Gravesend, Brooklyn

Country USA
State New York
Study Area Gravesend, Brooklyn
About the Study New York City’s neighborhood of Gravesend, Brooklyn, descends from an unusual seventeenth-century town by that name. While the rest of Kings County (contiguous with the present-day borough of Brooklyn) was settled chiefly by Dutch immigrants, Gravesend was founded 19 December 1645 by English religious dissenters led by Lady Deborah Moody (ca. 1586-1658), a free-thinking Anabaptist who secured from the New Netherland authorities a patent for land which guaranteed her followers “liberty of conscience . . . without molestation or disturbance from any magistrate or . . . ecclesiastical minister that may pretend jurisdiction over them.” The heart of the settlement was a 16-acre stockaded village square, beyond which radiated wedge-shaped farm plots like spokes round a wheel. This anomalous square survives in Brooklyn’s modern street grid.

Gravesend remained a self-governing community until 1894, when it became the 31st ward of the City of Brooklyn. Brooklyn, in turn, joined Greater New York City in 1898. Coney Island, at Gravesend’s southern shore, proved key to its eventual urbanization, as railroads, originally built to serve wealthy patrons of the seaside resort and its adjacent racetracks, were gradually electrified and linked to New York’s subway system, opening the way for thousands of working-class immigrants who sought spacious, modern homes in the area outside the city’s cramped tenements.

This study seeks to raise awareness of the history of Gravesend throughout its 370 years by collecting sources in myriad formats (such as maps, manuscripts, photographs, postcards, objects, artwork, newspaper articles, and tombstone transcriptions) and making them publicly accessible through blog posts, articles, and other platforms.

Population 6,937 in 1890
Contact Joseph Ditta