By Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris)
Our neighborhoods all have interesting place names. The streets, thoroughfares and neighborhoods themselves are named for people, landmarks, or natural features that were a part of its history. So it stands to reason that Red Hook, with its storied past, would have some interesting street names.
The name “Red Hook” goes back to the city’s Dutch past.
When settlers first put down roots here, they named the area Roode Hoek because of the color of the soil, and the general shape of the land. “Hoek” means “point” or “corner.” It referred to a point that stuck out into the bay near today’s Dikeman and Coffey Streets.
The Dutch must have felt Gowanus and Red Hook to be just like home. It was a low-lying area, with streams, tidal ponds and marshes leading to the sea. They cut small canals through it, harnessed the water with windmills, and raised streets and farmland.
Centuries before a highway bisected it, Red Hook was a town apart due to the swampy land of Gowanus, and a creek which effectively cut it off from the rest of South Brooklyn. The creek was filled in long before Gowanus’ land was permanently drained for the canal in the mid-19th century.