Brooklyn History On The Waterfront Podcasts

The Brooklyn Navy Yard and Vinegar Hill: Where American History Meets the Waterfront

The tale of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is one of New York’s true epic adventures, mirroring the course of American history via the ships manufactured here and the people employed to make them.

The Navy Yard’s origins within Wallabout Bay tie it to the birth of the United States itself, the spot where thousands of men and women were kept in prison ships during the Revolutionary War. 

Within this bay where thousands of American patriots died would rise one of this country‚Äôs largest naval yards. It was built for the service and protection of the very country those men and women died for. A complex that would then create weapons of war for other battles — and jobs for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.

In this episode, Greg is joined by the amazing Andrew Gustafson from Turnstile Tours who unfurls the surprising history of the Navy Yard — through war and peace, through new technologies and aging infrastructure, through the lives of the men and women who built the yard’s reputation.

And the story extends to the tiny neighborhood of Vinegar Hill, famed for its early 19th-century architecture and the mysterious mansion known as the Commandant’s House.

FEATURING the origin story of Brooklyn’s most sacred public monument — at home not in Vinegar Hill (at least not anymore) but in Fort Greene.

WITH Matthew C. Perry (not the guy from Friends), E. R. Squibb, Robert F. Kennedy and … The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?

LISTEN HERE: The Brooklyn Navy Yard

Have you ever worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard or do you have relatives or descendents who worked there during its naval shipbuilding years? Leave your stories in the comments section.

Our sincere thanks to Andrew Gustafson and the gang over at Turnstile Tours. Visit their website to book a tour, not only of the Navy Yard, but also Brooklyn Army Terminal and Prospect Park, as well as a Food Cart Tour.

Turnstile Tours operates tours at the Navy Yard in partnership with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

The original Martyrs Tomb on Hudson Avenue, image courtesy NYPL
Lithograph of the Navy Yard in 1836, Library of Congress
The Navy Yard, 1857, courtesy NYPL
1904, Sands Street entrances to the Navy Yard/Library of Congress
July 1917, Bain News Service/Courtesy the Library of Congress
Bird’s-eye view showing barracks and men doing exercises; harbor in background. 1909/Library of Congress
Women exit the Brooklyn Navy Yard, September 19, 1942 – (Photo by the New York Times/Redux)

A wall mural on Navy Street celebrates the Navy Yard’s history. Courtesy Greg Young
Sands Street Gatehouse, today a tasting room for Kings County Distillery. Courtesy Greg Young
King County Distillery finds its home in a 19th century paymaster building… Courtesy Greg Young
This is what’s inside today! Photo courtesy Greg Young
Building 92
Just one room in Building 92’s thorough museum to the Navy Yard’s history.

The paths of the Naval Cemetery Landscape, the site of the old Naval Hospital cemetery.

Peering through the gate to Quarters A, the Commandant’s House.

Enchanting Vinegar Hill


The Brooklyn Navy Yard / Thomas F. Berner
The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn / Robert P. Watson
Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy / Ian W. Toll
U.S. Navy: A Complete History / M. Hill Goodspeed

List of Ships Constructed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard
Brooklyn Navy Yard Website: History
Naval History and Heritage Command
NYC Parks — Prison Ship Martyrs Monument
Old United States Naval Hospital Landmark Designation Report
Dry Dock #1 Landmark Designation Report
Quarters A, Commandant’s House Landmark Designation Report
Vinegar Hill Historic District Designation Report

Also visit the Turnstile Tours website for many fascinating articles about the Navy Yard


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