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Some selected Brooklyn Street & Place Name Origins...
The Famous and the Not So Famous...

For a plain list of ALL street names in Brooklyn, New York, click here

Name Origin
Agate Court Built by industrialist Florian Grosjean, "Agate" was a reference to his line of porcelain enamel cookware, "Lalance & Grosjean Agate Ware". The cookware was so widely used that the Agate Ware name became generic for all porcelain enamel cookware during the 1880's to 1910's.

In what, for its time, must have been a brilliant bit of consumer branding, the company burned their name into the dishware, rather than using the more common paper labels that washed off. Thus the brand name was attached to the product for its life.

Grosjean was also the first manufacturer of tin spoons in the United States.
Florian Grosjean
Florian Grosjean, 1824-1903
Albee Square During the vaudeville era, Edward Franklin Albee built a large theatre on this site, which in its later life was well known as the "R.K.O. Albee".

"Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward Franklin Albee became partners in the late 1880s to promote "polite" vaudeville. They lavishly remodeled several theaters on the east coast and began producing a brand of "high class" vaudeville. Crude remarks and risqué costumes were censored from performances and they even attempted to prohibit rude behavior by audiences. Keith was the financial head of the circuit, while Albee was the general manager and owner of several theaters. In 1906, Keith and Albee established the United Booking Office. Every act that sought employment at any of the member theaters had to work through this central office, which in turn charged a five percent commission per act. Thus Keith and Albee expanded their power base. In the 1920s the Keith/Albee circuit merged with a western chain of vaudeville theaters to form the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Circuit. In 1928, $4,500,000 worth of stock was sold to Joseph P. Kennedy's Radio Corporation of America (RCA) establishing the Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO). After this merger, motion pictures became the primary form of entertainment, while vaudeville survived only as an accompaniment to the feature film."

-- source: Univ of Iowa

Albee Theatre, 1 DeKalb Avenue
Albemarle Road named after Albemarle Road in the borough of Kensington, London, England. Was originally called Butler Street, and before that, Ausable Avenue.
Bartel-Pritchard Square Named for Emil Bartel and William Pritchard, Brooklyn natives and close friends who both died while serving in combat during World War I. Bartel lived at 251 Windsor Place and Pritchard lived in Bushwick on Linden Street. Both men were killed in the fall of 1918, while serving with the 59th Regiment, Coastal Artillary. They both were 23 years old.

Bartel-Pritchard Square is actually a traffic circle...
Bedford Avenue  
Bedford Avenue, named for the neighborhood of Bedford Corners (originally centered at what is now Bedford and Flushing Avenues), is the longest street in Brooklyn, at about 10.2 miles long (16.4 km). The avenue originally served as a major North/South route between the farming village of Flatbush and Newtown Creek.

source: Brooklyn By Name & wikipedia.
Bergen Street
Bergen Beach
Named after Hans Hansen Bergen (b. 1610 / d. 1654, and also known as "Hans Hansen Noorman" and "Hans Hansen Boer"), one of New Amsterdam's earliest settlers.

A Scandinavian, Bergen came to the New World from Bergen, Norway and originally lived on Manhattan island where he worked as the overseer of a tobacco plantation on the island, before relocating to what is now the area of the Navy Yard and Fort Greene / Clinton Hill where he was granted a 400-acre parcel of land.

Descendents of Hans Hansen Bergen have figured prominently in Brooklyn and New York City history for centuries: John Teunis Bergen and Teunis Garret Bergen were members of the U.S. Congress, John G. Bergen was the Commissioner of the NYPD during the 1863 Draft Riots, and Howard Dean, the former U.S. Presidential candidate and 6-term governor of the state of Vermont, is a descendent of Bergen.
Brooklyn Avenue
Brooklyn is the anglicized form of "Breuckelen", and is most probably named after the municipality of Breukelen, in Utrecht province, in the Netherlands. The (new world) village of Breukelen was founded by Dutch settlers sometime after 1625 as one of five villages on Long Island (which they called Nieuw Amersfoort -- New Amersfoort, Amersfoort being another municipality in the Netherlands), the other villages being Bushwick (founded in 1638), Flatbush (1636), Flatlands (1636), and New Utrecht (1657). A sixth, Gravesend (1643 or 1645) by an Englishwoman named Lady Deborah Moody. The British captured the Dutch territory in 1664 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and when the British combined the six villages into one County (Kings County), under the British flag, the Dutch residents began "anglicizing" many place names and family names -- that is, changing or translating the names into English.

