Brownstoner takes on Brooklyn history in Nabe Names, a series of briefs on the origins and surprising stories of neighborhood nomenclature.
Cypress Hills serves as a border between Brooklyn and Queens, sitting between the easternmost reaches of Bushwick and the borders of Queens’ Woodhaven and Ozone Park neighborhoods. A subsection of the much larger East New York neighborhood, Cypress Hills has a similar flavor, with a polyglot makeup that includes large Latino and African-American populations as well as South Asian and Caribbean immigrants.
The nabe, which occupies less than a square mile, contains an impressive stock of historic row houses for its small size. The northern border of the neighborhood is the eponymous Cypress Hills Cemetery, which crosses into Queens and was one of the first non-sectarian and nondenominational cemeteries in the two outer boroughs.
Historically, Cypress Hills was a part of New Lots, one of Brooklyn’s former towns. Before being absorbed into New Lots, Cypress Hills was known as Union Place after its popular Union Course horse-racing track, which opened along the border of the area and Woodhaven, Queens, in 1821. The Cypress Hills title is taken from the cemetery, which in turn is thought to have been named for the abundance of cypress trees in the area.
Another interesting historical anecdote from Cypress Hills’ rich past is the story of Trommer’s Evergreen Brewery, a large German brewery formerly located on the border of Bushwick and Cypress Hills and was popular for its all-malt beer. The brewery, opened in the late 19th century, lasted through Prohibition up until the 1960s when, the brewery itself already sold, the last remaining plant producing Trommers discontinued the label.