Title Fight: Louis Heineman vs. William Beard

By The Red Hook WaterStories team

“No man ever, perhaps, got so much the best of old Beard as did Louis Heineman, the housemover of the Twelfth ward.”

(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 19, 1891)

When Louis Heineman died in 1904, he was reportedly 104 years old, and likely the oldest man in Red Hook if not all of Brooklyn.

According to accounts written around the time of his death he came to Red Hook around 1820 from Germany and built a home, surround by stables and a storehouse, on a little sandbank, near what would become the foot of Columbia Street – but before it existed.

There he bred hunting dogs and shot wild ducks and wild geese in the marsh from the windows of his home.

To his east was a millpond. In 1852, he opened a tavern on his homestead, popularly known as “the Beach Tavern.”  Later he closed the tavern and became a house-mover (literally, a mover of buildings.)

The location of Heineman’s house was a thorn in William Beard’s side and his plans to build Erie Basin and surrounding warehouses.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 2, 1904, reported that Beard could not use legal means to get rid of Heineman and his house because Heineman had paid his taxes for a sufficient period of time to give him a title to the land.  Heineman was known to be friends with several judges and other influential people but according to the Eagle, Heineman claimed the main reason he bested Beard in court was that:

“There was a secret between me and Billy Beard”
I swore “I would let the cat out of the bag, and that either Beard or myself would go to state prison”
“I never told it to anyone and never will.”

Heineman eventually relocated to nearby plots of land provided by Beard, living out the rest of his long life at 580 Columbia Street. The location is now a New York City Park.

Late in his life, Louis Heineman reminisced about William Beard:

We used to fight.  I remember once setting the dogs at him, and I often threatened to shoot him when he used to be bothering me about the place.  He was a good fellow, though.  I once got a contract to move a lighthouse down at Sandy Hook but they would not let me go to work without $24,000 security.  I went to Billy and told him.  He never said a word but wrote a check for the money and gave it to me to deposit as security.

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