Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I'm not sure what you call these things, but they sure look like ladders to me, but they come with pulley's so you can attach a clothes line from the ladder to the upper floors of the apartments in Brooklyn's old brownstones. I'm fascinated, for some reason , by these things, which dot hundreds of backyards and often pre-date most of the current residents. So, I posted a message on the Brooklyn board, a site for old timers to reflect on their days growing up in Brooklyn and asked: What's the origin of Laundry ladders? Now, a few responses:

"I don't know either. I remember them as a kid and several old pictures I have seen of Brooklyn also show them. They're old wooden ones were quite dangerous to climb. I remember one of the steps coming out in my hand. Then years later I climbed poles for BellSouth and I learned how dangerous they really were. I can even recall seeing a few that fell clothes and all."

And another….

"Hey George: We called it "The Ladder" or "The Ladder for the Line." That was it. I have no idea of when they were first installed, but some salesman must have made a bundle years ago, as every yard had one. I remember some yards having old wooden telephone-type poles to support the clotheslines --those must have been the originals. The "ladder" in our backyard (on Warren between Court and Smith) was an old rusty cast-iron-type job, probably dating to the late '30s (just speculation). Others had more weather-resistant aluminum-looking finishes. I think I remember seeing someone at the top of our ladder once. I think my father hired some teenaged kid from the neighborhood to climb up the thing and change out the pulleys. If I recall correctly, those ladders taper as they rise, so you'd barely have room for one foot per rung toward the top. As crazy as we were as kids, we'd jump on the ladder and go up a few rungs, but never attempt to climb to the top. We'd either get scared by the height, or someone would start screaming out the window: "GET DOWN, GET AWF DEAH!"

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