At one time, Bushwick was home to “Brewer’s Row,” a 14-block stretch that hosted 11 breweries. This mid-1800s glow of beer gardens, oompah bands, sauerkraut and family entertainment by the plenty eventually diminished before the neighborhood landed in its modern renewal.
Peter Stuyvesant chartered Bushwick in 1661 with a notable signer of its patent being Francisco de Niger, a freed African who was previously enslaved in New Netherland. Under the Dutch name Boswijck, or “heavy woods,” in English, the area produced food and tobacco for local consumption and export to New York City.
Its heavy brewing history started to come to life between 1840 and 1860 when more than a million German-speaking immigrants moved to the U.S., many settling in Bushwick.
To accommodate an increased population, Adrian Martenses Suydam began to subdivide his family farm and by 1884, 125 residences had been built in the area while breweries were popping up.
Development may have boomed after 1888 when the Broadway and Myrtle Avenue elevated railway reached the area, but Prohibition, the Depression and a long strike by brewery workers closed down many of Brooklyn’s 45 breweries, most of them in Bushwick.
German-Americans thus left and during the 1930s and 1940s, Bushwick had a greater amount of Italian-Americans than any other Brooklyn community until after World War II when they moved out, giving room for African-Americans and immigrants from Puerto Rico.
Small apartment buildings were built to accommodate the population change but housing began to deteriorate and city services were reduced. During the electrical blackout in 1977, entire blocks of the once-thriving Broadway shopping district were burned to the ground.
The housing crisis only got worse when more immigrants moved in but in recent years, hundreds of housing units and dramatic development changes have come to Bushwick, throwing the neighborhood into a modern renewal.
How Bushwick Got Its Name
The Meserole family was one of the original five families who settled in Bushwick, then one of the five towns of Brooklyn, and today known as the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Jean Miserol (d.1695), a French Huguenot, immigrated to New Amsterdam (now New York City) with his young son and wife in 1663. In 1667, Jean bought a farm in New Utrecht, now the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge. He then bought another farm, Kyckout (“the Lookout”) that ran along the East River. Today, this farm would be located in Williamsburg between North 1st Street and Broadway. Over many generations, the family became prominent land owners, eventually resulting in the ownership of nearly all of the land that comprised present day Greenpoint as well as the riverfront area of Williamsburg, from 1727-1750.
The wood-framed home at 1000 Lorimer Street (above) was built and occupied by descendent Peter Meserole (b. 1768) and included an impressive 13-rooms on the grounds of the family apple and cherry orchard. The home was demolished in 1919, following the death of Peter’s youngest son, Adrian.
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.