Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

The Big Onion Guide to Brooklyn: Ten Historic Walking Tours

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 302
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Big Onion Guide to Brooklyn
    Book Description:

    The Big Onion Guide to Brooklynis an entertaining and informative walking guide to the historic people and places of Brooklyn. Ten fascinating, fact-filled walks are featured, inviting the reader to take an intimate tour through Brooklyn's important historic sites, neighborhoods, cultural institutions, and shops.

    From the iconic brownstones of Brooklyn Heights to the famous piers on Coney Island, this book covers all of Brooklyn's notable terrain, plus many of the not-so-well known treasures of New York's much beloved borough. Beautifully illustrated with over fifty photographs and complete with maps and easy-to-follow directions, all peppered with informative side-bars and fascinating tales of Brooklyn lore.

    Over two-and-a-half million New Yorkers call historic and vibrant Brooklyn home and thousands more are drawn to this borough every day. Whether you're new in town or a native New Yorker exploring Brooklyn for the day, this exceptional walking guide to the historic people and places of Brooklyn is essential reading.

    The Big Onion Guide to Brooklyn offers you a chance to explore:

    Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights: Take a walk through the oldest urban section of Brooklyn with more than 600 Antebellum homes.Coney Island: Frolic in Brooklyn's playground, the great "Sodom by the Sea."Prospect Park: Stroll over intricate bridges, past the boathouse, sculptures and monuments of Brooklyn's emerald jewel.Williamsburg: Explore this ever-changing neighborhood that is Italian, Latino, Hassidic, and Hipster all at once.Park Slope: Discover one of the best loved residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the "ninteenth-century suburb on the subway."Green-Wood Cemetery: Learn about famous Brooklynites buried within this historic garden cemetery.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4928-9
    Subjects: American Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)

    SOME YEARS AGO, theNew York Timesran a feature on the many guided tours operating in New York City. It made for hilarious reading. Innocent tourists were being told, among many other whoppers, that trained seals lived in a fountain in the courtyard of the Ansonia and that an orchestra performed on the roof every night. The guides on one bus tour liked to point to a dingy-looking first-story apartment on the Upper East Side with a large stuffed animal in the window . . . and inform their unsuspecting marks that this was the home of Jacquie Onassis....

    (pp. 1-5)

    BROOKLYN. The name means so many different things to people. Millions of people call Brooklyn “home,” and, in fact, more Big Onion guides live in Brooklyn than in Manhattan. Many of our neighbors, while living only a few miles from Manhattan, rarely venture into “the city.” Those of us living “out here” encounter our share of visitors who regard Brooklyn as immense and overwhelming. But, to us, Brooklyn is a refreshingly vast and mystical place of 2.8 million people living in a network of intimate neighborhoods and enclaves. What is often funniest, are those we know (mostly Manhattanites) for whom...

  5. 1 DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN AND BROOKLYN HEIGHTS: Manhattan’s “Nearest Country Retreat”
    (pp. 7-31)

    OUR TOUR BEGINS at Brooklyn Borough Hall, which sits on a plaza between Court and Adams streets in “downtown Brooklyn,” an area sometimes also called the Civic Center. You’re actually standing at the back of Borough Hall, if you are on the Joralemon Street side (the south side), because the grand entrance faces north, toward Manhattan. Borough Hall was the city hall of the City of Brooklyn until 1898. Although most New Yorkers don’t know it, Brooklyn and New York were separate cities until 1898, when they were consolidated into greater New York City—the current five boroughs—an event...

  6. 2 FORT GREENE AND CLINTON HILL: From Revolutionary War to Cultural Center
    (pp. 33-57)

    FORT GREENE AND CLINTON HILL are two of Brooklyn’s loveliest neighborhoods with some of the finest brownstone streets and row houses anywhere in New York City. We will walk through them sequentially in this tour, beginning with Fort Greene and following with Clinton Hill.

    The neighborhood of Fort Greene, bounded by Atlantic Avenue to the south, Flatbush and Clinton avenues to the west and east, and Myrtle Avenue to the north, is named for Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Greene (1742–1786). Major General Greene, from Rhode Island, was, among America’s officers of that period, second in importance only to his...

  7. 3 BEDFORD-STUYVESANT: “In Those High Rooms Life Soared and Ebbed”
    (pp. 59-77)

    THIS WALK TAKES you through a small but historic part of Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York’s largest African American neighborhood, which contains some of the most beautiful row houses in the city, spectacular churches, and one of New York’s oldest free black communities. It has also been home to, among others, composer Eubie Blake, congresswoman Shirley Chisolm, musician Richie Havens, actress Lena Horne, poet June Jordan, drummer Max Roach, and boxer Floyd Paterson. In the 1960s and ’70s, Bed-Stuy was one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in America, but today it is being revived by longtime residents and some newcomers who have...

