History in Brooklyn


Lady Brooklyn has been through it all, and she's got a story to tell! Born as a Dutch settlement in the early 1600's, her youth was spent as a series of farming villages. Her adolescence was the merging of these towns, reaching adulthood as a major industrial American city by the late 1800's. She was courted by the powerful gentleman across the river, by the name New York City, who married her in 1898 and incorporated her as one of his 5 boroughs. The ring: a suspension bridge between the two that represents their inseparable bond. 

Did you know the first battle of the American Revolutionary War was fought in areas now known as Brooklyn Heights and Prospect Park? That the first bank debit card was issued in Flatbush, Brooklyn? Or that Brooklyn was once a capitol of beer brewing in America?

On a journey across Brooklyn you will learn about its proud and colorful heritage: the monumental events, stories, and famous (or notorious) people who have called it home. Visit landmarks and sites of significance, and discover how the face of America was shaped by what was once its 3rd largest city.

Some of these historic themes include the Battle of Brooklyn, which was the largest battle of the American Revolutionary War. Another is the pivotal role the borough played in the abolishment of slavery and Union victory in the Civil War. Also, Brooklyn's position at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, and its substantial contributions to the country's literary heritage. Also learn about Brooklyn's formation, growth into a modern urban center and incorporation into New York City. A further highlight are the influential people who have called the borough home, including writer Arthur Miller, poet Walt Whitman and singer Barbra Streisand. Other famous people from Brooklyn include Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Michael Jordan and Jay-Z.

Here are some of the areas to visit: 


image from history of brooklyn heights

Historic Brooklyn Heights

The tree-lined streets of Brooklyn Heights may seem quiet and serene, but they contain centuries of deep history. The leafy neighborhood was the original settlement of Bruekelen that grew as a commuter suburb of New York City. The landmark district contains beautiful brownstone row houses and historic churches. Brooklyn Heights is where general George Washington commanded the Continental army during the Battle of Brooklyn. In the mid 1800's, abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher delivered passionate sermons from the pulpit of the neighborhood's Plymouth Evangelical Church which inspired folks across the country to stand against slavery.


historic statue in prospect park brooklyn

Historic Prospect Park

Brooklyn's crown jewel was a creation of Calvert Vaux and Fredrick Law Olmstead, the same pair that designed Central Park in Manhattan. The park's construction began in the 1860's and included tree-lined boulevards which spread out into the surrounding city. Historic buildings and monuments which were subsequently erected include the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch, which memorializes Brooklyn's fierce patriotism for the Union during the American Civil War. Another historic site is the Battle Pass Monument, which marks the spot where Continental forces unsuccessfully rallied to defend New York from invading English and Hessian troops during the Battle of Brooklyn.


Flatbush brooklyn historic statue 

Historic Flatbush

Flatbush was one of the 6 original settlements in Brooklyn, established 1652. Originally called "Vlacke Bos" (meaning "flat woodland"), the town was a stronghold of Dutch culture well into the 1800's. It maintained its rural village character by resisting inclusion into the industrialized, heavily-populated city of Brooklyn next door. Brooklyn's eventual incorporation of Flatbush in 1894, which became part of New York City just 4 years later, caused the area to undergo a rapid urbanization and population growth. Developers created blocks of magnificent apartment buildings, as well as planned housing communities which were the predecessors of the modern suburb. 

Today almost completely unrecognizable from the quaint village it once was, evidence of its Dutch heritage remains in the old center of town. Erasmus Hall High School, founded in 1787, is the oldest school of secondary education in New York state. The nearby Dutch Reformed Protestant Church has had continuous religious services every Saturday since its founding in 1654. The adjacent churchyard contains graves of members of Flatbush's early Dutch families, for whom nearby streets are named.


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