The History of Greenpoint, Brooklyn: An Industrial-Strength Story

PODCAST The history of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint and the oft-polluted Newtown Creek.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has a surprising history of both bucolic green pastures and rancid oil patches. Before the 19th century this corner of Brooklyn was owned by only a few families with farms (and the slaves that tended them). But with the future borough of Brooklyn expanding at a great rate, Greenpoint (or Green Point, as they used to call it) could no longer remain private.

Industries like ship building and petroleum completely changed the character of Greenpoint’s waterfront, while its unique, alphabetically-named grid of streets held an extraordinary collection of townhouses. By the late 19th century, Polish immigrants would move on the major avenues, developing a ‘Little Poland’ that still characterizes the neighborhood.

Today big changes are coming to Greenpoint thanks to new housing developments. How will these new arrivals fare next to the notoriously toxic Newtown Creek, a body of water heavily abused by industry?

FEATURING: Charles Pratt, Margaret Wise Brown, Pat Benetar and the alarming smell of cinnamon toast!

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A map of Greenpoint from an 1896 survey. A list of industries are marked along the waterfront including tanneries, rope and twine manufacturers, a glue factory, glass works and “Wissel’s Dead Animal Wharf.”

Courtesy New York Public LIbrary
Courtesy New York Public LIbrary

 

Neziah Bliss, the ‘godfather’ of Greenpoint due to his marriage into the Meserole family and subsequent development of their former farm and shoreline property.

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The USS Monitor, made at an iron works in Greenpoint, pictured  here July 9, 1862, by Union photographer James F. Gibson.

monitorofficersondeck
Courtesy Library of Congress

An ad for Eberhard Faber pencils from the 1905 journal Architect and Engineer.

Internet Book Archive
Internet Book Archive

Employees at the Eberhard Faber pencil company in Greenpoint, circa 1915, courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society

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Courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society
Courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society

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Your standard view of Newtown Creek in the early 20th century.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

One unusual house at 112 Milton Street. The house is still there but, as part of the Greenpoint Historic District, it’s no longer blue.

Courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society
Courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society

 

The old Meserole house at 1000 Lorimer Street

Courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society
Courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society

 

A very fanciful ‘place mat’ map of Greenpoint Brooklyn. I’m not sure what the original source for this is, but it’s courtesy the Box Hotel.

greenpoint

 

A rather ghastly look at Newtown Creek in 1960, from Apollo Street looking towards the East River.

Courtesy Newtown Creek Alliance
Courtesy Newtown Creek Alliance

 

Picture at top: Manhattan Avenue and Bedford Avenue

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