This Urban Landscape Was Once a Forest: How Bushwick Got Its Name

Central Avenue and Cooper Street in 1923. Photo via the Brooklyn Historical Society

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

On the border of Queens, Bushwick is a melting pot of old and new that boasts a majority Hispanic community.

Puerto Rican flags wave among crochet graffiti, and Dominican bars exist adjacent to French eateries. One of the oldest settled spots in Brooklyn, Bushwick boasts landmarks such as the Ulmer Brewery and the 1853 Reformed Church of South Bushwick, neighborhood institution Circo’s Italian bakery, 19th century homes, and newer, glassier developments.

To settlers, the area was Cripplebrush, a swampy northern enclave which today encompasses Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg. The current title comes from — like many things in Brooklyn — the Dutch. Specifically, it was named by Governor General Peter Stuyvesant, who helped establish the neighborhood, which was originally its own town.

Boswijck is Dutch for “town in the woods,” in reference to the area’s formerly forested appearance. Shortly after its naming, the title was anglicized to Bushwick when the British took over the area.

After being incorporated as a part of Brooklyn in 1855, the area was, for a time, referred to as Brooklyn’s Eastern District.

Today, Bushwick is known for its fast-paced gentrification and change. New developments have turned the neighborhood’s streets into a mesh of old and new for everything from residents and restaurants to real estate values.

Bushwick Brooklyn Neighborhood

Bogart Street and the Swallow Cafe. Photo by Mary Hautman

Bushwick Brooklyn Neighborhood

Bushwick’s All Hands Fire in 1977. Photo via Citynoise

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