While many of the best-known streets in nabes like Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights — the heart of brownstone Brooklyn — often bear innocuous titles, some were named (or renamed) for lesser-known politicians of the past or to avoid associations with infamous murders. In some cases, the street names are incorrectly spelled.
Many may know the neighborhoods these blocks run through, but far fewer know the meanings behind the street names. Here, some of the most interesting stories behind them.
Despite the peaceful facade of the residential strip of Lincoln Place, its name originates in one of the 19th century’s most infamous murders. In 1873, near 5th Avenue and what was then Degraw Street, 41-year-old widower Charles Goodrich was found dead in his brownstone with three bullet holes in his head, according to Ephemeral New York.
It took months, but authorities eventually discovered the murderess, Goodrich’s scorned lover Lizzie Lloyd — known to many by her pseudonym, Kate Stoddard — and sent her to an insane asylum upstate. In the meantime, locals convinced the city to change the block’s name to avoid “unpleasant associations,” according to an 1873 New York Times article.
Before the “great mistake” of 1898 (aka the consolidation of New York City), back when Brooklyn was its own city, it also had its own mayor. Samuel Smith (1788-1872), a Democrat, was Brooklyn’s 10th mayor and a big landowner in present-day Boerum Hill, as well as the namesake for the eponymous street.
Hans Hansen Bergen was raised in Bergen, Norway, before moving to New Amsterdam in 1633. He was the patriarch of the Dutch Bergen clan, one of Brooklyn’s most important early families, and his descendants became big landowners in Kings County — and the inspiration for Bergen Street’s name.
The only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll (1737-1832) is the namesake of both Carroll Street and the neighborhood it runs through, Carroll Gardens. Carroll’s connection to the street was born in 1776 during the Battle of Brooklyn, when a regiment of 400 soldiers from Maryland, where Carroll was senator at the time, died in an attack on a British encampment.
A vital leader in the defense of Park Slope’s Old Stone House from British troops during the Revolutionary War, William Alexander “Lord Stirling” (1726-1783) was not really a Lord, nor did he spell his name with an “e”, as the street signs which honor his legacy still purport.
- A Senator From Maryland: How Carroll Gardens Got Its Name
- Amusement Parks and Sporting Grounds: How Bergen Beach Got Its Name
- How Did Brooklyn Heights’ Fruit Streets Get Their Names?