1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brooklyn

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BROOKLYN, formerly a city of New York state, U.S.A., but since 1898 a borough of New York City (q.v.), situated at the S.W. extremity of Long Island. It is conterminous with Kings county, and is bounded N. by the borough of Queens, from which it is in part separated by Newtown Creek; E. by the borough of Queens and Jamaica Bay; S. by the Atlantic Ocean; W. by Gravesend Bay, the Narrows, Upper New York Bay and East river, which separate it from Staten Island, Jersey City and the borough of Manhattan. It has a water-front of 33 m. and extends over an area of 77.62 sq. m. Pop. (1860) 279,122; (1870) 419,921; (1880) 599,495; (1890, then Kings county) 838,547; (1900) 1,166,582; (1905, state census) 1,358,686; (1910) 1,634.351. In 1900 only 310,501, or 26.6%, were native-born of native white parents; 355,697 were foreign-born, 18,367 were negroes, and 1206 were Chinese. Out of 332,715 males of voting age (21 years and over), 15,415 were illiterate (unable to write), and of these 14,159 were foreign-born.

Brooklyn is connected with Manhattan by three bridges across the East river—the lowest, known as the Brooklyn, opened in 1883; another, known as the Williamsburg or East River bridge, opened in 1903; and a third, the Manhattan, was opened in 1909. And a tunnel directly across from the south terminus of Manhattan was completed in 1907. Ferries ply at frequent intervals between numerous points on its west water-front and points in Manhattan; there is also ferry connexion with Jersey City. Brooklyn is served directly by the Long Island railway; by about fifty regular coast-wise and trans-Atlantic steamship lines; and by elevated or surface car lines on a large number of its streets. Subway lines, begun in 1904, connect Brooklyn with the subway system of Manhattan.

Streets and Buildings.—The surface of Brooklyn in the west section, from the lower course of the East river to Gravesend Bay, varies in elevation from a few inches to nearly 200 ft. above sea-level, the highest points being in Prospect Park; but steep street grades even in this section are rare, and elsewhere the surface is either only slightly undulating or, as in the east and south, flat. Most of the streets are from 60 to 100 ft. wide. The principal business thoroughfare is Fulton Street, which begins at Fulton ferry nearly under the Brooklyn bridge, runs to City Hall Park, and thence across the north central section of the borough. In the City Hall Park are the old city hall (now the borough hall), the hall of records, and the county court-house. Two blocks to the north (on Washington Street) is the post-office, a fine granite Romanesque building. The manufacturing and shipping districts are mostly along the west water-front. Here, on Wallabout Bay at the bend of the East river to the westward, is the New York navy yard, the principal navy yard of the United States, established in 1801, and commonly but incorrectly called the Brooklyn navy yard. It occupies altogether about 144 acres, contains a trophy park, parade grounds, the United States Naval Lyceum (founded 1833), officers' quarters, barracks, and three large dry docks (respectively 564, 465 and 307 ft. long), foundries and machine shops. A naval hospital (having accommodation for about 500 patients) to the east is separated from the navy yard by the largest and most interesting of Brooklyn's markets, the Wallabout (about 45 acres). The buildings of this market are Dutch in style and have a quaint clock tower. A little to the north of the navy yard are immense refineries of sugar. About 2 m. to the south, opposite Governor's Island, is the Atlantic Basin of 40 acres, with a wharfage of about 3 m. and brick and granite warehouses used largely for the storage of grain. A little farther south, on Gowanus Bay, is another basin, the Erie, of 161 acres, protected by a breakwater 1 m. in length, occupied by piers, warehouses, lumber depots and some of the largest dry docks in the United States; it also provides protection during winter to hundreds of canal boats. In this vicinity, too, are several yards for building yachts, launches and other boats. At the lower end of the west water-front, facing the Narrows, are a United States reservation and the harbour defences of Fort Hamilton.

