Let’s see now, Williamsburg.
“Burg,” we know, means a town or village.
But who was the “William” who gave this neighborhood — once a town — his name?
To begin, this area was originally bought from the local Indians by the Dutch West India Company in 1638 and became part of the town of Boswijck. After the English took New Netherland in 1664, the name of the town was Anglicized to Bushwick; the townspeople generally called it Bushwick Shore.
It was a rural area until in 1810 a real-estate speculator, Richard Woodhull, acquired 13 acres in the area where there was a ferry service from what is today Metropolitan Avenue to Corlear’s Hook in Manhattan. He named the area after Col. Jonathan Williams, a U.S. engineer who had originally surveyed the site.
It was incorporated as the Village of Williamsburgh within the town of Bushwick in 1827.
Williamsburg rapidly expanded during the first half of the 19th century and separated itself from Bushwick.
The population in the area continued to grow until, in 1855, Williamsburg was annexed along with the town of Bushwick by what was then became the City of Brooklyn — and the “h” in the name was dropped.
The construction of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 opened up the area to immigrants seeking to get out of the tenements of the Lower East Side in Manhattan.
Today, its neighbors are Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and, farther east, Ridgewood in Queens.
Interestingly, 27 of the streets in Williamsburg are named with the last names of signers of the Declaration of Independence.
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.