Notable Events in Brooklyn History
So much has happened on this plot of land that is today called Brooklyn. These are just some of the game-changing events that have made the borough what it is since its founding in 1636.
1636–46: A settlement known as Breuckelen is created by the Dutch, around Brooklyn Heights, and named after a town near Utrecht, in the Netherlands.
1776: The Battle of Long Island (aka the Battle of Brooklyn) begins George Washington’s New York campaign during the Revolutionary War.
1801: The Brooklyn Navy Yard is established as an active naval base.
1816: Incorporation of the Village of Brooklyn under the Constitution of the State of New York.
1830s: Brooklyn is incorporated as a city (1834). Green-Wood Cemetery is founded (1838).
1840s: Walt Whitman is editor of the Brooklyn Eagle (1846–48). Brooklyn Borough Hall is built as City Hall in the Greek Revival style (1848). Weeksville, one of the first free black communities in the United States, is established in parts of what are now Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights (1840–80s).
1855: Additional areas including Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick become part of Brooklyn.
1860s: Brooklyn Academy of Music opens and presents its inaugural performance (1861). Brooklyn plays an important role in the Civil War, providing a seaport, a manufacturing center, and troops. Prospect Park is designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, after they finish Manhattan's Central Park; the park is opened to the public while still under construction (1867).
1870s: Williamsburgh Savings Bank is built.
1880s: Industry booms throughout the decade, exemplified by the Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg (1882), the largest sugar refinery in the world at the time. The Brooklyn Bridge is built, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan by bridge for the first time and ushering in an era of economic prosperity (1883). The Brooklyn Elevated Railroad (known as the El) begins operating (1885). The Pratt Institute is established (1887). Peter Luger’s opens (1887).
1890s: Soldiers & Sailors Arch, in Grand Army Plaza, is dedicated to the casualties of the Civil War (1892). The Brooklyn Public Library is established (1896). The Brooklyn Museum is designed by McKim, Mead & White (1893). The City of Brooklyn becomes one of the five boroughs of New York City (1898). Al Capone is born in Brooklyn (1899) and grows up near the Navy Yard and then in Park Slope.
1900s: The Williamsburg Bridge is completed (1903). Coney Island’s Luna Park debuts (1903). The Manhattan Bridge opens (1909).
1910s: Brooklyn Botanic Gardens is founded (1910). The Brooklyn Army Terminal is built (1919).
1920s: The Cyclone opens at Coney Island (1927). The 37-story Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower is built, becoming the tallest office building in Brooklyn (1929).
1930s: European Jews escaping Nazism establish a Hasidic enclave in Williamsburg.
1940s: The Central Library at Grand Army Plaza is completed (1941). A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is published (1943). Jackie Robinson debuts for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play for a Major League Baseball team (1947).
1950s: The population of Brooklyn hits a high of 2.7 million people in the 1950s before it declines through the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Toward the end of the '50s, many middle-class families begin leaving Brooklyn for the suburbs of Westchester and Long Island. The Brooklyn Dodgers decamp to Los Angeles (1958).
1960s: The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (also known as the BQE) is completed after 25 years in the works (1960). The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is constructed, connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island (1964). Following a period of economic decline, the Brooklyn Navy Yard shuts down (1966). Brooklyn’s first West Indian-American Carnival parades down Eastern Parkway (1969).
1970s: The National Register of Historic Places adds the Park Slope Historic District and several others (1973–79). The Red Hook Food Vendors set up shop (1974); Brooklyn’s last breweries shut down (1976). White flight gains momentum; crime and poverty are major issues throughout Williamsburg, Bushwick, Park Slope, and other neighborhoods. The blackout of 1977 results in looting and arson in Bushwick.
1980s: More additions to the National Register of Historic Places: Ditmas Park Historic District (1981), Clinton Hill Historic District (1981), and Greenpoint Historic District (1982). The Brooklyn Chinese-American Association is founded (1987) to support the influx of Chinese immigrants settling in Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s first Chinatown. Many neighborhoods are still plagued with high crime rates. Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing depicts racial tension and violence in Bedford-Stuyvesant (1989).
1990s: Brooklyn's population increases for the first time since the 1950s. Artists who can’t afford rising rents in Manhattan begin moving into lofts and vacant warehouses in Williamsburg and DUMBO. The mayor’s office targets Brooklyn’s waterfront for revitalization (1992). The MetroTech Center business and educational area in Downtown Brooklyn is founded, revitalizing the area (1992). Brooklyn Brewery sets up a permanent home in Williamsburg (1996), sparking a renaissance in Brooklyn brewing. Diner opens in the same neighborhood, paving the way for the farm-to-table movement to arrive in Brooklyn (1999).
2000s: Steiner Studios opens in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, bringing the film industry to Brooklyn (2004). The Brooklyn Book Festival debuts (2005). Café Grumpy starts roasting coffee in Greenpoint, when there was little happening north of McCarren Park (2005). Etsy gets its start in a Fort Greene apartment (2005). The DUMBO Historic District is added to the National Register of Historic Places (2007). Roberta's pizza opens in industrial East Williamsburg (2008). The Brooklyn Flea is founded (2008).
2010s: King’s County Distillery opens, becoming New York City’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition (2010). Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare is the borough’s first restaurant awarded two Michelin Stars (2010). The first phase of Brooklyn Bridge Park renovations are unveiled (2010). Jane’s Carousel is installed in the park (2011); Smorgasburg is created as an extension of the Brooklyn Flea, drawing foodies across the East River (2011). The Barclays Center opens (2012). The Wythe Hotel opens (2012). HBO’s Girls puts Greenpoint on the map (2012). The Domino Sugar Refinery, abandoned since 2004, is demolished to make room for a mixed-use residential and commercial development (2015). Hillary Clinton sets up her 2016 presidential campaign headquarters in Brooklyn Heights (2015). Though some protested, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s ecoluxury hotel, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, opened in 2017.
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