For a considerable portion of its inhabitants Brooklyn is only a place of residence, their business interests being in the borough of Manhattan; hence Brooklyn has been called the "city of homes" and the "dormitory of New York." Residential districts with social lines more or less distinctly drawn are numerous. The oldest is that on Brooklyn (or Columbia) Heights, west of City Hall Park, rising abruptly from the river to a height of from 70 to 100 ft., and commanding a delightful view of the harbour. Here are hotels, large apartment-houses, many private residences and a number of clubs, including the Brooklyn, the Crescent, the Hamilton, the Jefferson and the Germania. On Park Slope, immediately west of Prospect Park, and St Mark's Avenue, in another part of the borough, are also attractive residential districts. The south shore of the borough has various summer pleasure resorts, of which Coney Island is the most popular.

Parks and Cemeteries.—One of the most attractive features of Brooklyn is Prospect Park, occupying about 516 acres of high ground in the west central part of the borough, on a site made memorable by the battle of Long Island. Its large variety of trees and shrubs, including oak, hickory, elm, maple, chestnut, birch, ash, cedar, pine, larch and sumach, its flower gardens, a palm house, ponds, a lake of 61 acres for boating, skating and curling, a parade ground of 40 acres for other athletic sports, a menagerie, and numerous pieces of statuary, are among its objects of interest or beauty. From the southern entrance to this park, Ocean Parkway, a fine boulevard, 210 ft. wide and planted with six rows of trees, extends 5½ m. south to Seaside Park (15 acres), on Brighton Beach, Coney Island. From the same entrance Fort Hamilton Parkway extends 4½ m. south-east to Fort Hamilton, and to Dyker Beach Park (144 acres) which face the lower end of the Narrows; and from Fort Hamilton, Shore Road and Bay Ridge Parkway extend north 4½ m. to Bay Ridge Park overlooking Upper New York Bay. From the northern entrance to Prospect Park, Eastern Parkway, another fine boulevard, 200 ft. wide, extends east 2½ m. to a point from which Rockaway Parkway runs 3 m. south-east to Canarsie Beach Park (40 acres), on Jamaica Bay; and extensions of Eastern Parkway run north-east through Highland Park (55 acres), to Brooklyn Forest Park (535 acres, on the border of the borough of Queens), abounding in beautiful trees and delightful views. Half a mile east of the borough hall is Washington or Fort Greene Park (30 acres), laid out on the site of earthworks (known as Fort Greene) constructed during the War of Independence, and commanding good views.

Greenwood cemetery, one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the United States, ½ m. east of Prospect Park, occupies about 478 acres. Among the principal monuments are those erected to Roger Williams, S.F.B. Morse, Elias Howe, De Witt Clinton (colossal bronze statue by Henry Kirke Brown), Henry Ward Beecher, Peter Cooper, Horace Greeley, Henry Bergh, Henry George and James Gordon Bennett. At the main entrance is a beautiful gateway (of elaborately wrought brown stone), 142 ft. wide and having a central tower 100 ft. in height. Along the north-east border of the borough are Cypress Hills cemetery (400 acres), adjoining Brooklyn Forest Park, and the cemetery of the Evergreens (about 375 acres), adjoining Highland Park and partly in the borough of Queens.

In the plaza at the northern entrance to Prospect Park is a soldiers' and sailors' memorial arch (80 ft. in width and 71 ft. in height), adorned with high-reliefs of Lincoln and Grant on horseback (by O'Donovan and Eakins) and with three large bronze groups (by Frederick MacMonnies). Immediately within the park there is a statue (also by MacMonnies) of J.S.T. Stranahan (1808-1898), who did more than any other man for the development of Brooklyn's system of parks and boulevards. On the slope of Lookout Hill (185 ft.) within the park is a shaft erected in 1895 to the memory of the Maryland soldiers who valiantly defended the rear of the American army at the battle of Long Island. A bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln overlooks the lake. In Fort Greene Park is a monument to the memory of the soldiers who died in the British prison ships during the War of Independence, many of them having been buried in a vault below. Facing the borough hall is a statue in bronze (by J.Q.A. Ward) of Henry Ward Beecher, mounted on a granite pedestal with a figure at one side to commemorate Beecher's sympathy for the slave. A fine bronze statue of Alexander Hamilton (by W.O. Partridge, b. 1861) stands at the entrance of the Hamilton Club in Clinton Street and one of U.S. Grant (also by Partridge) stands at the entrance of the Union League Club in Bedford Avenue.

