An Overview Brooklyn History

From Breuckelen to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Bridge
Tony Shi Photography/Getty Images

Brooklyn residents often like to wax poetic about old school Brooklyn and what their neighborhood was like before newcomers arrived. Of course, history is constantly being made. But If you want to know about the real history of the borough, like back to the days when Brooklyn was called Breukelen, here's a rundown on Brooklyn's history. Next time you're walking around Brooklyn, you'll have a better understanding of street names and how the city was shaped.

Brooklyn was once home to the Canarsie Native American tribe, people who fished and farmed the land. In the early 1600s, though, Dutch colonists moved in and took over the area. Over the next 400 years, Brooklyn's forested, rural landscape gave way to urbanization, and the area eventually became the Brooklyn we know today which is one of the most populated regions in the United States. Below is a brief history of the borough. 

The Mid-1600s - Dutch Colonies Form

Originally, Brooklyn consists of six separate Dutch towns, all chartered by the Dutch West India Company. The colonies are known as:

  • Gravesend, settled in 1645
  • Breuckelen, settled in 1646
  • New Amersfoort (present-day Flatlands), settled in 1647
  • Midwest (present-day Flatbush), settled in 1652
  • New Utrecht, settled in 1657
  • Boswijck (present-day Bushwick), settled in 1661

1664 - The English Take Control

In 1664, the English conquer the Dutch and gain control of Manhattan, along with Brooklyn, which then becomes a part of the colony of New York. On November 1, 1683, the six colonies that make up Brooklyn are established as Kings County.

1776 - The Battle of Brooklyn

It is August of 1776 when the Battle of Brooklyn, one of the first skirmishes between the British and the Americans in the Revolutionary War, takes place. George Washington positions troops in Brooklyn and fighting occurs throughout many present-day neighborhoods, including Flatbush and Park Slope. The British defeat the Americans, but because of bad weather, the American troops are able to flee to Manhattan. Many soldiers are thus saved.

1783 - America Rules

Though controlled by the British during the war, New York officially becomes an American state with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

1801 to 1883 - Famous Landmarks are Built

In 1801, the Brooklyn Navy Yard opens. A little more than a decade later, in 1814, the steamship Nassau begins service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Brooklyn's economy grows, and it is incorporated as the City of Brooklyn in 1834. Soon after, in 1838, the Green-Wood Cemetery is created. Twenty years later, in 1859, the Brooklyn Academy of Music is formed. Prospect Park opens to the public in 1867, and one of Brooklyn's most famous landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge, is opened in 1883.

The late 1800s - Brooklyn Thrives

In 1897, the Brooklyn Museum opens, though at the time it is known as the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. In 1898, Brooklyn merges with New York City and becomes one of its five boroughs. The next year, in 1899, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the world's first children's museum, opens its doors to the public.

The early 1900s - Bridges, Tunnels, and a Sports Stadium

When the Williamsburg Bridge opens in 1903, it is the largest suspension bridge in the world. Five years later, in 1908, the city's first subway begins running trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan. In 1909, the Manhattan Bridge is completed.

Ebbets Field opens in 1913, and the Brooklyn Dodgers, formerly known as the Bridegrooms and then the Trolley Dodgers, have a new place to play.

1929 to 1964 - A Skyscraper Comes to Brooklyn

Brooklyn's tallest building, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, is completed in 1929. In 1957, the New York Aquarium comes to Coney Island, and the Dodgers leave Brooklyn. Seven years later, in 1964, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is completed, connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island.

1964 to Present - Continuing Growth

In 1966, the Brooklyn Navy Yard closes and becomes New York's first landmarked historic district. The 1980s brought about the Metro Tech Center, a high-rise development in downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the beginnings of the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Baseball comes to Brooklyn once more in 2001, with the Brooklyn Cyclones playing from Coney Island's KeySpan Park. In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau calculates Brooklyn's population at 2,508,820.

Was this page helpful?