In its earliest days, Williamsburg was recognized as part of Bushwick and was called “Bushwick Shore,” due to its location on the edge of the East River.
A map of Williamsburg.
The area now known as Williamsburg stretches from Flushing Avenue up to the northern edge of McCarren Park. It was originally occupied by local Native Americans but the land was stolen by the Dutch West India Company in 1638.
At the turn of the 19th century, a developer named Jonathan Williams acquired land along modern-day Metropolitan Avenue and declared the surrounding area “Williamsburgh,” after himself. The “h” was later dropped from the neighborhood’s name, becoming Williamsburg.
In 1855, Williamsburg was officially annexed into the city of Brooklyn. It became part of New York City in 1898 when Brooklyn was adopted as one of the city’s five boroughs.
Over time, the neighborhood developed and became a safe haven for European Jews escaping Nazism and Puerto Rican immigrants who came to work in the many factories popping up in northern Brooklyn.
According to Like a Local Tours, in 1961, Williamsburg had a whopping 93,000 manufacturing jobs. However, by the 1990s, the number had decreased to fewer than 12,000.
Crime in Brooklyn was more of a problem in the 1960s than it is today, but it was also a scene for artists from all over the world to work on and sell their pieces. Today, there is still an artistic element to the culture of Williamsburg.
There is also still a large Jewish population in Brooklyn as a whole and in Williamsburg. According to Hadassah Magazine, 1 in 4 residents in Brooklyn is Jewish. There are also areas of Williamsburg and Brooklyn that are largely populated by the Hasidic community. The area I walked in is not considered part of those neighborhoods but is nevertheless a part of the larger culture here in Brooklyn.
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