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From the time of its colonization by the Dutch in the 1600s until the middle of the 19th century, the land that is Park Slope was primarily used for farming. It did not become well developed until the 1870s when nearby Prospect Park was completed and horse-drawn rail cars reached the area.

The first row houses and earliest mansions were built north of Ninth Street and when the cable railway began crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, professionals and entrepreneurs were drawn to the area because of its easy commute. 

Brownstone construction kept pace with the demand while Prospect Park West became known as the Gold Coast of Brooklyn, hosting mansions built for the likes of George Tangeman, who produced Royal and Cleveland Baking Powder, Thomas Adams, Jr., who devised Chiclets chewing gum and William Childs, inventor of Bon Ami Cleanser.

At the turn of the century, less-expensive row houses and apartment buildings were built west of Seventh Avenue and South of Ninth Street for workers at local factories and the nearby Gowanus Canal. 

After World War II, wealthy residents moved to the suburbs and working-class residents took their places in the northern section of the neighborhood. 

Some of those luxurious brownstones were turned into rooming houses and were eventually demolished for new apartment buildings. Others were abandoned until the 1960s and 1970s when residents worked to recover the value of the homes.

How Park Slope Got Its Name

The origin of the name of this neighborhood may go back eons, when glaciers came down from the north, covering parts of the continent as far south as New York City.

Where the ice sheet stopped, about 17,000 years ago, and began melting, it left behind glacial till, or sediment, a terminal moraine that created Long Island with an arc of hills and mounds.

The geography of Prospect Park offers the best examples.

Mount Prospect, or Prospect Hill, near the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway, rises 200 feet above sea level and is the highest among a string of hills that extends into the park.

The neighborhood of Park Slope, roughly bounded by Prospect Park West to the east, Fourth Avenue to the west, Flatbush Avenue to the north, and Prospect Expressway to the south, was named for its proximity to Prospect Park and its location on the western slope of the park, a gradual incline that runs from the Gowanus Canal.

Park Slope was colonized by Dutch farmers in the 1600s and was a key battleground during the Revolutionary War, when the new Continental Army of George Washington attempted to hold off the British at Battle Pass, an opening in the terminal moraine where the old Flatbush Road passed from Brooklyn to Flatbush. After some of the heaviest fighting of the war, the Americans were routed and Washington made the decision to retreat from Brooklyn.

The neighborhood didn’t really develop until the 1870s, however, when Prospect Park was completed and horse-drawn rail cars reached the area, and then when the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883. At the time, Prospect Park West (then 9th Avenue) from Grand Army Plaza to 1st Street on the eastern edge of the neighborhood was known as the “Gold Coast” of Brooklyn.

Informally, Park Slope is divided into two smaller neighborhoods, North Slope and South Slope.

Norm Goldstein

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.