Posts Tagged ‘six towns of Brooklyn’

A sleepy, beachy view across Gravesend Bay

April 12, 2013

Gravesend, Brooklyn has changed a lot in its almost 400-year history.

Founded in the 1640s by a group of religious dissenters, it went from colonial-era English town to farm community to the site of late 19th century beach resorts and a racetrack—then a suburban-like neighborhood by 1930, states The Encyclopedia of New York City.

Viewacrossgravesend1
In View Across Gravesend Bay to Seagate, a 1905 painting by Thomas Satterwhite Noble, the shabby wooden pier and debris-strewn beach give this stretch of Gravesend the appearance of a sleepy fishing village.

Today, this beach might be part of Calvert Vaux Park, named for the designer of Central Park who mysteriously died off these waters.

The only Brooklyn town founded by a woman

November 3, 2010

Of 17th century Brooklyn’s original six towns, five (anglicized as Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, and New Utrecht), were settled by Dutch men.

And then there’s Gravesend—founded in the 1640s by Lady Deborah Moody, a wealthy English widow who crossed the Atlantic to freely practice Anabaptism, a protestant sect that opposed infant baptism (they were  the forerunners to Quakers).

She must have been tough: Lady Moody was the only woman known to launch a settlement in colonial North America.

Tolerant Dutch leaders in New Amsterdam gave her a land grant “beginning at the mouth of a creek adjacent to Coneyne Island” and let her divide the new town into parcels.

What’s amazing is that today’s Gravesend still has a very off-the-grid quality. Village Road North and Village Road South cut through the neighborhood.

Two 17th century cemeteries, Gravesend and Van Sicklen, sit on one side of Gravesend Neck Road. On the other side is the little sloping house where Lady Moody supposedly (but probably didn’t) live.

Rumor has it the house served as a hospital during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.

“View of New York From Brooklyn Heights”

August 29, 2010

It’s strange to see this view without the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges spanning the East River and so many massive office buildings towering over lower Manhattan.

But this painting, from the New York Public Library digital collection, depicts a view of New York in 1849.

The East River is crowded with commercial and ferry traffic, and the most towering structures in Manhattan are church steeples.

Brooklyn is still a separate city; it won’t join the City of New York for almost 50 years. Brooklyn Heights is just coming into its own as New York’s first suburb.

Brooklyn’s lost village of Cripplebush

December 18, 2009

This map of the borough’s original five Dutch towns and one English town depicts a Brooklyn with the same geographic place names used today.

Bushwick, Flatbush, New Utrecht, Gravesend—they still go by their 17th century monikers. And the smaller villages within them, like Williamsburgh and New Lots, remain local names as well.

Then there’s Cripplebush, in the town of Brooklyn. What’s the deal with Cripplebush?

The Eastern District of Brooklyn, published in 1912, explains that Dutch residents of nearby Wallabout were granted a patent in 1654 to incorporate Cripplebush, “at the intersection of the Cripplebush Road and the Wallabout and Newtown Road or about Flushing and Nostrand Avenues of to-day.

“In 1830 Wallabout Village was started, including within its limits the Cripplebush settlement, and still later the section became known as East Brooklyn.”

Cripplebush Road no longer exists. And Cripplebush settlement, which other sources have described as a swamp, must have been quietly absorbed into Wallabout in the 19th century.