I arrived in New York City yesterday. One of the things on my to-do list here is to walk across Brooklyn Bridge. Then I heard that Brooklyn Heights is worth a visit. As a history buff, how could I say no? But first, the research!
Brooklyn Heights has been an important area of Brooklyn since 1863 and was named New York City’s first historic district in 1965. The area was initially the home of the Ihpetonga Native American settlement which was home to the Lenape Tribe. The first colonials settled there in 1642 and the Lenape moved on.
Today, Brooklyn Heights is an upscale neighborhood on the East River with famous views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. The village is bordered by the Brooklyn Bridge to the north, Brooklyn Bridge Park on the west, downtown Brooklyn to the east, and the Columbia Street Waterfront District to the south.
And oh, whether you are interested in the history of Brooklyn Heights, need a little retail therapy, or want to enjoy some of the natural space in the area, you are not going to want to drag your luggage with you. Leave it at a suitcase storage facility in New York City for safekeeping while you explore.
Jim.henderson, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Brooklyn Bridge Park
The 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park is a major attraction in the neighborhood running alongside the East River to the Brooklyn Bridge. The park is separated into six sections divided by six piers. Pier 1 is the best place to see Manhattan, take a walk along the promenade, and see some fascinating art.
Pier 2 boasts five acres of fun including fitness equipment, bocce, ping pong, handball, and basketball. Pier 3 is a nice place to unwind on the central lawn or the plaza. Pier 4 is a beach with tidepools full of wildlife and Bird Island. You can take a boat out here, but there is no swimming access so skip the swimsuit.
If you want to go fishing, take a bike ride, or enjoy the sports fields, Pier 5 is where you want to go. They even have a large playground and picnic area if you want to chill by the water. Pier 6 is also popular with a variety of activities for adults as well as kids like Swing Valley, Flower Field, Slide Mountain, and Liberty Lawn.
Reading Tom, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
The Center for Brooklyn History
The Center for Brooklyn History, also known as the Brooklyn Historical Society, is an educational center, library, and museum preserving the City of Brooklyn’s history dating back to 1863. The terra cotta building, built in 1878, is of Romanesque Revival design and is a stunning piece of history on its own.
Part of the collection is at the Othmer Library, where you can see atlases and maps dating back to the 1800s, and a genealogy compilation where you can also see prominent residents’ family histories. The Center has historical maps from 1562, pamphlets about slavery and abolition, as well as the Pierrepont Papers.
In both the library and the center you can find photos, books, and oral histories that have over 1,200 interviews. You can even check out old phone records to see if maybe your ancestors lived there. But the real treasure is the artifact collection with 957 pieces like a medal from 1891 and a flag from 1862.
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a half-mile platform built over the Brooklyn Expressway. The views of the Manhattan skyline and New York Harbor are spectacular. In fact, the view became famous when President Lincoln visited in 1864 when he said, “There may be finer views in the world, but I don’t believe it.”
The promenade is right across from the Pier 4 beach in Brooklyn Bridge Park where you can enjoy the tidepools. It was built in the 1950s to let the visitors and residents “promenade” because they were already doing a lot of “promenading” along the private gardens and along roadways according to the president.
There are three monuments on the promenade including the Thunderbird as a memorial to the Canarsie Indians, the flagpole to tribute Genevieve Earle, who was a civic leader in the 1800s, and a marker where the Four Chimneys building once stood. This was the headquarters of George Washington in 1776.
The New York Transit Museum
Another fascinating place for historians is the New York Transit Museum. It is located in what used to be Court Street Subway Station built in 1936. The museum features memorabilia and advertisements from the tunnels, dioramas of the subway cars and buses, and a variety of other items of interest.
The upper-level mezzanine holds most of the exhibits like some of the hundreds of transit sketches done by several local artists while riding the subway. It also has more than 50 scale models of work cars and trolleys from over the years. Don’t miss the Ticket to Ride collection of fares and turnstiles.
But on the lower level, you can find a collection of old rail work vehicles, subway cars, and trolleys. The fleet includes over 30 cars including several BU Gated El Cars from 1903 – 1907 and the first subway car built for the subway system in 1930, the Money Train used in the 1975 film by the same name.
Dining in Brooklyn Heights
During your visit to Brooklyn Heights, stop at Montero, which is a famous bar and grill that opened in 1938. It was the hotspot for the sailors and longshoremen back then and it is still a popular place to get a brew and a burger. You can also enjoy some karaoke or just hang out with the locals.
If you want something a bit calmer, try Noodle Pudding, which has some of the best pasta in the city. The lasagna Bolognese is amazing and you should try the hand-rolled whole wheat pennette with winter vegetables. Henry’s End is a little more upscale and boasts steak Diane and three kinds of scaloppine.
You could also try the River Deli for its unique Italian Sardinian cuisine. Situated in a quiet corner by the water, this is the place to relax and enjoy a nice meal. But if you want French food, French Louis is the best with entrées like duck au Poivre, cast iron chicken, and steelhead trout with corn pudding.
Be sure to make time to visit some of the other fabulous attractions in New York like the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park. Do not miss the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Central Park Zoo while you are at the park.