Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Most Holy Trinity Church History
The church's site has a section on the origin of Williamsburgh's street names, one of which is named for Major Franz Sigel (pictured here) who was actually a terrible general for the north in the Civil War: ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE Almost all the streets within the present parish boundaries [of St. Mary’s] are now name streets and all of them give some clue to its historic past. Originally, though, most had just numbers. It is surprising that the names of Woodhull and Morrell, the realtors who first had official surveys made for street locations, are not remembered by a single street sign commemorating their contributions to the area. Nor is there a street named for any member of the Titus family, wealthy Dutch farmers in the early period. Most of the streets were not actually immediately laid out from those early surveyors maps drawn up in the period 1792-1835. Grand Street was one that was actually laid out, however, and named after the Grand Street in Manhattan, where the first ferry terminated, allowing farmers to bring produce there. From 1835 through the 1850, the surveyors’ plans were carried out by city engineers who laid out the streets, initially only dirt roads, which were later gradually paved.
1) Maujer Street was originally called Remsen Street, after Abraham Remsen, a farmer whose property began at what is now the junction of Maujer and Union Avenue. The lower portion was once also called Manhattan Street. On 1835 maps, it went from South 1st Street to Bushwick Avenue. In 1869 it was extended to Morgan Avenue. On April 30, 1937 the name was changed to Maujer Street for Daniel Maujer, Esq., and alderman in the old 15th Ward. He owned land at the junction of Remsen and Union. The change was made to avoid confusion with the downtown Brooklyn’s Remsen Street. The old Union Cemetery once occupied the area bounded by Maujer, Stagg, Leonard and Lorimer Streets.
2) Bushwick Avenue (Eastern Parish Boundary) in the oldest street in all of Bushwick, dating back to the earliest Dutch occupation. Peter Stuyvesant named it on March 14, 1661. The name is generally said to mean “Place Of the Woods”. The area was dense with forests, thickets, scrub oaks, logs and low land. British soldiers used a great deal of the wood for fuel.
3) Rodney Street dates from 1835 and honors Cesar Rodney, a general in the Revolutionary War and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
4) Keap Street, like Rodney, is on 1835 maps. The land for both streets was formally deeded to the city in 1858. It was actually named for another signer of the Declaration, Thomas McKean; the name was erroneously transcribed as “Keap” and never corrected.
5) Hooper Street (maps 1835, land deeded 1852) is named for William Hooper, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
6) Hewes Street, originally a farm lane (1810) on General Jeremiah Johnson’s farm, was named in 1835 for Joseph Hewes, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He also headed the naval committee for the 13 colonies.
7) Union Avenue in 1835 went from Withers Street to South 6th Street. The first sections were opened on September 8, 1861. It was so named because in 1835 it “united” Williamsburgh and Bushwick, which until then had been separate villages.
8) Lorimer Street recalls the middle name of John and James Graham (after whom Graham Avenue is named), two famous land-jobbers, active in 1836 selling building lots in the area. The street was originally called Gwinette Street, after Button Gwinett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1835 it extended from South 6th Street to Greenpoint and was extended north to Noble Street in 1868. The name was changed on April 23, 1901.
9) Leonard Street (formerly the name in 1835 of present-day Lorraine Street in Red Hook) is one of the more recent streets in the area. It was opened from Broadway to Greenpoint Avenue on October 4, 1852.
10) Manhattan Avenue (“manah”, island and “atin”, hill) has, since May 24, 1897 been the name of the street originally called Ewen Street (1835). Daniel Ewen was a surveyor of the old and new village of Williamsburg. Ewen Street stretched from North 6th Street to Greenpoint line. The section from Greenpoint Avenue to Newtown Creek was formerly Union Avenue, and a section between South 5th Street and Java Street was once called Hill Road, and another; piece “Union Place” and in 1867 another stretch was called Orchard Street: It was called Manhattan after the borough across the river.
11) Graham Avenue was named in 1835 for John and James Lorimer Graham, very successful agents for local realtors selling building lots. In those days such agents were called “land-jobbers.”
12) Humboldt Street (originally 1835 Wyckoff Avenue and later, Smith Street and Smith Avenue) was paved and opened in 1851 from Flushing Avenue to Greenpoint Line. It was renamed somewhere between 1869-1890 to honor Alexander Humboldt (1769-1859), the German explorer of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers (in 1799-1804) and the founder of geophysics.
The Parish Streets running East-West are shorter and will generally be of later date than the North-South streets, though not in every case. Our survey begins with the southernmost and works north.
13) Debovoise Street commemorated Charles Debevoise, a villager who lived on Flushing Avenue. Opened in 1852, it was earlier known as Banzett Street. Debevoise was a descendant of Carl De Devoise (the name means “Beautiful Road”), the first schoolmaster in the area.