Education.—The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences embraces twenty-six departments, of which those of music, philology and the fine arts have each more than 1000 members; the total membership of all departments in 1906 was 5894. The museum building of this institution is in Institute Park, which is separated from Prospect Park on the north-east by Flatbush Avenue. It contains, besides paintings and statuary, special collections for service in nearly all of the departments; among its purely art collections the most notable is that of J.J.J. Tissot's water-colour drawings, to illustrate the life of Christ. Since 1890 the Institute has received appropriations from the city, but it is maintained chiefly by private contributions. It is the outgrowth of the Apprentices' Library Association, founded in 1824, of which General Lafayette laid the corner-stone on the 4th of July of that year. In 1888 Franklin W. Hooper (b. 1851), who did much to increase the efficiency of the work of the Institute, became director. Pratt Institute, founded in 1887 by Charles Pratt (1830-1891), and the residuary legatee of his wife, who died in 1907, is one of the most successful manual and industrial training schools in the country, and its kindergarten normal is one of the best known in the United States. The Polytechnic Institute, opened in 1855, is a high-grade school of science and liberal arts. It has two general departments, the college of arts and engineering and the preparatory school, which are conducted independently of one another. In connexion with the college there is provision for graduate study and for night courses, and there are teachers' courses to which women are admitted. The Packer Collegiate Institute, opened as the successor of the Brooklyn Female Academy, in 1854, and endowed by Mrs Harriet L. Packer, an institution for women, has primary, preparatory, academic and collegiate departments. Adelphi College, opened in 1896, is for both sexes and gives special attention to normal training; it is the outgrowth of Adelphi Academy, founded in 1869, now the preparatory department. St Francis' College, opened in 1858, and St John's College, opened in 1870, are institutions maintained by Roman Catholics. Here, too, are the law school of St Lawrence University, the Long Island Hospital Medical College, with a training school for nurses, the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy and several schools of music. Brooklyn's public schools rank especially high; among them there is a commercial high school and a manual training high school. Among the larger libraries of the borough are the Brooklyn public library, those of the Long Island Historical Society, on Brooklyn Heights, of Pratt Institute, and of the King's County Medical Society, and a good law library. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which occupies an attractive building near the borough hall, has been a newspaper of strong influence in the community. It was established in 1841 as a Democratic organ, and Walt Whitman was its editor for about a year during its early history.

Brooklyn is well provided with charitable institutions, and has long been known as the "city of churches," probably from the famous clergymen who have lived there. Among them were Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of Plymouth church (Congregational) from 1847 to 1887; Lyman Abbott, pastor of the same church from 1887 to 1898; Thomas De Witt Talmage, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle (Presbyterian) from 1869 to 1894; Richard Salter Storrs (1821-1900), pastor of the church of the Pilgrims (Congregational) from 1846 to 1899; and Theodore L. Cuyler (1822-1909), pastor of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian church from 1860 to 1890.