Bainbridge Street Commodore William Bainbridge (1789-1833) was the Commodore of the U.S.S. Constitution (also known as "Old Ironsides") during the War of 1812. He commanded the ship through what may have been the most intense surface fight in naval history, a two-hour hard fought battle against the frigate Java.

from the US Navy Historical Library:

"Shortly after Christmas, 1812, Constitution was sailing in the Atlantic just off the coast of Brazil. On the morning of 29 December, sails were sighted on the horizon, and Constitution's new captain, William Bainbridge, altered course to investigate. The ship proved to be HMS Java, a frigate similar to Guerriere. Both frigates stood for each other and cleared their decks
for action.

The defeat of Java, the second frigate lost to Constitution in six months, motivated a change in the tactics of the Royal Navy. No longer would their frigates be allowed to engage American frigates like Constitution alone. Only British ships-of-the-line or squadrons were permitted to come close enough to these ships to attack."

The bad news back to British Admiralty was delivered by Java's first lieutenant : "It is with deep regret that I write you for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that His Majesty's Ship Java is no more, after sustaining an action on the 29th Inst for several hours with the American Frigate Constitution which resulted in the Capture and ultimate destruction of His Majestys Ship. Captain Lambert being dangerously wounded in the height of the Action, the melancholy task of writing the detail devolves on me...."

-- Source: US Navy

Commodore William Bainbridge,

Bath Beach The neighborhood of Bath Beach is named after the town of Bath, England, home to famous Roman baths founded there when the Romans found hot springs in the area in the 1st century, A.D.
Bensonhurst Named after Egbert Benson (1746-1833), New York's first Attorney General after the Revolutionary War.
Boerum Hill Born in New Lots, the family of Simon Boerum (1724-1775) had a family farm in the area during the 18th Century. Simon Boerum served as county cleark for 25 years, a member of the New York General Assembly between 1761 and 1775, and was a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774 and 1775. He died at his home in Brooklyn Ferry in July, 1775.
Bridge Street Bridge Street was originally going to be the street that led to a bridge to Manhattan. But as it turned out, the first bridge to Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, was built to the south and the Manhattan Bridge was built to the north. The street was the departure point of a sucessful ferry service, but the street fell into such disrepair that people didn't want to use it...a lot of existing Brooklyn streets didn't get paved until the second half of the 1800's.
Brooklyn The origin of the word "Brooklyn" is sort of accidental. It is the anglicization of the word "Breukelen" -- which is the name of a town in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Dutch settlers named their settlement on the western end of Long Island Breukelen after the town in their homeland, and when the English took over rule of New Amsterdam, the residents changed the spelling of Breukelen to "Brooklyn".

In the same way, many, many Dutch words became the "English" names for places in the New Amsterdam (which became New York) area. A couple of examples of things that still strongly bear their Dutch history in their names: many sources think Coney Island is thought to be named after rabbits....the Dutch word for "rabbit" is "konjin", pronounced, roughly, "con yeen". Another example is "Red Hook" -- originally named Roode Hoek, which, in Dutch, means "Red Point" -- a reference to the red clay of the area and the "point" of land that juts out into the harbor.

In addition to place names, the Dutch gave us a lot of words that became very common in post-Dutch New York, and the world. The word "cookie" comes from the Dutch word koekje, the word "boss" comes from the Dutch word baas and koolsla, which literally means "cabbage salad" became "coleslaw".
Cadman Plaza Named for Reverend Dr. Samuel Parkes Cadman (1864-1936), Pastor of Brooklyn's Central Congregational Church, who was the first person to broadcast a nation-wide religious radio program in the United States.
Canarsie Road
This was the "road to Canarsie," an early settlement in the town of Flatlands, and named after Canarsie Indians who lived in the area.
Church Avenue
The main road to Flatbush Reformed Church at the center of the original Dutch town of Flatbush, founded in 1636.
Carroll Street
Carroll Gardens
Named after Charles Carroll, Maryland delegate to the Continental Congress, and the only Roman-Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence (however, he did not actually vote for the Declaration: he was elected to the Contiental Congress on July 4th, 1776 — too late to cast his vote. His signature on the Declaration reads "Charles Carroll of Carrollton", to distinguish him from his father, Charles Carroll of Annapolis. Carroll funded the building of a 140 acre estate in Baltimore which eventually became the campus of Johns Hopkins University. At his death, Carroll was the final surviving signer of the Declaration, after both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day (July 4, 1826 -- the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence).

