The history of Brooklyn spans more than 350 years and begins when the Dutch settled the area (calling it “Breuckelen”) in the 17th century. The borough played an important role in the Revolutionary War and then began its path to urbanization soon after. Towns popped up within the borough all throughout the 1800s. It wasn’t until 1898 that Brooklyn was consolidated with Manhattan, the beginnings of the current-day, five-borough New York City.
While New York City is a place of constant flux, Brooklyn still retains some of its historical past. Here are five historic sites that still stand in the borough, despite the incredible amount of changes Brooklyn has seen since it was better known as Breuckelen.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
The Brooklyn Borough Hall, opened in 1851, was originally used as the City Hall of the former City of Brooklyn — this is before Brooklyn merged with the city of Manhattan. It is now one of the few standing remnants that reminds us of when Brooklyn was its own city. In 1898, when Brooklyn was consolidated into New York City, this impressive Greek Revival structure became known as Borough Hall. It still houses the offices of the Borough President today and is protected as a New York City landmark.
Photo courtesy of Wally Gobetz via Flickr.
Green-Wood Cemetery | lostinbrooklyn via Flickr
If you want to learn about New York’s past, you have to meet the people who made New York great. There is no better place to do that in Brooklyn than Green-Wood Cemetery, established in 1838 as one of the first rural cemeteries in America. Before it was a cemetery, it was a Revolutionary War historic site — the Battle of Long Island was fought in 1776 across what is now the cemetery grounds. Now the cemetery holds 560,000 residents over 478 acres. Civil War generals, baseball legends, politicians, artists, entertainers, and inventors are all buried here, and the peaceful, well-kept grounds are a popular destination for Brooklynites today. Even if you aren’t a history buff, it’s hard not to appreciate this beautiful Brooklyn landmark.
The Old Stone House | sundrycuriosities via Flickr
The Old Stone House
The Old Stone House stands in Washington Park, in the neighborhood of Park Slope. This structure is reminiscent of Brooklyn’s history as a Dutch settlement — it’s a reconstructed 1699 Dutch farmhouse that was central to the Battle of Brooklyn. (During the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Brooklyn overtook areas now occupied by The Old Stone House and Prospect Park.) The home was razed and burned in 1897, then excavated in 1933. It was reconstructed with many of the original stones and ultimately reopened as a house museum. Today the Old Stone House teaches the history of the American Revolution and colonial life in Brooklyn.
The Wyckoff House | via Wikipedia
The Wyckoff House
The Pieter Claesen Wyckoff House in Canarsie is another remnant of the Dutch settlement in Brooklyn. The Dutch immigrant Pieter Claesen built this home in 1652 on a farm settled by him and his family. Miraculously, and after a number of renovations and expansions, it still stands today. The restored home now operates as a house museum aimed to educate visitors on the people and lifestyles of Brooklyn’s colonial farms.
The Commandant’s House | via the Brooklyn Public Library
The Commandant’s House
Unfortunately you cannot go inside The Commandant’s House, but it remains an important piece of history from Brooklyn’s days as a shipping and naval hub. The white mansion is viewable through a gate on Evans Street in Vinegar Hill. It dates back to 1805 when it was part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and used as the home for the Naval Yard Commandant. The Navy Yard sold the property to a private owner in 1968, which is why it remains in such good shape today. The majority of historic buildings still at the Navy Yard are crumbling, only making this mansion more significant. To learn more of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s history, be sure to visit the nearby museum BLDG 92.