During this walk of Brooklyn's major neighborhoods, we'll paint a portrait of the social and economic history, the architecture, and the dynamic cultural make-up of New York City's most fascinating borough. Led by an urban historian, this walk is geared to visitors and residents who want to move beyond Manhattan to learn more about the various faces of the city.
Located across the narrow East River from Manhattan, Brooklyn has always existed as a world apart. An independent city until 1898, Brooklyn is the largest of New York's five boroughs. It is at once an intensely historic place, with some of the city's oldest brownstone apartment buildings and such world-famous monuments as the Brooklyn Bridge, and an essentially current, dynamic part of the contemporary city. During our walking seminar we'll focus on the development of Brooklyn during the 19th century when it exploded architecturally, commercially, and culturally to, at points, rival Manhattan. Our walk will focus strongly on the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights—the historic area directly across from lower Manhattan—and surrounding neighborhoods, shifting gears from architectural and social history to contemporary politics, art, food, culture, and ethnic identity.
We'll consider the development of Brooklyn Heights in the 19th century as a refuge for genteel families from the squalor of Manhattan island. Looking closely at the Federal-style brownstones, clapboard houses, and mews along lush, tree-lined streets, we'll trace the development of a distinct Brooklyn character over the centuries and consider such figures as Carson McCullers, one of the Heights' many resident authors who wrote how "it is strange in New York to find yourself living in a neighborhood."
Our walk will also include a stroll through DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), a former warehouse district that has become a trendy gallery zone. Here we'll walk some of the docks and waterfront to trace the origins of Brooklyn as a maritime port and discuss the importance of trade and commerce to the city until the 1970s when larger, deep water ports in New Jersey surpassed the shallower ones in the East River. Our perambulations may also take us along the Promenade, where we may visit Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, a famous stop on the Underground Railroad.
If there's time, we'll also venture into such peripheral neighborhoods as Carroll Gardens, a historically Italian neighborhood, and Boerum Hill, home to a lively mix of Middle Eastern food shops and boutiques and cafes that make Midtown Manhattan feel hours away.
By the end of our time together, we'll emerge with a portrait of Brooklyn, a city within a city, and a deeper understanding of the important role its played in the history and culture of New York.