The "Gardens" part of Carroll Gardens came about because of the way the neighborhood was laid out by City Surveyor Richard Butt in 1846, which required certain streets in the neighborhood to have a larger set-back from the street, to be used for courtyards, only.

Read a biographical sketch of Charles Carroll from the US History.org website
Coney Island Avenue
For many years, this was the main road --a plank road no less -- to Coney Island.

Although there are many theories of the origin of the name "Coney", probably the most popular is that it is supposedly an anglicized version of the Dutch word meaning "rabbit", "konijn" -- perhaps after the multitude of rabbits on the island.

Other theories are that it was named after "Conyn," a Dutch surname, OR after a small island near Sligo, Ireland, with a very similar size.

Conselya Street This street was built through farmland belonging to Andrew Conselya, and was named after him.
Cooper Street Bushwick resident Hannah Cooper once owned the land through which this street was cut.
Cortelyou Road Named for Jacques Cortelyou (ca 1625 - 1693), one of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam, a land surveyor who drew the first map of what we now call lower Manhattan and also helped build the fortification that gave Wall Street its name.

His first job in the colony was as a tutor and guardian to the children of Cornelis van Werckhoven, who had settled a large tract of land north of Coney Island. When van Werckhoven passed away, Cortelyou applied for and was granted the right to divide the land into a town which he called New Utrecht, in honor of van Werckhoven's home in Holland.

Today that area lies between Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst. Cortelyou was also a real estate speculator, and founded the town of Bergen, New Jersey.
DeKalb Avenue Named after Bavarian German soldier Johann de Kalb (b 1721 d 1780), who served as a Major General for George Washington's Continental Army during the American Revolution. De Kalb was killed at the battle of Camden, South Carolina. In his honor, many streets, counties, and towns are named after De Kalb, in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, and probably most famously, Georgia, where DeKalb County contains part of the city of Atlanta. In Brooklyn, "DeKalb" is usually pronounced "DEE-kalb"...in Georgia it's usually pronounced as "deh-KAB". In both instances, there is no space inserted between "De" and "Kalb" in the official spellings.

De Kalb's protégé in the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette, is commemorated one block south of DeKalb Avenue: Lafayette Avenue.
Driggs Avenue Named for Edmund Driggs, the last President of the village of Williamsburgh (Williamsburgh lost the "H" when Brooklyn was consolidated into New York City).
DUMBO Not a street name, an acronymm for the neighborhood located Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
Duffield Street According to forgotten-ny.com, Duffield Street was named after surgeon John Duffield, who lived in Brooklyn Village during the Revolutionary War era.
Erskine Street Named for Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine
East New York Avenue
In 1835, John R. Pitkin bought a large plot of land as a speculative venture, and named it "East New York" thinking that this would become the eastern edge of New York City.

His plan failed due to an economic depression in 1837, but the name stuck.

Pitkin Avenue also runs through the neighborhood.
Farragut Road Named after Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (1801-1870), who fought in the war of 1812 and also for the Union during the Civil War, where he commanded the fleet that took New Orleans (1862) and Mobile Bay (1864), for which actions he was awarded the rank of Admiral, the first person in the U.S. Navy to hold that rank.

Farragut is probably best remembered for saying "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"

Force Tube Avenue
Marks the path of high-pressure water lines that once ran between a water pumping station on Atlantic Avenue at Conduit Blvd and the Ridgewood Reservoir on the heights behind Highland Park. The Ridgewood Reservior operated between November 18, 1858 and 1959. Between 1959 and 1989, the reservoir was used during summertime as a backup water supply for parts of Brooklyn and Queens. In 2004 the City announced plans to turn the reservoir into parkland.
Fort Greene
Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene was in command of the Continental Army troops on Long Island, and in that capacity he chose the placement of, and supervised the construction of, a line of fortifications (i.e. forts and redoubts) across Brooklyn including Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Fort Box in Cobble Hill, and the largest, Fort Putnam, on the site of today's Fort Greene Park. Fort Putnam was renamed Fort Greene during the War of 1812 (and there is another Fort Putnam - at West Point).