  8. 4 WILLIAMSBURG: A “Polyglot Population”
    (pp. 79-103)

    WILLIAMSBURCH (which was spelled with the final “h” until 1855) started as a small farming community. In 1797 the first ferries in Williamsburgh left for Manhattan from Thomas Morrell’s farm on Grand Street at the East River. Because farmers could now easily send their goods to market, the area began to boom. Richard Woodhull, who operated a rival ferry from Metropolitan Avenue, hired the army’s chief engineer, Lt. Col. Jonathan Williams, to survey the area in 1802. Although Williams never lived in Williamsburgh, his name was somehow given to the area. By 1827, Williamsburgh had over 1,000 residents and was...

  9. 5 GREENPOINT: American Warsaw
    (pp. 105-127)

    GREENPOINT, on the edge of Queens and adjacent to Williamsburg, is an often overlooked jewel of Brooklyn. Famous for being Mae West’s birthplace and the cradle of “Brooklynese,” Greenpoint’s true appeal is the combination of its long industrial history and flourishing Polish community.

    Although originally named for the lush vegetation that covered this spit of land jutting out into the East River, Greenpoint has not been the garden spot of Brooklyn for many years. Instead, beginning in the 1830s, Greenpoint became the site of a wave of development that made it a hub of industrial activity. Its shores became home...

  10. 6 PARK SLOPE: “A Land of Terra Cotta and Red Brick”
    (pp. 129-157)

    IF WE ACCEPT Brooklyn’s nineteenth-century moniker, the “City of Homes and Churches,” then a case can easily be made that Park Slope was and is the quintessential Brooklyn neighborhood. Rows of brownstones glide down the slope, to be interrupted at points only by Victorian Gothic, Neoclassical, and Romanesque Revival houses of prayer. Even the commercial arteries of 7th and 5th avenues are studded with religious buildings; nineteenth-century structures grace 7th Avenue in the Upper Slope, while more modest storefront churches line 5th Avenue toward the bottom of the slope.

    But perhaps more important than the religious buildings are the homes....

  11. 7 PROSPECT PARK: “Landscape Painted by a Skilled Hand”
    (pp. 159-183)

    BROOKLYN’S PRIMARY natural oasis—Prospect Park—is considered by many to be the greatest urban park designed by nineteenth-century masters Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Prospect Park covers 526 acres and features long meadow vistas, numerous water pools connected by streams and waterfalls, and Brooklyn’s only remaining forest.

    In the mid-nineteenth century, the City of Brooklyn watched as Central Park was created across the river in Manhattan. Envious, Brooklyn followed suit, encouraging the New York legislature to pass an act supporting a park, issuing bonds to fund the land purchase, and creating a board of park commissioners. The commissioners,...

  12. 8 GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY: Brooklyn’s Great Victorian Legacy
    (pp. 185-215)

    GREEN-WOOD CEMENTRY is approximately 6 avenues deep and 17 blocks wide. It covers 478 acres, just 50 acres smaller than neighboring Prospect Park. Our walk explores the history, architecture, and people of this great urban treasure, with an emphasis on the many Brooklynites buried within. Not all the personalities on our tour are Brooklynites, but all directly or indirectly affected our city. Also, this tour is far from all-inclusive. Due to the vast size of the site, and the space constraints of this book, not everyone could be included. Green-Wood does maintain a computer database with all persons cross-referenced with...

  13. 9 SUNSET PARK: “How Sweet It Is!”
    (pp. 217-243)

    SUNSET PARK is a multiethnic residential and industrial neighborhood. From where you stand, facing east up the 25th Street hill from the subway exit, some of the neighborhood’s borders are evident. To your right, you may be able to make out the red-brick apartment building that marks the southern border at 65th Street, taller than anything in the area. Behind you, the neighborhood slopes down to Upper New York Bay. To the left, it’s only a few blocks to the Prospect Expressway at 17th Street. And, finally, five blocks in front of you is the eastern border at 9th Avenue....

  14. 10 CONEY ISLAND: The “Nickel Empire”
    (pp. 245-264)

    CONEY ISLAND is the stuff of legends. Even its name is fabled, though most accept that it’s a corruption of the Dutch wordkonijn, meaning “rabbit.” Over the course of this walking tour, you will be offered vivid reminders that once upon a time Coney was, for many, the living, breathing embodiment of recreation and amusement, a pleasure palace par excellence. Never before, and for many not since, has one small stretch of island been the repository of such a wide agglomeration of bizarre fantasy, fantastical excess, and cultural edification. If Paris is France, Steeplechase-amusement-park impresario George Tilyou once proclaimed,...

    (pp. 265-268)
    (pp. 269-272)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 273-301)
    (pp. 302-302)