When we decided to talk with a bunch of prominent Brooklyn cultural figures for the latest issue of Brooklyn magazine, we realized that it would be sort of silly to look toward the future of Brooklyn culture without considering its past. And what a past it was. Lots of stuff happened! People were born; people died. Books were written; literary magazines were founded. Bands were formed; TV shows were filmed. And through it all, one thing was constant: the predictions of Brooklyn’s cultural demise. And yet here we are, hundreds of years after the founding of Breuckelen, still standing. Here’s a look back at what’s happened in between now and then.
The Dutch West India Company authorizes the village of Breuckelen on the western end of Long Island, as part of the North American colony of New Netherland.
The colony of New Netherland is surrendered to the British government and renamed “New York.”
The population of Brooklyn reaches 1,603.
Construction begins on the Brooklyn Navy Yard along the bank of the East River.
The 4-year-old Walt Whitman moves with his family to Brooklyn.
The Coney Island House hotel opens, marking the beginning of the area as a seaside resort.
The village of Brooklyn is incorporated into a city, and George Hall is elected as its first mayor.
Green-Wood Cemetery is founded as a rural county burial ground.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle publishes its first issue on October 26. It later became the afternoon paper with the highest circulation in America, establishing and documenting Brooklyn as a separate cultural entity from the city of New York.
Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg become part of the city of Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Mercantile Library Association of the City of Brooklyn, one of the predecessors of the Brooklyn Public
The population of Brooklyn hits 279,122.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music, originally the Academy of Music on Montague Street, presents its first performance series. First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln is in attendance during the second week.
The Long Island Historical Society, later the Brooklyn Historical Society, is established.
Grand Army Plaza is laid out to commemorate the victory of the Union Army in the Civil War.
The Brooklyn Bridge opens.
The baseball team originally known as the “Brooklyn Grays” and later renamed the “Dodgers” is founded by real estate magnate, Charles Byrne.
Mark Twain presents a reading at BAM.
Pratt Institute is founded.
Population of Brooklyn reaches 838,547.
Booker T. Washington delivers a speech about the full emancipation of African-Americans at BAM.
Vaudeville star Mae West is born in Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Museum opens.
The City of Brooklyn becomes consolidated into the new City of Greater New York. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which opposed the merger, dubs it “the Great Mistake of 1898.”
Dreamland amusement park opens on Coney Island.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music reopens on Lafayette Street after its first location burned to the ground.
The Brooklyn Music School, complete with a 266-seat Spanish style theater, opens.
Jackie Gleason is born in Brooklyn.
An article appears in the New York Sun declaring “Greenwich Village is moving to Brooklyn.”
The Brooklyn Nest, one of the most notorious speakeasies in Brooklyn located at 1286 Bedford Avenue, is raided by the cops.
Architectural icon the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building is completed and remains the tallest building in Brooklyn for 81 years.
The Great Migration brought a massive influx of African-Americans to Northern locales, including Brooklyn, and by 1930 more than half of the borough’s black residents had been born outside Brooklyn.
Brooklyn College, “the poor man’s Harvard,” is established and provides education virtually free of tuition until 1976.
Prohibition is repealed, but only nine breweries are revived in Brooklyn.
Henry Miller’s Black Spring is released.
Richard Wright pens Native Son while living in Fort Greene.
Writer George Davis convinces a group of artists and writers to move into a four-story townhouse in Brooklyn Heights, and convert it to an artist commune called February House. Residents included W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, and Paul and Jane Bowles.
Harry Nilsson is born in Bushwick.
Lou Reed is born in Bushwick.
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith’s novel about Irish immigrants struggling to make ends meet in Williamsburg, is published.
Larry David is born in Sheepshead Bay.
Daily newspaper the Brooklyn Eagle closes. It was briefly revived in 1962 before publishing its last edition the following year.
The Brooklyn Dodgers play their final game at Ebbets Field before moving to LA.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is published, a novel writen by Truman Capote when he was living in a Brooklyn Heights mansion.
Jean-Michel Basquiat is born in Fort Greene.
Eddie Murphy is born in Brooklyn.