A self-taught war tactician, Greene rose from the rank of private directly to Major General during the Siege of Boston (April 1775 - March 1776) and then was appointed a brigadier of the Continental Army by the Continental Congress and assigned command of the city of Boston after it was evacuated by the British in March 1776. Later in the war he commanded all Continental troops between Delaware and Georgia. He was the only General other than George Washington to serve the entire eight years of the Revolutionary War.

Originally named Washington Park, the park was renamed to honor Greene on July 20th, 1896 by the City Aldermen. The land was designated for use as a public park by the City of Brooklyn in 1845 and basic land improvements were completed by 1850. In 1867, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were hired to design a renovation of the landscape, and architechts McKim, Mead and White were engaged to design a monument and crypt for the remains of the victims of the British prison ships.

more info on Nathanael Greene
Fulton Street
One of the oldest streets in Brooklyn, it began as an Indian path, later becoming the main "road to the ferry," the "Road to Jamaica." and after the inception of the Fulton Ferry service, "Fulton Street." The street has undergone still further change: in 1967 the western end was renamed "Cadman Plaza West" after Reverend Dr. Samuel Parkes Cadman (see "Cadman Plaza" above); most recently the stretch nearest the
East River has been renamed "Old Fulton Street."

"Fulton", of course, comes from Robert Fulton, who is often credited with inventing the Steamboat in 1807 (it was actually first conceived and patented by John Fitch in 1785-1787, but Fitch's venture failed due to a lack of financial backing).

Fulton, along with Robert R. Livingston, held a state-ordered monopoly on the operation of steam-powered boats on New York waterways for 17 years (see Livingston Street, below).

Fulton's invention was very important, especially to Brooklyn...so much so that in a 1902 article about the renaming of Brooklyn Streets following consolidation, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted that "It is the theory that when Fulton Street was named in honor of Robert Fulton, the city fathers, in order to further honor his name, determined to allow no street to cross Fulton, thus making it the dividing thoroughfare of [Brooklyn], all streets intersecting with it to have their beginning from it.

Fulton's first steamship, the North River Steamboat, also known as The Clermont, built in 1807, was the first steam ship to become a commercial success.

The ship created quite a stir when it first sailed, because nobody in the States had seen such a thing...
According to a newspaper account, people on the river "beheld what they supposed to be a huge monster, vomiting fire and smoke from its throat, lashing the water with its fins, and shaking the river with its roar, approaching rapidly in the very face of both wind and tide. Some threw themselves flat on the deck of their vessels, where they remained in an agony of terror until the monster had passed, while others took to their boats and made for the shore in dismay, leaving their vessels to drift helplessly down the stream. Nor was this terror confined to the sailors. The people dwelling along the shore crowded the banks to gaze upon the steamer as she passed by."
Garden Place This was the site of the country home garden of Philip Livingston, one of New York's 4 signers
of the Declaration of Independence, and a prominent New York City merchant and alderman.

Philip Livingston was the fifth son of Philip Livingston, second lord of Livingston Manor, of Scotch descent, and Catherine Van Brugh, of Dutch lineage. He was born in 1716 at his father's townhouse in Albany, New York, and spent most of his childhood there or at the family manor at Linlithgo, about 30 miles to the south.

Upon receiving a degree from Yale in 1737, he entered the import business in New York, New York. Three years later, he married Christina Ten Broeck and moved into a townhouse on Duke Street in Manhattan; he was to sire five sons and four daughters. As time went on, he built up a fortune, particularly as a trader-privateer during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). In 1764, though retaining his Duke Street home, he acquired a 40-acre estate on Brooklyn Heights overlooking the East River and New York Harbor.

It was at Philip Livingston's residence in Brooklyn Heights that General George Washington held the council of war that decided to retreat from Long Island in 1776.

Philip Livingston (1716-1778)

Sort of looks like "Kevin" from "The Office", don't you think?
Gates Avenue
Horatio Gates (1727-1806) was an American general during the Revolutionary War.

In October, 1777, troops under the command of Gates defeated British troops under the command of General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York (the Second Battle of Saratoga). Under the terms of surrender (the Convention of Saratoga), Burgoyne's army was to be sent back to England, and for each soldier to pledge not to serve again in the war against the colonies.

5800 British, Hessian, and Canadian prisoners were marched from Saratoga to Boston. The Continental Congress asked General Burgoyne to write a descriptive list of the officers in custody, in order to prevent them from returning to the battlefield. Burgoyne refused, and Congress suspended the terms of the Convention of Saratoga. The prisoners were subsequently marched 700 miles to the south, to Charlottesville, Virginia in November of 1778, and arriving in January 1779 (they were subsquently relocated again, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where those who survived the forced marches and camp fevers remained until their release in 1783.

