Who named the fruit streets of Brooklyn Heights?

CranberrystreetsignThe Columbia Heights section of Brooklyn Heights might be the most beautiful enclave in the borough.

The most charming part? Probably the three quiet, pretty streets named after colorful fruits: Cranberry, Orange, and Pineapple.

The botanical names are a little odd for Brooklyn—and they can be attributed to Lady Middagh, a local resident during the turn of the last century who was a descendant of one of the first families to settle and farm here.

“Prior to her nomenclatures the streets were named for the aristocratic families of the neighborhood,” explains this NYC Parks website. “She found this pretentious and so removed the street signs and put up those of her own fruity design.”

OrangestreetsignThe city took hers down and insisted on keeping the official street names. But Lady Middagh was pretty tough. She refused to give up and replaced the city names again.

“Eventually, the city made her choices official, but ironically, named a street after her own family, which remains today.”

In 1997, the city completed Fruit Street Sitting Area, a small park linking Columbia Heights to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Peneapplestreetsign2There’s also a less interesting explanation for the names, reports this 1993 New York Times piece:

“One tale is that the Hicks brothers, who originally owned the land, sold exotic fruits in the area, and named the streets to honor this occupation.”

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16 Responses to “Who named the fruit streets of Brooklyn Heights?”

  1. Lady G. Says:

    Great post! I also heard the Hicks brothers explanation before. It’s kind of surreal when I started reading this and I see ‘Lady Middaugh’ and I’m thinking: Where have I seen I heard that name before? Duh. lol. It’s fascinating to read a little about the lives of the people whose names have graced our Brooklyn neighborhoods. :)

  2. Jayro Says:

    I’ve heard this is an urban legend of Brooklyn Heights….but who cares? It’s a wonderful story, and I think it’s the one that should stick. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

  3. Jeremy Says:

    The “Lady” Middagh story is nice fiction. The Hicks brothers named the fruit streets when they mapped the subdivision of their farmland even before the streets were laid out. So the bit about ripping down street signs is made up. Why the brothers (incidentally, related to the Middaghs on their mother’s side) picked fruit names is a little murkier…

  4. Linkage: Huge Rooftop Greenhouse in Queens; Balazs Seeks Investors – insiderater.com Says:

    [...] fight looming [Crain's] · Andre Balazs looking for new investors for Standard [NYP] · The story behind the fruit-named streets in Brooklyn Heights [ENY] · The saga of The Rembrandt, the city’s first co-op [NYT] · When sheep used [...]

  5. beforemybigbreak Says:

    Neat! I love your blog!

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks…a good story and I’d love it to be true!

  7. On the Market: Ethan Hawke Buys In Boerum Hill; Breezy Point Grapples With New Construction Standards; Barbizon Penthouse Sells for $10.2 M – insiderater.com Says:

    [...] Station advocates. [Crain's] The reason why many Brooklyn Heights streets have such fruity names. [Ephemeral NY] Remembering the days when sheep grazed in NYC parks. [Gothamist] Ethan Hawke is buying a $3.9 [...]

  8. nabeguy Says:

    That Lady Middagh story may have gotten it’s start here (Brooklyn Daily Eagle) http://tinyurl.com/brfkz7l

  9. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Great find! I love the snarky reference to “that Yankee doctor on Washington Street.”

  10. nabeguy Says:

    I wondered at that. Given this was pre-Giants/Mets/Dodgers, I’m presuming that’s a reference to a New Englander?

    • Jeremy Says:

      Great find from the Eagle.

      The “Yankee doctor” on Washington Street is probably Dr. Charles Ball, who had a house on the corner of Washington and Sands around the time the streets in the Middagh farm were laid out, pre-1820. (By the 1820s he had moved up to the Heights – in Francis Guy’s paintings of the Ferry area, you can see Ball’s house off in the distance up the hill at top right.)

      Remember that there was still some lingering antagonism between the old-timey Dutch and the Yankee “newcomers” in Brooklyn in this period. Still, why Ball would’ve been running around changing the street signs from John to Henry will probably remain a mystery.

  11. nabeguy Says:

    Here’s another interesting article. Doesn’t really say much about the provenance of the streets, but it’s interesting to note that even as far back as 1887, people were talking about historic preservation. http://tinyurl.com/c8qk975

  12. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    That’s what I was thinking, some New Englander.

  13. Week thirty-three: Brooklyn Heights | The Weekly Nabe Says:

    […] Cranberry! Orange! Pineapple! I’m getting hungry. […]

  14. facelikeafryingpan Says:

    Amazing. Now I want to rename my street and see how long it takes the city to notice. Hehe.

  15. Beautiful Brooklyn | theothersidenyc Says:

    […] north, you’ll find street names like Cranberry, Willow and Pineapple. That’s because an old lady living in the neighborhood thought this name posting was pretentious, so she managed to introduce some non-aristocratic names […]

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