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Brooklyn By Name

Brooklyn By Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names

Leonard Benardo
Jennifer Weiss
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 209
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    Brooklyn By Name
    Book Description:

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    From Bedford-Stuyvesant to Williamsburg, Brooklyn's historic names are emblems of American culture and history. Uncovering the remarkable stories behind the landmarks,Brooklyn By Nametakes readers on a stroll through the streets and places of this thriving metropolis to reveal the borough's textured past.

    Listing more than 500 of Brooklyn's most prominent place names, organized alphabetically by region, and richly illustrated with photographs and current maps the book captures the diverse threads of American history. We learn about the Canarsie Indians, the region's first settlers, whose language survives in daily traffic reports about the Gowanus Expressway. The arrival of the Dutch West India Company in 1620 brought the first wave of European names, from Boswijck ("town in the woods," later Bushwick) to Bedford-Stuyvesant, after the controversial administrator of the Dutch colony, to numerous places named after prominent Dutch families like the Bergens.

    The English takeover of the area in 1664 led to the Anglicization of Dutch names, (vlackebos, meaning "wooded plain," became Flatbush) and the introduction of distinctively English names (Kensington, Brighton Beach). A century later the American Revolution swept away most Tory monikers, replacing them with signers of the Declaration of Independence and international figures who supported the revolution such as Lafayette (France), De Kalb (Germany), and Kosciuszko (Poland). We learn too of the dark corners of Brooklyn"s past, encountering over 70 streets named for prominent slaveholders like Lefferts and Lott but none for its most famous abolitionist, Walt Whitman.

    From the earliest settlements to recent commemorations such as Malcolm X Boulevard,Brooklyn By Nametells the tales of the poets, philosophers, baseball heroes, diplomats, warriors, and saints who have left their imprint on this polyethnic borough that was once almost disastrously renamed "New York East."

    Ideal for all Brooklynites, newcomers, and visitors, this book includes:

    *Over 500 entries explaining the colorful history of Brooklyn's most prominent place names

    *Over 100 vivid photographs of Brooklyn past and present

    *9 easy to follow and up-to-date maps of the neighborhoods

    *Informative sidebars covering topics like Ebbets Field, Lindsay Triangle, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

    *Covers all neighborhoods, easily find the street you're on

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3906-8
    Subjects: American Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Brooklyn’s identity has developed out of the shared associations of its landmark names. Coney Island, Prospect Park, Fulton Street, and Ebbets Field are widely recognized and need little formal introduction. As totems of the borough’s culture and history, they continue to stir the popular imagination.

    The streets and places of Brooklyn are the real arteries of the thriving metropolis, and the sources of their names reveal the borough’s and the nation’s rich and textured past. Yet outside of the easily discernible, the origin of many of Kings County’s street and place-names remains obscure and their derivations known only by the...

  7. 1 Northern Brooklyn Bushwick, Greenpoint, Williamsburg
    (pp. 6-31)

    Settled by the Canarsee Indians, Northern Brooklyn was originally known as Cripplebush for the cripplebush or scrub-oak trees that were predominant in the area. Sold to the Dutch West India Company in 1638, the largely swamp-filled region would come to be the preserve of this chapter’s three principal neighborhoods: Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg.

    In 1661, three years prior to New Amsterdam’s fall, Governor General Peter Stuyvesant named and helped patent the new town of Boswijck. Dutch for “town in the woods,” or as some have argued “heavy woods,” it became one of Kings County’s six original towns. Arriving at the...

  8. 2 Downtown Brooklyn Brooklyn Heights, Downtown–City Center, DUMBO, Fulton Ferry, Vinegar Hill
    (pp. 32-52)

    A Munsee Delaware speaking group, the Marechkawieck were the earliest known inhabitants in the neighborhoods covered in this chapter, an area that conforms to the town of Breukelen’s original boundaries. With their flight, a function of war and subjugation, Dutch settlements were built along the waterfront and became known as the Wallabout.

    From a corruption of the DutchWaal Bocht,meaning “Bay of Foreigners” or “Walloon Bay” (Walloons being inhabitants of an area in Belgium), the name likely derives from a Walloon, Joris Rapelye, one of Brooklyn’s earliest European immigrants who secured his land through a Dutch West India Company...

