Brooklyn’s Bittiest Nabe: How Vinegar Hill Got Its Name

View from the Brooklyn Bridge tower east over Vinegar Hill. Photo via the Brooklyn Public Library

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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.

    A waterfront Brooklyn nabe with gorgeous views of Manhattan, Vinegar Hill comprises just six or so blocks but it packs an historical punch.

    The area — which was significantly larger prior to the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — crams a lot into its small borders, including a historic district, an active Con Edison substation and a Federal-style mansion.

    Local landowner John Jackson named the area after Ireland’s 1798 Battle of Vinegar Hill, where Irish rebels saw heavy casualties and a major defeat at the hands of the English. Jackson was trying to attract the recent wave of Irish immigrants to settle in the area.

    And it worked! The neighborhood came to be populated by Irish dockworkers, many holding jobs at the Navy Yard. Indeed, the area became locally known as “Irish Town.”

    Today, Vinegar Hill’s Federal- and Greek Revival–style homes go for prices that would be exorbitant to the working-class immigrants of yore. Still, the area maintains its industrial roots in multiple active warehouses — a contrast to both the condo-ization of nearby warehouses in neighboring Dumbo and the abandonment of industrial structures in deeper corners of the borough.

    Vinegar Hill

    Cobblestone on Hudson Avenue and Evans Street in Vinegar Hill. Photo via Wikipedia

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