Manufactures and Commerce.—The borough of Brooklyn is one of the most important manufacturing centres in the United States, most of the factories being located along or near the East river north of the Brooklyn bridge. The total value of the manufactured products in 1890 was $270,823,754 and in 1900, $342,127,124, an increase during the decade of 26.3%. In 1905 the total value of the borough's manufactured product (under the factory system) was $373,462,930, or 15% of the total manufactured product of the state of New York. Brooklyn's largest manufacturing industry is the refining of sugar, about one-half of the sugar consumed in the United States being refined here; in 1900 the product of the sugar and molasses refining establishments was valued at $77,942,997. Brooklyn is also an important place for the milling of coffee and spices (the 1905 product was valued at $15,274,092), the building of small boats, and the manufacture of foundry and machine shop products, malt liquors, barrels, shoes, chemicals, paints, cordage, twine, and hosiery and other knitted goods. Of its large commerce, grain is the chief commodity; it is estimated that about four-fifths of that exported from the port of New York is shipped from here, and the borough's grain elevators have an estimated storage capacity of about 20,000,000 bushels.

The water-supply system is owned and operated by the borough; the water is derived from streams flowing southward in the sparsely settled area east of the borough, and also from driven wells in the same region; it is pumped by ten engines at Ridgewood to a reservoir having a capacity of about 300,000,000 gallons, while a part of it is re-pumped to a high service reservoir near the north entrance to Prospect Park for the service of the most elevated part of the borough. Besides this system some towns in the south section recently annexed have their own water-supply.

History.—The first settlement within the present limits of Brooklyn was made in 1636, when some Dutch farmers took up their residence along the shore of Gowanus Bay. About the same time other Dutch farmers founded Flatlands (at first called Amersfoort), on Jamaica Bay, and a few Walloons founded Wallabout, where the navy yard now is. In 1642 a ferry was established across East river from the present foot of Fulton Street, and a settlement grew up here which was known as The Ferry. The next year Lady Deborah Moody with some followers from New England founded Gravesend near the southern extremity of the borough. Finally, in the year 1645, a settlement was established near the site of the present borough hall, and was called Breuckelen (also spelled Breucklyn, Breuckland, Brucklyn, Broucklyn, Brookland and Brookline) until about the close of the 18th century, when its orthography became fixed as Brooklyn. The name, Breuckelen, meaning marsh land, seems to have been suggested by the resemblance of the situation of the settlement to that of Breuckelen, Holland. Of the other towns which were later united to form the borough, New Utrecht was settled about 1650, Flatbush (at first called Medwoud, Midwout or Midwood) about 1651, Bushwick and Williamsburg in 1660. All of the settlements were for a long time chiefly agricultural communities. Flatbush was for a few years immediately preceding 1675 the largest; but Brooklyn was the first (1646) to have a township organization, and within a few years Wallabout, Gowanus, The Ferry, and Bedford—a new settlement to the south-east of Wallabout, established in 1662—were included within its jurisdiction. In 1654 the municipal privileges of Brooklyn as well as of two of the other towns were enlarged, but with Dutch rule there was general discontent, and when, in 1664, Colonel Richard Nicolls came to overthrow it and establish English rule these towns offered no resistance. Nicolls erected the region composed of Long Island, Staten Island and Westchester into a county under the name of Yorkshire, and divided it into three ridings, of which Staten Island, the present county of Kings, and the town of Newtown in Queens, formed one. In 1683 the present county of Kings was organized by the first colonial legislature. During the War of Independence the chief event was the battle of Long Island, fought on the 27th of August 1776. In 1816, when the population of the town of Brooklyn was about 4500, its most populous section was incorporated as a village; and in 1834, when its population had increased to 23,310, the whole town was incorporated as a city. By 1850 its population had increased to 138,882. In 1855 Williamsburg, which had been incorporated as a city in 1851, and the town of Bushwick were annexed. Other annexations followed until the city of Brooklyn was conterminous with Kings county; and finally, on the 1st of January 1898, the city of Brooklyn became a borough of New York City.

See[edit]

  • S.M. Ostrander, A History of Brooklyn and Kings County (Brooklyn, 1894).
  • H.W.B. Howard (ed.), History of the City of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, 1893).
  • H. Putnam, Brooklyn, in L.P. Powell's Historic Towns of the Middle States (New York, 1899).