Following the war, Gates moved to New York City (1790) and served in the State Legislature (1800) prior to his death in 1806.

Horatio Gates (1727-1806)
Granville Payne (Pennsylvania Ave)
Thanks to Elizabeth Harvey from the Brooklyn Public Library, we finally have an answer to this one: "Pennsylvania Avenue was renamed for Granville Payne, Jazz musician and community activist, Dec. 7, 1985 by local law #12 (NYC Administrative Code)." This is a co-named street...see below.
Michael Griffith Street Pacific Street between Albany and Ralph Avenues had the additional name "Michael Griffith Street" added to it on November 22, 1999, by executive order of Mayor Giuliani, in remembrance of Trinidad-Tobago native Michael Griffith. On the night of December 20, 1986, Michael Griffith, along with three friends, drove to a construction site to pick up their paychecks. On the way back to Brooklyn, their car broke down on Cross Bay Boulevard near a pizzeria, which they then entered to eat. When the three men left the eatery, an angry crowd, armed with baseball bats confronted them and chased them toward Shore Parkway where Michael Griffith was hit by a car and killed instantly. He was 23 years old. Co-Named Streets:
The adding of a second name to a street, or co-naming, is often used in New York City to honor activists, noteable local residents, or groups. It is sometimes controversial, and in fact Brooklyn Community Board CB2 (Brooklyn Heights) has added the requirement that streets not be co-named for someone until at least 3 years after that person's death. In addition to those listed here, there are also co-named streets in Brooklyn honoring Harriet Tubman (Fulton Street), Bob Marley (Church Avenue from Albany Avenue to Bedford Avenue), and Carlos Lezama, who was instrumental in moving the annual West Indian-American Labor Day Parade from Harlem to Brooklyn in the 1970's (Brooklyn Avenue and St. John's Place)
Hancock Street
American statesmen John Hancock was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Java Street
Originally "J" Street (not to be confused with "Jay Street"), this Greenpoint street may have been renamed in refererence to cargo that was often unloaded from the ships along the waterfront.
Trivia: the streets in Greenpoint are named alphabetically, north-to-south: Ash Street, Box Street, Clay Street, Dupont, Eagle, Freeman, Green, Huron, India, Java, Kent. Similarly, in Flatbush, you have Albemarle, Beverley, Cortelyou, Dorchester/Ditmas, Foster, Glenwood, Avenue H....
Jay Street John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Joralemon Street
Named after Teunis Joralemon a prominent attorney and Kings County judge.

Joralemon Street cuts through land that was originally part of Philip Livingston's 40-acre Brooklyn farm, which Livingston purchased in 1764; Joralemon purchased a portion of that land in 1803. Other prominent land owners in the area were the Pierrepontt and Middagh families.
Archibald C. Ketchum Square Archibald C. Ketchum was an inventor, who (circa 1853) invented a new type of railroad car wheel which was easy to maintain, its parts being replaceable in a modular fashion. He also invented an improved tea kettle (1859).  
Kosciusko Street


The Pulaski Bridge
Thaddeus Kosciusko (1746-1817) was a Polish-Lithuanian patriot who volunteered to fight for America during the Revolutionary War as a Colonel of Engineers. He eventually became the Head Engineer of the Continental Army. In recognition of his service, after the war he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by the Continental Congress and he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

Speaking of famous Poles and American Revolutionary War heros, the Pulaski Bridge, which connects "Little Poland" (Greenpoint) to Long Island City was named after Casimir Pulaski (Kazimierz Pułaski), who came to America to volunteer to fight in the Revolutionary War. He wrote to General George Washington "I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it."

Thaddeus Kosciusko (1746-1817)
Kossuth Place
Lajos (Louis) Kossuth (1802-1894) was a Hungarian statesman and patriot., and was known as the "Father of Hungarian Democracy ".

After the Hungarian Parliament dethroned the Habsburg dynasty in 1849, Kossuth was elected Governor of the country. That prompted the Russian Czar to dispatch 300,000 soldiers to help his imperial brother, Francis Joseph.

