Simon Boerum was born in 1724 on his family’s farm in what was then the Dutch town of New Lots. He attended a Dutch school and later operated a mill in Flatbush. He was active in politics, serving as a representative of New York in the Continental Congress in 1774 and 1775.
Boerum bought a home and garden at what is now the corner of Fulton and Hoyt streets and moved there when he married Maria Schenck in 1748.
It was Simon Boerum who the residents of the enclave next to Downtown Brooklyn and Cobble Hill had in mind when they renamed it Boerum Hill — even though the neighborhood is flat. Parts of it sit atop former marshes that bordered Gowanus Creek. Indeed, for a time, when all the neighborhoods south of Atlantic Ave. and west of Prospect Park were known collectively as South Brooklyn, Boerum Hill was sometimes called North Gowanus.
For more than three decades, starting in the 1920s, the Mohawks from the Kahnawake reservation in Canada made Boerum Hill their home away from home. Most of them were riveters and ironworkers who came to build New York’s skyscrapers. They called their Boerum Hill enclave “Little Caughnawaga.”
In the late 1960s, when many of the buildings in Boerum Hill were slated for demolition, the residents got together to resurrect the area. When new homebuyers were attracted and the neighborhood’s gentrification began, the name Boerum Hill was coined, after the Boerum family.
It is bordered by Schermerhorn Street to the north and Fourth Ave. to the east. The western border is variously given as either Smith or Court streets, and Warren or Wyckoff streets as the southern edge.
Brooklyn-born Norm Goldstein is retired, after working 44 years for the Associated Press, the global news agency, where he served as a reporter, feature writer, editor, author and administrator. He also worked for AP as director of Educational Services and editor of the AP Stylebook. He graduated from Brooklyn College and the Penn State Graduate School of Journalism. He currently lives in Brooklyn Heights.