Greenpoint Gazette

Exhibit to Showcase the Secret Wartime History of a Forgotten Williamsburg Park


It’s located across from some of the trendiest spots in Williamsburg like St. Anselm, Momofuku Milk Bar, Fette Sau, and Saltie’s and people can often be found hanging out, chatting, or eating in the space, but very few in the neighborhood know about it’s history.

Ascenzi Square is a tiny, and despite its name, triangular park located at the intersections of North 4th Street, Roebling Street, and Metropolitan Avenue.

Now, North Brooklynites will get a chance to learn about its rich history at an exhibit set to go up at the City Reliquary Musuem, just a couple of blocks away on Metropolitan Avenue.

Ascenzi Square: Sons of Williamsburgh, The Family History of a Neighborhood Landmark will open at the Reliquary September 10 with an opening reception on September 13.

The square is dedicated to four brothers who were born and brought up in Williamsburg and fought for the country in WWI. Only two of the brothers returned from battle – one died in France and another in Mexico.

One of the survivors was Charles Ascenzi, the youngest of the four brothers who falsified his age (He was 17 years old at the time he was enlisted) to fight, according to Marion Ascenzi Duckworth Smith, his daughter, and the curator of the exhibit.

Smith has loaned several old photographs of her uncles and the rest of the family, as well as many other artifacts like the Western Union telegram that announced the death of one of the brothers.

Like most people, Smith wasn’t aware of the details of her family history beyond her immediate relatives, but working on this project made her uncover photographs, and memories of her family that she said was an unforgettable experience.

She learned that the Square was in fact owned by the City’s Department of Transportation and not the Parks Department as one might assume, which is true for all pedestrian squares in the city.

When she approached Dave Herman, the founder of the reliquary with her story, he was instantly on board, and went to great lengths to make the show a possibility, according to Duckworth.

“A lot of what we do at this museum is raise awareness about things you might pass by in your everyday life but not stop to notice,” said Herman. “It really opens your eyes to what’s right in front of you.”

Smith too was born and brought up in Williamsburg. She lived in the neighborhood until she was 43 years old. Last week she celebrated her 75th birthday, and now she’s really looking forward to sharing her family’s story with some of the newer entrants to the neighborhood.

“I’m really thrilled and excited to do this show,” said Smith, who is a collector, and works professionally as a photographer. “I often see people sitting in the square and having lunch but nobody knows who the Ascenzis were or know about these patriotic brothers and how they sacrificed their lives for their country. It’s been a challenge and a labor of love and I wanted to meet that challenge.”

The Ascenzi Exhibit opens September 10 with an opening reception on September 13, 3-6 p.m., with Marion Ascenzi Duckworth Smith, 370 Metropolitan Avenue, regular museum hours are Thu-Sun 12-6 p.m., $5 admission and $4 for students and teachers for more information visit

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