Neighborhood names are always changing. The area known today as Crown Heights—developed about a century ago on either side of Brooklyn’s grand Eastern Parkway—was once the site of a small outpost of shanties and piggeries known as Crow Hill.
It’s main landmark: the imposing Brooklyn Penitentiary, sometimes called the Crow Hill Penitentiary, which stood on Carroll Street between Nostrand and Rogers Avenues from 1846 until 1906.
The Crow Hill moniker remains something of a mystery. An 1877 Brooklyn Eagle article states, “The name Crow Hill was derived from the fact that in the trees which are scattered over this ridge, crows, who preyed on the neighboring farmers, found a retreat.”
Other sources say the penitentiary inmates were also referred to as crows. Then there’s a third explanation:
“Most historians agree that the name Crow Hill was coined in derogatory reference to the black community of Carrville and Weeksville, whose residents were sometimes known as “crows,” writes Henry Goldschmidt, author of 2006′s Race and Religion Among the Chosen People of Crown Heights.