From Mills to Swimming Pools: How Mill Basin Got Its Name

The Jans Martense Schenck House, which was built in Mill Basin in the 17th century. Photo via Wikipedia


    Brownstoner takes on Brooklyn history in Nabe Names, a series of briefs on the origins and surprising stories of neighborhood nomenclature.

    A peninsula enclosed by Jamaica Bay, the neighborhood of Mill Basin is about as remote as Brooklyn nabes come. Full of McMansions and homes with boat docks, the area contains some of the borough’s most expensive (if proportionately sized) real estate, including one home that is farther from the subway than any other residence in Kings County.

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    The Mill Basin waterfront

    The waterfront area is known for its abundance of free-standing homes, private swimming pools and green lots, assets that are a rarity in more central areas of the city. Mill Basin includes both a mainland and the peninsular Mill Island section.

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    Photo via Corcoran

    Canarsee Indians originally called the area “Equandito,” meaning “broken land.” The modern title of Mill Basin references the proliferation of tide mills once built in the area. (A tide mill is a piece of machinery powered by water and used to grind a substance, usually grain.)

    The neighborhood had a series of owners in the 17th and 18th centuries, one of whom, Jan Martense Schenck, lived in a house on East 63rd Street that, in 1952, was dismantled and subsequently reassembled in the Brooklyn Museum, where it is on public display today.

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    A 1913 Rand McNally map shows the planned street grid in Mill Basin prior to it actually being built. Photo via Forgotten NY

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