Are you originally from Brooklyn, New York? If so, you must have traveled to the southern section of the borough. Originally it was decided that the avenues throughout the borough would be organized alphabetically. This was a way of keeping street names simple and easily recognizable. In rare cases, an avenue's alphabetical letter would be changed.
Many Brooklynites have memorized virtually every avenue in the borough and know exactly which main intersections they lead to. Surprisingly, there is one avenue in Brooklyn that is shrouded in mystery. If you are from Gravesend, Midwood, or Marine Park, you must have traveled on it or maybe even lived close to it. This avenue was originally known as Avenue Q, but today is more commonly known as Quentin Road.
Quentin Road begins at Stillwell Avenue in Gravesend, and is then interrupted by Kings Highway in Midwood from East 13th Street to East 16th Street, this is due to the railroad tracks of the B and Q trains. It then continues into Marine Park and ultimately ends as it intersects into Flatbush Avenue. Many Brooklynites believe that the name was chosen at random to replace Avenue Q (there are not many male and female names that begin with the letter Q).
So, where did the name Quentin really come from?
The answer actually has to do with the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Many historians claim that Roosevelt (who was the 33rd Governor of New York, a New York State Assemblymen and New York City Police Commissioner) wanted him and his family's legacy to live on by naming certain monuments and/or locations after them.
On November 19, 1897 Roosevelt had a son named Quentin. Quentin was the youngest child in the household (at the far-left of the photo), which included his half-sister Alice, sister Ethel, and brothers Ted, Archie, and Kermit.
Quentin was only three years old when his father became President of the United States. Quentin had the rare opportunity to grow up in the White House. He was a typical boy who was wild and obstreperous. Quentin got into trouble on a daily basis and according to presidential historians, he carved a baseball diamond on the White House lawn without permission, defaced official presidential portraits in the White House with spit balls and threw snowballs from the White House's roof at Secret Service guards.
Quentin also had a caring side to him. When his brother Archie was extremely sick, Quentin convinced one of the White House coachman to bring a pony into the White House and send it up the elevator to Archie's room. Quentin was ecstatic when he saw a smile on his brother's face.
In 1915, he attended Harvard University. His grades were excellent as he displayed the same intellect that his father had. At the same time, he had an admiration for repairing and building mechanical bikes. Quentin then became engaged to Flora Payne Whitney (a relative of Corenlius Vanderbilt).
Quentin kept in contact with his father and fiancé Flora through letters. Over a period of only a few months, many of his letters showed a growing hatred towards Germany. Quentin's vexation and detestation towards the Germans grew to an unprecedented level when they sunk the passenger ship RMS Lusitania in May of 1915. Tears ran down Quentin's face when he heard about the 128 Americans that had drowned on the ship. Over the next two years Quentin's letters would include more of his thoughts about the ongoing war in Europe (which officially began in July of 1914) and why he felt that the U.S. should aid Britain and France against the Germans.
During August of 1915, many young men from some of the finest East Coast Universities, including Quentin Roosevelt and two of his brothers, went for military training. The National Defense Act of 1916 was enough evidence for Quentin to realize that the U.S. was most likely going to join the war on the side of the Allies.
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked a special joint session of Congress to declare war on the German Empire for their constant attacks on British and French military units, civilians and other interests (including American interests). On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress officially declared war on the German Empire. Directly following the declaration of War, the American Expeditionary Force was organized.
Quentin was not surprised by the way these events unfolded and dropped out of college in May of 1917. He joined the 1st Reserve Aero Squadron, the first air reserve unit in the United States. Lt. Quentin Roosevelt then successfully completed his military training in Long Island, New York.
When Lt. Roosevelt arrived in France, he helped set up a military training base in Issoudin. During the next year, Lt. Roosevelt continued to practice flying, even though the training become extremely intense. He dealt with frigid temperatures and eventually caught pneumonia. Lt. Roosevelt was then sent to a Paris hospital where he later recovered. At the same time he tried to convince Flora to come to Paris so they can finally get married. Flora made an attempt to travel to France, but was unable to.
