Roosting Crows and Hills Aplenty: How Crown Heights Got Its Name

A basketball contest in Lincoln Terrace Park, located in Crown Heights’ southeastern corner, in 1943. Photo via the New York City Parks Photo Archive


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

    Brooklyn’s sprawling Crown Heights neighborhood is known for its West Indian population and the community’s annual parade on Labor Day, a festival of vivacious feather headdresses that dances down the area’s main thoroughfare, Eastern Parkway.

    Roti shops and Caribbean eateries are abundant in the neighborhood along with upscale Mexican restaurants and new fusion cuisine. Crown Heights is also famous for being the worldwide headquarters of the Lubavitcher movement — a sect of Jewish Hasidism with the highest concentration of followers in the neighborhood’s southern area and in Kfar Chabad, in Israel.

    Crown Heights is also beloved for its cultural spaces, including the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

    Originally the nabe was known as Crow Hill, in reference to its hillside location and the crows that roosted at the area’s highest peak. The title Crown Heights was adopted with the extension of Crown Street in 1916.

    Despite constant social transition over its existence, one thing about Crown Heights remains true: It is located on a succession of hills, a fact not even the weight of all those brownstones has been able to change.


    Photo by Evan Daniels

    Crown Heights

    The corner of Bergen and Schenectady in 1950. Today, the street is a part of St. John’s Park. Photo via New York City Parks Photo Archive


    The Boys Playground at Crown Heights’ Lincoln Terrace Park, September 24, 1931. Photo via Rutter Photo Service/New York City Parks Photo Archive

    Related Stories
    Gentrifying Crown Heights Is Losing Its Black Community
    Tour the 19-Bed Crown Heights House That’s Trying to Disrupt Brooklyn’s Rental Market
    Locals Fight to Landmark East New York, Crown Heights South as Rezoning, Development Loom

    Email with further comments, questions or tips. Follow Brownstoner on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

    Brooklyn in Your Inbox

    * indicates required

    What's Happening