Center), Harry Brown (382 Essex, now Jesse Owens Playground), Chester Moore (489 Gates, now Louis Armstrong Houses), George Trice (1602 Dean, now part of Albany Gardens), and Charles Hammond (156 Berkeley Place, over in Park Slope).
The team was managed by George Lattimore (710 Hancock) and promoted by J. Hoffman Woods (257 MacDonough).
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, except for themselves, were occupied entirely by white people. 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 Bed-Stuy, go on and remember the movie Do The Right Thing. But also do the right thing and remember the Smart Set Athletic Club, the pioneers who helped pave the way for “tha shoes,” Soul In The Hole, and the game of basketball we know and love today.
In other words, go ahead, make history now!