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Brooklyn History Museums

The Bushwick Doll Factory: A tour of 538 Johnson, where Brooklyn’s industrial past and punk music collide

There is no place in New York City quite like the converted factory building at 538 Johnson Avenue in Bushwick*, Brooklyn. At the same time, it evokes in mysterious ways a compelling truth about this city — that every building has a story, if only it had a storyteller to share it. For 538 Johnson, that storyteller is Bryan Sears, […]

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Brooklyn History Film History

Motherless Brooklyn: 10 things to know before checking out Edward Norton’s detective film

Motherless Brooklyn, a radical retro transformation of Jonathan Lethem’s book of the same name, refits the bright noir of the movie Chinatown into 1950s New York City. Edward Norton, who wrote and directed this adaptation, also stars as its central figure — Lionel Essrog or simply Brooklyn, a detective with Tourette syndrome and a photographic […]

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Brooklyn History

Treasures of Downtown Brooklyn: Remnants of the former independent city, hidden in plain sight

PODCAST The fascinating history of Brooklyn’s most bustling — and most frequently misunderstood — neighborhood. Downtown Brooklyn has a history that is often overlooked by New Yorkers. You’d be forgiven if you thought Brooklyn’s civic center — with a bustling shopping district and even an industrial tech campus — seemed to lack significant remnants of […]

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Brooklyn History Podcasts

Crossing to Brooklyn: How the Williamsburg Bridge Changed New York City

PODCAST The story of the Williamsburg Bridge — poorly received when it was built but vital to the health of New York City Sure, the Brooklyn Bridge gets all the praise, but the city’s second bridge of the East River has an exceptional story of its own. In this episode, we’ll answer some interesting questions, including: […]

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Brooklyn History Podcasts

The History of DUMBO, the Brooklyn neighborhood built upon a legacy of coffee and cardboard boxes

PODCAST The history of Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood — from its industrial past to its hi-tech future. Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass (DUMBO) is, we think, a rather drab name for a historically significant place in Brooklyn where some of the daily habits of everyday Americans were invented. This industrial area between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges traces […]

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Brooklyn History On The Waterfront

The Brooklyn Historical Society’s stunning new museum in DUMBO

It just got a bit easier to access the glorious history of the Brooklyn waterfront. Don’t get me wrong; I love the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park and its clever incorporation of industrial infrastructure into public spaces — the piers, the warehouses, the cobblestone streets. (I don’t love this so much but whatever.) But things feel […]

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Bowery Boys Bookshelf Brooklyn History

The New Brooklyn: The ups and downs of a very frenetic borough

The subtitle to Kay S. Hymowitz‘s engaging and often provocative new book The New Brooklyn: What It Takes To Bring A City Back is a bit of a misnomer. Brooklyn is not back in any conventional sense of the word. It has not returned to any kind of sense of normalcy or financial stability. In fact, Brooklyn has […]

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Brooklyn History

The Terrible Brooklyn Theater Fire: The Worst Disaster In Brooklyn History — 140 Years Ago Today

It is difficult to discuss calmly the frightful disaster which happened in Brooklyn on Tuesday night. No such awful sacrifice of human life has ever been known in this country, shipwreck and the casualties of war alone being excepted. – New York Times editorial, Dec. 7, 1876  This is a black-letter day in Brooklyn. The theatre […]

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Brooklyn History Neighborhoods

GOWANUS! Brooklyn’s Troubled Waters

PODCAST The history of the Gowanus Canal, at the heart of a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood today, once used to be quite beautiful and non-toxic. Brooklyn’s Gowanus — both the creek and the canal — is one of the most mysterious and historically important waterways in New York City. By coincidence, it also happens to be among its […]

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Brooklyn History

Podcast Rewind: Williamsburg(h) where did you go?

PODCAST Williamsburg used to have an H at the end of its name, not to mention dozens of major industries that once made it the tenth wealthiest place in the world. How did Williamsburgh become a haven for New York’s most well-known factories and then become Williamsburg, home to such wildly diverse communities — Hispanic, […]

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Brooklyn History

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 […]

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Brooklyn History

The mysterious death of Calvert Vaux

On November 19, 1895,  Calvert Vaux went for a morning walk from his son’s home in Brooklyn. He never returned. The 70 year old architect had helped create New York City. His landscape collaborations with Frederick Law Olmsted had given Manhattan its Central Park and Brooklyn its Prospect Park and Fort Greene Park. His own […]

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Brooklyn History

Park Slope and the Story of Brownstone Brooklyn

PODCAST  Park Slope – or simply the park slope, as they used to say – is best known for its spectacular Victorian-era mansions and brownstones, one of the most romantic neighborhoods in all of Brooklyn. It’s also a leading example of the gentrifying forces that are currently changing the make-up of the borough of Brooklyn […]

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Brooklyn History

Ungentrified: Brooklyn in the 1970s

The new Bowery Boys podcast that comes out this Friday will be about Brooklyn. So let’s get in the mood with some pre-Instagram tinted photography from the U.S. National Archives, most of them taken in 1974 by Danny Lyon. followed by some black and white images by Edmund V Gillon. You might have seen many of […]

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Brooklyn History Gangs of New York

Screaming Phantoms, Tomahawks, Phantom Lords, Dirty Ones and other gangs of 1970s Williamsburg, Brooklyn

The Dirty Ones, a notorious gang from Williamsburg. My new column for A24 Films (a tie-in to the new movie A Most Violent Year) is up on their site devoted to culture and events from 1981. For this article, I look at what some of the dangerous undercurrents to life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1981. “By […]