  9. 3 South Brooklyn Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Park, Red Hook, Sunset Park
    (pp. 53-75)

    In contradistinction with Brooklyn’s northern reaches (Fulton Ferry, Navy Yard, Vinegar Hill), the area covered in this chapter was mainly called South Brooklyn at a time when it did represent the southern portion of the town and city. The name is maintained predominantly by old-timers who predate the real estate makeovers of the 1960s. Today, South Brooklyn is a hybrid area that encompasses the waterfront, Prospect Park, and a slew of architecturally and historically rich residential neighborhoods.

    Rural marshland for several centuries, South Brooklyn was transformed by shipping activity in Red Hook and Gowanus in the early nineteenth century, which...

  10. 4 North-Central Brooklyn Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights
    (pp. 76-97)

    North-Central Brooklyn carries a cross-section of some of the borough’s landmark names—Ebbets, Pratt, Lafayette, and Clinton—and encompasses a range of historically significant sites including Fort Greene’s Revolutionary battle fields, the former homeland of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the early free-black settlement of Weeksville. For the last century it has been one of the most ethnically and racially diverse regions of the metropolis.

    Identified for a time as “Eastern Brooklyn” and located on one of the highest points in Kings County, much of today’s Fort Greene and Clinton Hill made up the elite section informally known as “The Hill.”...

  11. 5 South-Central Brooklyn Borough Park, Ditmas Park, Flatbush, Kensington, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Prospect Park South, Windsor Terrace
    (pp. 98-116)

    Flatbush was one of Kings County’s six original seventeenth-century towns and for some time the largest. Geographically central, from 1683 it was the county’s original seat of government. Known officially asMidwout,or “Middle-Woods,” by the Dutch, it also carried the nameV’Lacke Bos,“wooded plain,” reflecting the abundance of land covered in heavy timber and contrasting with its neighbor to the south, Flatlands, which was flat and clear of woods.V’Lacke Boswas anglicized to Flatbush after the British takeover in 1664.

    In 1898 Dean Alvord (1857–1941) purchased forty acres of land in Flatbush’s northwest corner from the...

  12. 6 Eastern Brooklyn Brownsville, Canarsie, Cypress Hills, East New York, New Lots
    (pp. 117-134)

    Located at the easternmost point of the historic town of Flatbush, the district of New Lots was originally namedOstwout,or “East Woods,” by the Dutch. It received its new appellation in the 1670s from farmers residing in Flatbush and Flatlands who moved to New Lots to live and work on previously untilled land. The name was given in contradistinction to the western part of Flatbush—Old Lots—from which many of the farmers migrated. Seldom used today, the New Lots name is usually recognized by city residents only as the last stop on the subway’s No. 3 train line....

  13. 7 Southwest Brooklyn Bath Beach, Bay Ridge–Fort Hamilton, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights
    (pp. 135-151)

    The neighborhoods covered in this chapter were once part of New Utrecht, one of the six original Kings County towns. Longstanding Native American land of the Canarsee and Nyack tribes, Dutch West India Company director Cornelis Van Werckhoven received permission from Governor Stuyvesant to settle the area, conditional on his bringing one hundred settlers to the colony (the Company had already claimed title to the land via a previous purchase from the local Nyacks). Planning to reside there after a return trip to the Netherlands, Werckhoven unexpectedly died, and the person whom he had hired to tutor his children, Huguenot...

  14. 8 Southeastern and Southern Brooklyn Bergen Beach, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Flatlands, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay
    (pp. 152-174)

    Of the six original seventeenth-century settlements in what is today Brooklyn, only one has specifically English roots: Gravesend. Receiving formal sanction from Dutch governor William Kieft in 1645, it was founded and planned by the remarkable English refugee and religious-freedom advocate Lady Deborah Moody.

    Gravesend’s derivation has been attributed to several sources: some say Kieft named it after his hometown of s’Gravenzande, Holland (a few actually believe Moody herself named it for Kieft’s hometown to curry favor); others contend the origin was Gravesend in Kent, England, Moody’s point of debarkation to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (She spent several years in...

  15. Illustration Sources
    (pp. 175-180)
  16. Works Consulted
    (pp. 181-186)
  17. Index
    (pp. 187-208)
  18. About the Authors
    (pp. 209-210)