Kossuth was exiled from the country, and visited the United States in 1851, where he was the first foreigner since Lafayette to address a combined session of Congress. He died, still in exile, in Italy in 1894.

more info

Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894)
Lexington Avenue
This street commemorates the Revolutionary War's Battle of Lexington.
Liberty Avenue
Said that this thoroughfare was known as "the liberty road" because it was free to farmers travelling over it.

Lincoln Place
DeGraw Street becomes Lincoln Place at Fifth Avenue. It was renamed in 1873 after an infamous murder at 731 DeGraw Street that took place on March 21, 1873.

Lizzie Lloyd King, (a.k.a. Kate Stoddard) murdered her paramour Charles Goodrich (whom she met via a personal ad in a newspaper) when he tried to break off their relationship and evict her from his house. Stoddard then cleaned up the body, and left the house that night (in April she moved into a boarding house on High Street). The day after the murder, she went to work at her job at a bonnet factory in Manhattan. Despite Goodrich being shot three times in the head, the Brooklyn Police Detectives first tried to claim Goodrich had died of a suicide, because there didn't appear to have been a struggle. They eventually tracked down Stoddard, and she was finally arrested that summer. She ended up in the State Lunatic Asylum at Auburn, New York.

Before she'd even been caught, local property owners petitioned the city council to change the name of the street (NY Times story). Eventually the renaming was extended all the way up to Prospect Park.
Livingston Street
The Livingston family was one of the most prominent in early America (and in Scotland before that -- Mary Livingston was Lady in Waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots).

Robert Livingston (1654-1725) immigrated to North America in 1673.

Philip Livingston (1716-1778) was one of four delegates from New York who signed the Declaration of Independence.

His cousin Robert R. Livingston (1747-1813) helped write the Declaration, but was in New York at the time of the signing, and thus his signature does not appear on the document. In 1789, Robert R. Livingston administered the Presidential Oath of Office to George Washington.

In 1807 Robert R. Livingston, along with Robert Fulton, secured a monopoly for "navigating all boats that might be propelled by steam, on all waters within the territory, or jurisdiction of the State, for the term of twenty years." It took until 1824 to break the monopoly, and the court case that did so, Ogden v. Gibbons, was a landmark case establishing the power of the Federal government under the Constitution (and pitted another famous New York name, Cornelius Vanderbilit, against Fulton and Livingston).

Love Lane
May have received its name from the many admirers of Miss Sarah DeBevoise, who lived here with her uncles Robert and John.

Marcy Avenue
Captain William Learned Marcy (1786-1857) served in the War of 1812, and later became a U.S. Senator, Governor of New York State, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State.

See some additional biograpical information on the US Army website.

Captain William Learned Marcy (1786-1857)
Mermaid Avenue
Along with Neptune Ave., Mermaid Ave. is a reminder of the seaside romance of Coney Island. Every summer sees the return of the Mermaid Parade to Coney Island, heralding the start of summer (actually it takes place on the first Saturday after the Summer Soltice).

Montague Street
Lady Mary Wortley Montague (1689-1762) was a cousin of the Pierrepont family, through whose property this street was cut. Lady Montague is perhaps best remembered for bringing the concept of inoculation against smallpox to the attention of the British public.

While in Instanbul in 1718 she decided to have her three year old son inoculated to protect him from the smallpox disease, which was a common practice used by the Turks to protect against the disease. Upon her return to England, she helped popularize the practice in England.

Lady Mary Wortley Montague (1689-1762)
do you think her neck really looked like that? I don't.
Mother Gaston Boulevard
Rosetta "Mother" Gaston (born 1885, died 1981), was a community activist "who devoted her life to community work and teaching Black children about their heritage." She founded Heritage House for the young and old of the Brownsville community, located on the third floor of the Stone Avenue Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brownsville branch.

Born in a tenement, Ms. Gaston had to leave school and go to work at age 14. She worked at a department store as an elevator operator for four decades, during which time she also went to seminars at what is now known as the Association for Study of Afro-American Life and History.

Mother Gaston organized small groups of children and young adults from Brownsville into classes to learn about their ethnic histories, the arts, and the humanities, until she passed away at age 95. After her death, a bronze statue was erected in her memory in Brownsville, and Stone Avenue was renamed Mother Gaston Boulevard.

