Remnants of four obsolete Brooklyn street names

In the mid-19th century, Brooklyn’s Walt Whitman noted the “pull-down-and-build-over-again” spirit of his hometown, which was beginning its transformation from a collection of towns and villages to a united urban city.


Part of that transformation meant renaming older streets—to commemorate contemporary heroes, for example, or fix confusing street names that go back to when each individual town or village had its own street grid.

Some of these renamed and obsolete street names still remain carved into the corners of old tenements. Take this one above, marking Macomb Street and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.


Macomb Street? Named for an early New York merchant and land surveyor, the road was renamed Garfield Place after the assassination of President Garfield in 1881 “at the requests of residents who said Macomb Street was often confounded with Macon Street,” wrote the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1883, referring to another street in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Then there’s this engraved sign, noting Third Street and North Sixth Street in Williamsburg. My hunch is that as Williamsburg developed and grew, having two number streets intersect was probably confusing.


The solution: rename Third Street Berry Street (after the first mayor of Williamsburg during its tenure as its own city), which it remains today.

Back up to Greenpoint again, Franklin Street used to intersect with Madison Street. What happened to Madison? It was rechristened Oak Street—perhaps because there already was another Madison Street in Bedford Stuyvesant.


That might also be the case with this tenement corner carving, putting us at State Street and Powers Street in Boerum Hill. Powers Street is now Third Avenue, a change likely necessitated to avoid getting mixed up with Powers Street in Williamsburg.

[A big thanks to Ephemeral reader Force Tube Avenue for sending in these photos of old Brooklyn street corners!]

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7 Responses to “Remnants of four obsolete Brooklyn street names”

  1. Remnants of four obsolete Brooklyn street names — Ephemeral New York – Reading Other People Says:

    […] via Remnants of four obsolete Brooklyn street names — Ephemeral New York […]

  2. Jackie Cangro Says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by some of these old street signs and never realized they were there. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for them now. 🙂

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    It’s amazing what you walk by in NYC over and over and then suddenly one day notice it and realize the beauty or significance!

  4. The street names carved into Brooklyn corners | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] In 1883, two years after the assassination of President Garfield, Garfield Place became the new name of what used to be Macomb Street. (Though the Macomb name lives on engraved into another corner.) […]

  5. The relics on tenements at a Lenox Hill corner | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] tenements with cross streets on them can be found in Manhattan and Brooklyn—especially in older neighborhoods like Williamsburg, downtown Brooklyn, the East Village, and the […]

  6. Walking Macombs Dam Bridge in Upper Manhattan | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] few years earlier, a Bronx miller and landowner named Robert Macomb sought permission to build a dam here to help power his new grist mill on the Harlem side, states […]

  7. The cross streets carved into tenement corners | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] They could also exist just to give these drab tenements a little pizzaz. In any event, more of these street addresses in Manhattan and Brooklyn can be found here. […]

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