The History of How Brooklyn Neighborhoods Got Their Names

We love Brooklyn! The borough’s history began with six small Dutch towns, that came together to later be known as New York’s most populous area. Have you ever wondered how Brooklyn neighborhoods got their names? Some areas have retained the old town names that were given by early Dutch settlers—Brooklyn, for example, is the anglicized form of the Dutch word Breuckelen —and some have truly evolved.

We take a look into some of our most popular neighborhoods:

Greenpoint

The early Dutch settlers referred to the area as “Hout Hoek,” or Wood Point, due to the grassy projection of land that juts into the East River. The name would have later been translated into Greenpoint from its verdant appearance.

Fun Fact: The streets that run roughly perpendicular to the East River are named alphabetically. Some are industrial references to the manufacturing that once took place in the area. The street names include Ash, Box, Clay, Dupont, Eagle, Freeman, Green, Huron, India, Java, Kent, Greenpoint (formerly Lincoln), Milton, Noble, and Oak Streets. You can tour and check out a few Greenpoint listings on these streets.

Crown Heights

The north-central Brooklyn neighborhood used to be referred to as “Crow Hill.” In 1916 when Crown Street extended through the neighborhood and took on the name Crown Heights, as “crown” also applied to the neighborhood’s location on a hill.

Fun Fact: Crown Heights began as a posh residential neighborhood, a “bedroom” for Manhattan’s bourgeois class. Walk along popular Eastern Parkway where you can check out available listings in the area.

Williamsburg

The town of Williamsburgh was founded in 1802 by Richard Woodhull, who purchased 13 acres of land along the East River. Grateful to his friend Colonel Jonathan Williams, who helped to lay out the town’s streets, Woodhull dubbed the land ‘Williamsburgh.’ The ‘h’ was apparently dropped after the area officially merged with Brooklyn in April of 1854.

Fun Fact: Teddy’s Bar and Grill at the corner of Berry and North 8th Street has been serving residents in the area since 1887 making it the oldest bar in Williamsburg! Check out the establishment where old and new Brooklyn meet and see our available listings in the area.

Flatlands

Dutch settlers knew of the area as “Nieuw Amersfoort.” Once British rule set in, the name became “Flatlands” because the area was—wait for it—flat. The space was primarily used for farming tobacco and other crops.

Fun Fact: A commission was formed in 1869 to redraw new road maps for all of the five towns of Kings County. It resulted in entirely straightening and redrawing Flatbush Ave. Also, Hubbard Place, a main street in Flatlands, in theory was to be removed from the map. However, the importance of the Town Center during war time, kept half of the lane on the map. Stroll down on Hubbard and check out the available Flatlands listings.

Flatbush and East Flatbush

In the 17th century, the area of Flatbush, one of the original six settlements. The heavily wooded, but flat area, was also called “V’Lacke Bos,” which means “wooded plain,” thus the name “Flatbush” in English. The area became the hub for important merchant and farming families.

Fun Fact: Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn was the first bank to issue a credit card in 1946. John C. Biggins promoted the new concept “Charg-It” as an experiment in hopes of providing credit to the local community. The space is now a furniture and appliance store on Flatbush Avenue, check it out along with a few apartments in the neighborhood.

Bushwick

“Boswijck” meaning “town in the woods” or “heavy woods” took on the English version of the Dutch name. The area included the current day neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The vast area is located between Broadway, Flushing Avenue and Ridgewood.

Fun Fact: Bushwick was once the brewing center of America. In the mid 1800s, a majority of immigrants in Bushwick were German, so by 1890, the neighborhood established a brewery industry, and 14 breweries operated in a 14 block radius called “Brewer’s Row.” Many of the popular bars surround where our new Bushwick office is now.

Fort Greene

There’s no surprise that Fort Greene was once a fort. Originally known as “Washington Park,” Fort Putnam was built in 1776 under the supervision of General Nathanael Greene, who aided George Washington during the battle of Long Island. The area was later renamed after Greene in 1812.

Fun Fact: Fort Greene’s Park Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument honors 11,500 prisoners that died from disease and malnutrition during the Revolutionary War. The monument features a crypt below that has the original remains of the prisoners. Check out the neighborhood park, as residents enjoy the local greenery, and see what’s available in the area!

Lefferts Gardens

In 1893, James Lefferts inherited a swath of Dutch farmland that he divided into 600 separate building lots for single-family homes. The area was known as Lefferts Manor. Concurrent to the development was the growth of the surrounding area now known as Prospect Lefferts Gardens, which name was inspired by the close proximity to Prospect Park.

Fun Fact: The Lefferts Manor Historic District is historically and architecturally significant in the development of urban middle-class residencies. Between 1905-1911 alone, over 270 house were built in an effort to bring a more “suburban” feel to the borough. Walking down these tree-lined streets will give you a great sense of the history and where your next apartment could be!

Bedford Stuyvesant

The town of Stuyvesant Heights was named for Peter Stuyvesant, the last governor of the Dutch-controlled New Netherlands colony. When the town of Bedford merged with Stuyvesant Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, or Bed-Stuy, was formed.

Fun Fact: During the Draft Riot of 1863, Weeksville, a historic site within Bedford Stuyvesant served as a refuge for African Americans who fled Manhattan. The major four-day eruption of violence in New York City was a result of discontent with the new law passed by congress to draft men to fight in the Civil War.

Gravesend

In Old English, ‘grave’ meant ‘grove’ so the name means ‘town at the end of the grove.’  The area was one of the original settlements and was reportedly named after Gravesend, England. Gravesend has expanded beyond its original town square as today it encompasses everything between Stillwell Avenue, Kings Highway, Ocean Parkway and the Belt Parkway.

Fun Fact: Lady Deborah Moody that named the land, became the first woman in the new world to receive a land patent and set Gravesend apart form other colonies by allowing religious freedom.

Coney Island

When the Dutch arrived in Brooklyn in the 1600’s, they called the area konijnen eylandt, Rabbit Island, as rabbits were often seen running around through the sand dunes. In the early 20th century Coney Island Creek and Sheepshead Bay were separated by landfill and Coney Island became a peninsula.

Fun Fact: The first rollercoaster built as an amusement ride was invented by LaMarcus Thompson at Coney Island  in 1884. Check out some of the other local landmarks in the area and how you can move into the neighborhood.

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