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Back to the future at Canarsie Fair

Don’t tell Canarsie historian Ramon Martinez there’s no such thing as time travel.

At a July 26 history fair at the American Legion on the corner of Conklin Avenue and East 92nd Street, Martinez plans to take those in attendance on a guided tour of the neighborhood’s rich past.

Aside from a local history lesson — complete with documents, photographs and artifacts tracing some 400 years of history in the neighborhood — the event will also serve as the book launch for Martinez’s “Canarsie: the Real History Behind Brooklyn and New York.”

Martinez, the founder of the Canarsie History Museum, moved to the neighborhood over 10 years ago, and was struck by its unique topography and important history. “At first I began researching the Native American aspect, and that evolved into learning more about the Canarsee Indians, who didn’t just own this tiny part of Brooklyn,” he said, noting the that the tribe owned much of the borough and beyond. The tribe’s presence in the area dates back to 1524, he said. By the 1800s the last of the tribe died out. To understand the Canarsee, he said, is to understand New York.

His research has led him to believe that Canarsie may have been one of the borough’s first resort towns, particularly since the neighborhood once was home to 48 hotels, mostly on Avenue L, toward the shore. “In the 1860s, Canarsie only had a population of 3,000 but the steam trains were bringing in 30,000 people annually,” he noted.

The museum, chartered in 2002 by the state Department of Education, is waiting to move into its permanent home,a building adjacent to the American Legion, which requires extensive renovation.

Martinez said he endeavors to raise money to help expedite the renovations. Meanwhile, his traveling museum continues to offer fairs, lectures and walking tours, kindling imaginations across the borough.

The history fair will be held Sunday, July 26 at the American Legion, corner of Conklin Avenue and East 92nd Street, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, and refreshments will be available. For more information, e-mail canarsiemuseum@aol.com, or call 718-649-5083.

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