Over a fairly short period of time, he gained the knowledge and skill to manage a major training facility. He then joined the 95th Aero Sqaudron, which was deployed in Touqin, France and later in Saintes, France. Lt. Roosevelt routinely flew a Nieuport 28 (a French-made fighter aircraft) during training missions. He was told that this aircraft was chosen by the United States Air Service to also be used during combat missions. He was aware that the Germans used Fokker-series aircraft (a German-made aircraft which was manufactured with more durable materials compared to the the Nieuport aircraft). In one of Lt. Roosevelt's letters he stated “We have been using Nieuports, which have the disadvantage of not being particularly reliable and inclined to catch fire”.
Even though the Nieuports were outclassed by the German Fokkers, Roosevelt was credited with a confirmed kill of a German aircraft he shot down on July 10, 1918. A few days later Lt. Roosevelt joined an American formation of aircraft in an intense aerial engagement over Chamery, France. He and his fellow airmen fought the Germans with all of their available resources. The American formation was taking immense fire and was forced to separate in mid-air. Unfortunately, two machine gun bullets struck Lt. Roosevelt directly in the head. His aircraft had crashed behind German lines which allowed the Germans to use broken pieces of the plane to create a cross for Lt. Roosevelt's grave. The Germans then took a picture of Lt. Roosevelt and put it on a postcard for propaganda purposes. The German public was deeply upset and outraged by the actions of their soldiers because they still held President Theodore Roosevelt in high respect. Furthermore, most of the German public was impressed by the fact that a former U.S. President's son served in the U.S. military.
Directly following his death, three German pilots (Karl Thom, Carl Graper and Christian Donhauser) all claimed to have shot down Lt. Roosevelt. As of today, many historians conclude that it is still unclear who actually shot down Lt. Roosevelt's aircraft.
Captain Eddie Rickenbacker (American Commander of the 94th Aero Squadron) later made this statement about Lt. Quentin Roosevelt: “Every one who met him for the first time expected him to have the airs and superciliousness of a spoiled boy. This notion was quickly lost after the first glimpse one had of Quentin. Gay, hearty and absolutely square in everything he said or did, Quentin Roosevelt was one of the most popular fellows in the group. We loved him purely for his own natural self”.
Once his grave was under Allied control, American soldiers came in swarms to pay their respects to the 20-year-old fighter pilot. Theodore Roosevelt was heart-broken when he heard the news about his son. At first, he didn't want to believe it, but eventually he saw the postcards that the Germans mass-produced.
In 1955, Lt. Roosevelt's remains were moved right next to his brother Ted Roosevelt, Jr. (who died right after the allied landing on Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion). The original cross that the Germans constructed for Lt. Roosevelt can be seen today at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio.
Lt. Quentin Roosevelt was posthumously awarded a War Degree from Harvard University in 1919. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm by the French government shortly after his death.
Roosevelt Field was later named in his honor as well as a community in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. In addition, Garden City, New York has a Boulevard named for him and a street in Chateau-Thierry, France also bears his name.
There is no doubt that this young man believed that Germany (and the Central Powers) brutalized its neighbors for way too long. Many scholars would conclude that the sinking of the RMS Lusitania convinced Lt. Roosevelt that American entry into the war would ultimately lead to the demise of the Central Powers. This 20-year-old feared virtually nothing (especially the fact that he unhesitatingly entered into aerial engagements with Donhauser and Thom, two well-known German flying aces) and sacrificed his own life to defend both France and the United States from German aggression.
Right before the outbreak of the Second World War, many New York politicians decided to honor Lt. Quentin Roosevelt by naming an avenue after him. It was decided that Avenue Q in south Brooklyn would be changed to Quentin Roosevelt Avenue. The name was later modified and ultimately became Quentin Road.
The next time that you travel on the B100 (a bus that travels through south Brooklyn), are walking your children to school or are going to the local bar/restaurant with your friends, you should remember to tell everyone that you know about Lt. Quentin Roosevelt's awe-inspiring story. All of your friends and family will then understand why Quentin Road is so much more than just another street in Brooklyn.