14) Cook Street recalls an old resident family whose farm home was located at the “crossroads” of Flushing and Bushwick Avenue”
15) Varet Street opened in 1883, is named for Lewis I. Varette, a land speculator in the area.
16) Moore Street recalls Thomas C. Moore, who owned land in the area, a manufacturer of wire sieves and netting was opened in 1852.
17) Siegel Street (once called Marshall Street) in named for Major General Franz Siegel (1824-1902) of the Civil War Union Army. The street was opened in 1852 from Broadway to Bushwick. Siegel had been born in Germany, came to this country and played an important role in engaging the sympathies of German immigrants to the Union cause. His military skill helped save St. Louis from the Confederates. He was later a customs agent and an editor of the “New York Monthly”. A commemorative statue was erected in 1901 on Riverside Drive in New York City.
18) McKibbin Street was opened in 1853 from Broadway to Bushwick. Part of the Jacob Boerum farm, it was purchased by John McKibbin and a certain Nichols (his partner). They built homes for German settlers. The area was therefore called “Dutchtown.”
19) Montrose Avenue was opened in 1850 in what was by then already known as the “German Quarter” (as the section bounded by Bushwick, Metropolitan, Meeker and Union Avenues was called “Irish Town”) Originally opened from Union to Bushwick Avenue, Montrose was extended in 1906. The origin of the name is not known.
20) Meserole Street (spelled originally Messerole) was laid out in 1835 through Abraham Messerole’s farm, from Union Avenue to Bushwick Avenue. In 1948 it was extended to Seneca Avenue.
21) Scholes Street (1835) recalls the family of James Scholes, land owners in the area. He purchased the Jeremiah Remson farm in 1831. Paved in 1850, it was extended from Bushwick Avenue to the county line in 1904.
22) Stagg Street: The origin of the name is not clear. Possibly it honors Peter Stagg, one of the commissioners who laid out the streets in 1835. Opened in 1853, it extended from Union Avenue to Bushwick Avenue and was extended, along with Scholes, in 1904 to the borough line.
23) Ten Eyck Street, formerly Wyckoff Street, was opened in 1852. In 1904 it stretched from Union Avenue to Newtown Creek. It recalls Richard Ten Eyck, one of the 44 men whose wealth in 1847 was estimated to exceed $10,000, a very large sum in those days.
24) Maujer Street (formerly Remsen) has already been described. When the name was changed, Daniel Maujer represented the area’s 15th Ward as Alderman.
25) Grand Street dates from 1835, and like its Manhattan counterpart, suggests the “grandeur” of the many shops lining either side of the street. The Lower section had been called Washington and then Dunham street. As early as 1812 a section ran thru the Morreil farm. In 1836 it was extended thru the Conselyea farm and in 1855 from Bushwick Avenue to Metropolitan.
26) Powers Street (1835) is named after William E. Powers, a zealous clerk in the realty office of the Graham Brothers (after whom Graham avenue was named). Powers was designated the nominal proprietor of vast acres for convenience in arranging sales; the profits went to others, but work detail was his responsibility.
27) Ainslie Street (1835) honors Justice James Ainslie, a member of the Board of Trustees (1828-36) of Williamsburg. It was officially opened and paved in 1850 along with Devoe.
28) Devoe Street (1835) recalls the Devoe family of old Bushwick Village. It was formerly opened in 1850. The Devoe family owned the land near south side of North 2nd, but lived in Bushwick. (The street if not named after the Frederick Devoe family, which did have a farm along the East River shore).
29) The Number Streets (South 5th to North 3rd). When Richard Woodhull had the area surveyed in 1792 (he had purchased 12 acres), he simply gave the streets numbers, except for Grand Street and a lane along the waterfront which he called “Water Street” and another East River street called “River Street” (now under water). Grand Street divided the north and south numbered streets (1828). North 2nd Street was once part of the old Jamaica Turnpike. In Woodhull’s time the north-numbered streets stopped on North 12th. The south streets (from 1836) extended to South 11th Street, just at the line dividing Brooklyn from Williamsburg. These numbered streets therefore count as among the very oldest in the parish [of St. Mary's]. The north-south named streets were similarly originally designated with numbers 1st, 2nd. etc. In 1885 the north-south numbered streets were given names. (First Street is now Kent, Second Street is now Wythe, and so on).
30) Metropolitan Avenue was originally called Bushwick Street, Later Woodhull Street and then North 2nd. Eventually combined with the Jamaica Turnpike and Williamsburg Turnpike it became Metropolitan Avenue.