Generally Speaking: Happy Birthday, Bay Ridge!

Yellow Hook becomes Bay Ridge.

Friday, December 16 marks the 163rd anniversary of Bay Ridge. It was back in 1853 that a group of prominent landowners, village officials and residents met in the District 2 schoolhouse located on the east side of Third Avenue near present day 73rd Street.

Concerned about the stigma of a name associated with yellow fever, they assembled to hear suggestions for a new name for their growing hamlet. Florist James Weir — who had greenhouses and plant nurseries in the region — taking into consideration the geographic layout of the area, specifically the Narrows Bay on the waterfront and the high ridge resulting from the glacial moraine, proposed the name, “Bay Ridge.”

According to historic accounts, it was unanimous accepted and a resolution approving the name change was passed. Yellow Hook and Fort Hamilton were neighboring villages and part of the town of New Utrecht which in turn was part of Kings County but not Brooklyn. It wasn’t until 1894 that New Utrecht was annexed by the then-city of Brooklyn. However, in 1898, with the consolidation of the city of New York, Brooklyn became one of the city’s five boroughs.

When Bay Ridge celebrated its sesquicentennial (that’s 150 years, folks), it was a grand celebration. Church bells rang throughout community. Near the shoreline, Fort Hamilton soldiers fired a 21-gun salute. There was a NYPD helicopter flyover, a FDNY fireboat rendered a high-powered water-spray salute, and the Xaverian High School Band played in concert.

Later in the evening, with rotating searchlights flooding the entrance to Fort Hamilton High School, the Sesquicentennial Committee held a party in the school auditorium, with the drama students putting on a short skit on how Bay Ridge was named.

In addition, the school’s concert band played musical selections from “Saturday Night Fever,” the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” were sung by America’s famous tenor Daniel Rodriguez and, as a grand finale, a large birthday cake was rolled out on the stage.

During the anniversary year, a large bronze plaque was attached to the Bay Ridge library and a large mural was painted by the students of Fort Hamilton High School on the side of the Foodtown Supermarket, 91st Street off Third Avenue.

This writer, also a local historian, will be speaking about the naming and legacy of Bay Ridge at the next meeting of the Colonial Club of Bay Ridge on Thursday, December 15 at 12:30 p.m. at Gino’s Restaurant on Fifth Avenue, perhaps offering a toast to the 163rd birthday of Bay Ridge.

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At a pre-Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony on December 5, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was presented with the “Greatest Generation” service award by World War II veterans including Pearl Harbor survivor and Navy veteran Reverend James Blakely, who were in attendance at the Borough Hall event sponsored by the Cadman Park Conservancy headed by Toba Potosky.

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Ted General
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Ted General

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