Even though it was out of town on the Jamaica Plank Road at the edge of the Kings County line, Snedeker’s was very much a Brooklyn institution in the mid-nineteenth century, especially in winter. To the young and young-at-heart in the city, a snowfall was synonymous with Snedeker’s, as nags and ropes and bells and harness were hauled out and hitched for the perfect eight-mile sleigh-ride. “John I’s,” as it was known, could be counted on for huge hickory hearth fires, steaming punch in deep tankards, and bountiful meals that were much admired for their culinary achievements.But it was the full-sized second-floor ballroom that distinguished Snedeker’s from any would-be rivals in the region, where for many seasons Granger’s Brooklyn Brass Band would serenade the dancers and merry-makers (see Whitman’s Band on this site).
Snedeker’s stood on the north side of Jamaica Avenue opposite Eldert’s Lane, and was better known to those outside of Brooklyn for its proximity to the popular Union Course, a nationally famous racetrack situated in the area now bounded by 78th Street, 82nd Street, Jamaica Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Woodhaven, Queens. The Union Course was the site of the first skinned, or dirt, racing surface, a curious novelty at the time. Match races between horses from the South against those from the North drew crowds as high as 70,000. Several hotels, including Snedeker’s and the Forschback Inn were built in the area to accommodate the racing crowds.
The property had been acquired by John Snedeker, Sr. in 1812; John I. retired from the hotel business In 1853 and the establishment thereafter became known as Briggs’ Hotel. The building and 20 acres were then sold to a John A. Cross in March, 1861. In 1869 the City of Brooklyn acquired the hotel and 10 acres, where a truant school was erected and the original building was eventually torn down.
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