Gowanus Bay like you’ve never seen it before

Could these two paintings really be of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Bay — namesake of the canal that was once a notoriously polluted mob dumping ground snaking through Red Hook and Carroll Gardens?

Hard to believe, but the waterfront — and the creek that became the canal — was once this bucolic and beautiful. The first painting, “Sunset at Gowanus Bay,” dates to 1851. It’s by an Australian painter named Henry Gritten, who lived in Brooklyn in the 1850s.

At the time Gritten painted this, Gowanus Creek was being widened and deepened, according to nyc.gov. The new Gowanus Canal, as it would be named, was supposed to attract industry and compete with New York.

In 1887, long after the canal had been built out, William Merritt Chase did his own take on Gowanus Bay.

I wish I knew where his vantage point was when he painted this beachy scene with a pier, small boats, gentle waves, and not much industry along the waterfront. The Bay looks absolutely swim-able.

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4 Responses to “Gowanus Bay like you’ve never seen it before”

  1. Margaret HARRINGTON Says:


  2. artsny99 Says:

    So much serenity and piece! And how it changed over the years…..
    Thank you for posting!
    Tatyana at http://www.arts-ny.com

  3. Larry Thomas Says:

    Did you ever find out the vantage point from where Gritten painted that classic from 1851 of Gowanus Bay?

  4. Simon Aartson DeHart (Vanderhaart) and his 300 Acres in Brooklyn | Glenwood Forever Says:

    […] fine stone house held up for over 200 years before falling into decay, and the sweeping vistas of Gowanus Bay turned to an industrial wasteland, dumping ground for mob victims, and ultimately a superfund […]

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