Photos: Walt Whitman Lived Here

Francis Guy Winter Scene in Brooklyn

  • Francis Guy’s “Winter Scene in Brooklyn,” ca. 1820, depicting Front Street in present-day DUMBO

Walt Whitman moved to Brooklyn as a child in the 1820s, and he would bounce around the city and the general New York area before leaving for Washington, DC, around the time of the Civil War. It was in Brooklyn that he wrote and printed Leaves of Grass, his enduring contribution to American letters—indeed, the urtext of stateside literature. While in Brooklyn all those decades, he lived at a number of addresses—as a child, his family once moved 10 times in 10 years—almost all of which are gone. “Brooklyn evolved from a quiet village of about five thousand at Whitman’s arrival”—like a Francis Guy painting (see above)—”to the third-largest city in the nation by the time of the Civil War,” Evan Hughes writes in his must-read history Literary Brooklyn. But even the bustling 1860s big-city would be unrecognizable to any of us: the 20th century brought a level of development of which even the poet could not have dreamed. Only one of Whitman’s former homes still stands; the rest have become public housing projects, skyscrapers, colleges, courthouses and bridges. Here’re what six of Whitman’s former addresses, printed in Hughes’s book, look like today.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

The 2013 Brooklyn Lit Supplement is presented by NYU


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