Sources: Brooklyn Public Library & The New York Times
Myrtle Avenue
Myrtle Avenue was named for myrtle bushes that were found in the area. The street was graded and paved in 1839 from City Hall (now Borough Hall, of course) all the way to Nostrand Avenue.
Nostrand Avenue
Nostrand Avenue takes its name from Gerret Noorstrandt, one of the earliest members of the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church.
Pineapple Street
According to the WPA Guide to New York City,

An amusing story is associated with the naming of Cranberry, Pineapple, Orange, Poplar, and Willow Streets, directly west of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the decade before the Civil War these streets bore the names of prominent local families. This fact aroused the ire of a Miss Middagh, a determined member of the Brooklyn aristocracy, who vented her dislike of some of her neighbors by tearing down the street signs bearing their names and substituting placards with botanical titles. When the original signs were replaced by the city authorities, she again changed them. This continued until an aldermanic resolution accepted her signs as official. A Heights street retains, however, Miss Middagh's own family name.

Miss Middagh was probably a descendent of Aert Theuniszen Middagh who emigrated to New Amsterdam in 1652.

This story might have been a local myth, later popularized by publication in the newspaper the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in the mid-19th Century.

The pineapple was an 18th-Century symbol of hospitality.

An altenate story is that landowners in the area, the Hicks brothers, sold exotic fruits in the neighborhood. We like the first story better...

Polhemus Place
Now here's a street with a long historical background: Johannes Theodorus Polhemus (b.1598 d.1676) was a German minister (probably born in Boikirchen, Bavaria, Germany) who started off his ministerial duties in the province of Overyssel, Netherlands, then went on to two ministries in Brazil, and finally ended up in the new world (then called Amersfoort) and became the first regularly stationed minister of the Dutch on Long Island in 1654.

Polhemus ministered to his flock in alternating villages, preaching Sunday mornings in the village of Midwout (now known as Flatbush) and alternating the afternoons in the village of Breuckelen (now the area of Brooklyn Heights) and Amersfoort (Flatlands). Services were performed in Dutch until 1764. The first church building was built in 1666 on what is now known as Fulton Street (now the site of Macy's in Downtown Brooklyn).

Due to the growth of the congregation (and no doubt also due to the rapid development of Park Slope following the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge) the congregation moved into a new home at Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street in September, 1891 (which is currently urgently raising funds for restoration of their sanctuary after plaster began falling from the ceiling in late 2011; see their website for more info.

Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope
Photo by WallyG on Flickr, used under CC License
Quentin Road
This road falls where "Avenue Q" would be, if there were one. But it's actually named after a person: Quentin Roosevelt, youngest and favorite son of president Teddy Roosevelt. Quentin was killed at age 20 during the first World War (July 14, 1918).

Former President Roosevelt was held in such high regard by the Germans that when his son was killed he was buried with full military honors by the German forces in a ceremony attended by nearly 1,000 German soldiers. After his grave came under Allied control, thousands of American soldiers visited it to pay their respects.

Roosevelt Field on Long Island is also named after Quentin Roosevelt. Roosevelt Field was the takeoff point for many historic flights in the early history of aviation.
Quisenbury Drive (Gregory Place)
Another co-named street (see above, right), this short block between Butler Street and Park Place honors community activist Dorothy Quisenbury, who served as the president of the Fifth Avenue Committee, a non-profit organization that develops housing in Park Slope, as well as a member of the board of the Park Slope Family Day Care Center. Quisenbury was tragically murdered in 1987.
Red Hook Lane
During the 1760's, this was the major road that ran through the (then) center of Brooklyn, through Dutch farms, and on to Red Hook. During the Revolutionary War, it was a key route for the Continental Army, and a place where riflemen would position themselves to attack the British Army.

In August 1776, George Washington watched the fighting at Gowanus from here, during the Battle of Brooklyn.

source: NY Times, May 10, 2004

Remsen Street
Named after Joris Remsen, who was born around 1680 and married Sarah Polhemus.
Sterling Place
The street "Sterling Place" appears on many old Brooklyn maps as "Stirling". You might think the Stirling spelling would be correct, because the street was named after "Lord Stirling" a.k.a. William Alexander, who was an American Major General during the Revolutionary War, and who claimed the disputed title Earl of Stirling for himself, and referred to himself as Lord Stirling for the rest of his life (almost certainly in order to lay claim to land grants in the American Colonies that would have given him ownership of much of the New England coast, parts of Nova Scotia and the entire St. Lawrence River valley). The British House of Lords refused to recognize his claim, but he stuck to using the title anyway.

