Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Williamsburg, Brooklyn has experienced a large array of cultural, ethnicity and other such changes in the people who have passed through the neighborhood’s walls in the past 500 years. From New York’s early Dutch settlers to Hispanic Immigrants in the 1960’s to today’s “Hipster” community, Williamsburg has been home to a very diverse community of people throughout the years. With these changes also comes an extremely wide variety of social and class standing within the community. In these regards, Williamsburg has seen it all – from the lower to the upper class.

DSC_0109Williamsburg Bridge

Williamsburg begins its journey with Native Americans who lived there called the Canarsee tribe (where the name of Carnarsie, Brooklyn comes from today). When the Dutch arrive in the New World in the 1600s they begin to colonize New Amsterdam, today known as New York. In 1638, they purchase today’s Williamsburg from the Canarsee Indian tribe living there and begin to transform the area into Dutch Farmland. The farmland will stay around until two entrepreneurs in the 1800s begin to recognize the importance of the proximity of Williamsburg to the changing Manhattan atmosphere.Richard Woodhull and James Hazard began to run ferry lines from Williamsburg to Manhattan, bringing many people through the area. Woodhull eventually purchased the land and along with a friend named Jonathan Williams, laid out a grid plan for the streets in the neighborhood. The laid out streets and location compared to Manhattan made Williamsburgh (then with an “h” at the end and named after Williams) into what is considered the first American and New York suburb.

In 1852, the “h” at the end of Williamsburgh is removed and a new environment begins to arrive in the neighborhood. At this time, Brooklyn annexes the the newly ordained “Williamsburg” and the population hikes in numbers. With the arrival of the steamboat in 1865, Williamsburg becomes a great area for arising factories such as the Domino Sugar refinery, attracting many factory and other working class people to the area. (ny.curbed.com) With the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, a new community of immigrants began to flood into the neighborhood by way of the bridge and in this time, Williamsburg’s population takes a giant leap.

Williamsburg BridgeAs political issues in Europe begin to arise and Nazism creates a threat, many Jews seeking refuge in America flee and a Hasidic Jewish Enclave concentrates in Williamsburg, Starting in this time and continuing through the 60s, public housing also becomes very prominent in the neighborhood, attracting many Hispanic, mostly Puerto Rican immigrants to the area. Later on Dominicans and other Hispanic people begin to make their way into the neighborhood as well, looking for factory jobs. The neighborhood becomes very crowded and many of the household are low income during this time.

Today, Williamsburg has seen a boom in the art world and with the arts and galleries popping up throughout the area, much of the neighborhood has changed from its previously low income residents. Real Estate and businesses have rocketed in the last couple of decades. People have bought up old factories and converted them into luxury apartment buildings, attracting a new face of “immigrants.” Today, the popularized term of “hipsters” has been attributed to the new wave of people living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (bklynlibrary.org)

3 thoughts on “Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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