Brooklyn Heights Walking Tour

Nikon_D90_topHISTORY: Colonized by wealthy merchants and bankers from the city across the river, Brooklyn Heights is the suburban product of a combined land and transit speculation; in this case the transit was the new steam-powered ferry. In 1814 Robert Fulton’s invention, with financial backing from Hezekiah Pierrepont, first connected the newly renamed Fulton Streets of New York and Brooklyn by fast boats, giving occasion to Pierrepont and others (Middagh, Hicks, Remsen, Livingston) for profitable division and sale of their heights “farmland.” With the new ferry it was quicker and easier to go by water from Fulton to Fulton than to travel by omnibus on Manhattan Island.

In 1816, a surveyor’s grid marked the Heights into 25 x 100-foot lots as the system for parcel sales. Although other subdivisions were made by speculators, those dimensions remain the basic module of the Heights.

That the oldest buildings were built in the 1820s is not surprising. Lots did not come on the market until 1819, and even as late as 1807 there had been but 7 houses on the Heights, with perhaps 20 more at or near the ferry landing at the river’s edge below. By 1890 the infill was substantially complete, and the architectural history of the Heights primarily spans those seventy years. Occasional buildings were built much later in random locations, but the principal pre-1890 urban fabric was still intact in 1965, when the district was designated a historic district under the city’s newly enacted Landmarks Preservation Law.

Period styles found in Brooklyn Heights include: Federal Style, Greek Revival, Italianate, Romanesque, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne.

Click here to download “Brooklyn Heights Landmark Designation Report” (1965)
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