Lord Stirling figured very prominently in the Battle of Brooklyn: despite his forces being out-numbered 25-to-1 by the British, he led the 1st Maryland Regiment in slowing down the advance of the British at the site of the Old Stone House (present day 3rd Street and 4th Avenue, between Gowanus and Park Slope), allowing the American army to escape across the East River to Manhattan. It is generally thought that if the rebel army had not escaped the British at this battle, the American uprising would have been defeated.

At any rate, what became Sterling Place was once called Butler Street. But there were two Butler Streets in Brooklyn, and depending on which address you were trying to find, you could get hopelessly lost. So in 1873, the Board of Alderman voted to change the name of Butler Street between Fifth Avenue and Flatbush Avenue to "Sterling Place" -- and the misspelling stuck. They further extended the renaming to Butler between Flatbush and Vanderbuilt Avenues "Sterling" and again in 1897 renamed Butler between Washington Avenue and East New York Avenue as "Sterling Place". By the way, the duplicate-named-streets problem still exists in Brooklyn...there are two Stewart Avenues, one in Bushwick and another in Bay Ridge!

Sterling Place was the scene of a horrific airplane crash in December 1960, when two airplanes collided over Staten Island and one crashed at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Sterling Place. A total of 134 people were killed.

Here is an 1893 map of the area, with the original name, and here is an article from 1902 in the Brooklyn Eagle about the naming confusion.

Lord Stirling (b.1726 d.1783)
Sumner Avenue

Charles Sumner (1811-1874) was a senator from Massachusetts who was an advocate of emancipation. If you've ever heard the famous story about the Caning in the Senate, Sumner was the recipient of the caning.

From the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery:

"Charles Sumner became the junior senator from Massachusetts in December 1851, after a bitter struggle against Boston's formidable Whig establishment, led by Daniel Webster. Sumner drew support from a coalition of Democrats and Free-Soilers who opposed slavery and the compromise measures that Webster had long endorsed. In the Senate, in 1855, Sumner's eloquent speech, "The Crime Against Kansas," compared South Carolina Senator Andrew P. Butler to Don Quixote, whose mistress, "though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot, slavery." Two days later, Butler's nephew, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks, entered the Senate chamber and beat Sumner unconscious. Though Sumner remained an invalid for three years, his constituents reelected him by a large margin. After Lincoln's victory in 1860, Massachusetts politicians still sought to avoid war, but Sumner resisted every compromise measure. In the Senate, he was head of the Foreign Policy Committee, and worked to legislate equal rights for people of color. By the end of the war, he and Lincoln were recognized as the two most influential men in public life. Sumner posed for Brady around 1860, at the height of his power and celebrity.

Charles Sumner (1811-1874)
Underhill Avenue
Named after early English settler and soldier Captain John Underhill (1597-1672). Underhill participated in destructive attacks against Native Americans during the Pequot War and the disastrous Kieft's War.

Underhill came the New World in 1630 as an employee of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, hired to train the colony's militia. Underhill was banished from Boston in 1638 and eventually ended up leasing a tobacco farm in Flatlands (though he apparently never occupied the land there).

His descendent, General James E. Underhill, was a developer and home-builder in Brooklyn during the first half of the 19th Century (who actually went bankrupt in 1842).

Walker Avenue
Named after Dodgers catcher Abe "Rube" Walker

Willoughby Street According to forgotten-ny.com, Willoughby Street was named after Samuel Willoughby who lived during the colonial era, and who married into the Duffield family (see above)
Wingate The Wingate neighborhood is named after George Wood Wingate (1840-1928), a general in the Union Army during the Civil War who is now best known as co-founder of the National Rifle Association and was very active in the organization of school athletics in New York City public schools. Before George Wingate High School was built in 1954, this part of Brooklyn was known as "Pig Town", because of all the small-animal farms in the area. Wingate Park was previously known as Hawthorne Field and George Wingate High School Park. George W. Wingate High School was closed in June 2000; the campus now houses four small schools as part of the Public School system: International Arts Business School, The School for Human Rights, The School for Democracy and Leadership and The School for Public service.

Wingate is buried in the Quaker Burial Ground, a small private cemetary located at the southern end of Prospect Park (sort of between the ballfields and the lake).

If you liked this page,
you will LOVE this book:

Brooklyn By Name
available online from Amazon.com

Interested in Manhattan street name origins?
This is the book for you.

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Speaking of names, have you ever wondered how the
Brooklyn Dodgers got their name?
A list of street intersections in Brooklyn and street views at those intersections.

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