Hubert Selby Junior’s novel Last Exit To Brooklyn is published.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard closes.
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe move into an apartment in Clinton Hill. Their rent is $80 a month.
11-year-old Spike Lee moves into a brownstone with his parents in Fort Greene.
Brooklyn native Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American woman elected to Congress.
The first West Indian-American Day Parade takes place on Eastern Parkway. The parade was originally held in Harlem every Labor Day until the permit was revoked.
Pete Hamill writes “Brooklyn: The Sane Alternative,” an article for New York magazine in which he describes Park Slope as a place where it’s still possible “to rent a duplex for $200.”
The French Connection is released (featuring maybe the most iconic Brooklyn scene in film history?).
Saturday Night Fever is released.
Bargemusic—chamber music played on a floating barge at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge—launches.
Legendary rock venue L’amour opens in Bensonhurst and becomes an important venue in the New York City hardcore scene.
BRIC Arts Media founded.
The Brooklyn Bridge centennial is celebrated with a parade, fireworks, a flotilla of ships in the harbor, and a cavalcade of cars, led by President Reagan, crossing the bridge.
Spike Lee’s NYU thesis film, Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, becomes the first student film to be showcased in the Lincoln Center’s New Directors New Films Festival.
Once Upon a Time in America, Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone’s last picture, is filmed in Brooklyn. Starring Robert De Niro and James Woods, it chronicles the rise of organized crime in New York City.
Licensed to Ill, the debut album from the Beastie Boys, is released.
Woody Allen releases Radio Days, a film based on his childhood in Brooklyn.
651 ARTS is founded. Its mission is to promote and develop performing arts of the African diaspora.
Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is released.
Immersionism takes root in Williamsburg. The cultural movement organized multimedia events and parties in abandoned warehouses and factories along the waterfront.
The Lizard’s Tail opens at 99 South 6th Street, producing one-off Immersionist events.
Goodfellas is filmed in Brooklyn. Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece is nominated for six Oscars.
First Cat’s Head event takes place in Williamsburg on July 14th, featuring interactive installations, live music, and performance art, in a 5,000-square-foot warehouse on North 1st.
Straight Out of Brooklyn, an indie film about an African-American teen living in a Red Hook housing project, is released.
Kokie’s opens on North 3rd and Berry.
The debut of Brooklyn Bridge, a CBS sitcom about a Jewish-American family living in Brooklyn in the mid-50s. It wins a Golden Globe in 1992.
A group of artists opens underground music venue Keep Refrigerated at 90 North 11th Street.
On the cover of its June 22nd issue, New York declares Williamsburg “The New Bohemia.”
The Rubulad underground dance party takes place in a 5,000-square-foot basement in Williamsburg.
Flux Factory opens in a former spice factory in Williamsburg.
Notorious B.I.G. releases his debut album, Ready to Die, a chronicle of his youth in Clinton Hill.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard releases his first solo album, Return to 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, which features the hit single “Brooklyn Zoo.”
Galapagos Art Space opens on North 6th Street in Williamsburg.
Jay Z releases Reasonable Doubt.
Biggie is killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles.
Dutch DJ I-f releases “Space Invaders Art Smoking Grass,” a dance single that catalyzes an electroclash movement in Williamsburg, led by bands like Fischerspooner, Larry Tee, and the Scissor Scisters at venues like Club Luxx.
The first issue of The Brooklyn Rail, a journal of arts, culture and politics, is published as a broadsheet.
The Library of America publishes Writing New York: A Literary Anthology, edited by Brooklyn-born Phillip Lopate.
BAM converts the Carey Playhouse into Rose Cinemas, a four-screen theater featuring repertory, independent and foreign films.
Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn is published. It wins that year’s National Book Critics Cricle Award for fiction.
Verb Cafe opens in Williamsburg. Over the years it employs several writers, artists, and musicians, including
The Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame opens.
Brooklyn-born Mos Def releases Black on Both Sides.
Pete’s Candy Store opens.
VICE moves to Williamsburg.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars form.
The new Brooklyn Cyclones park is completed.
DIY music venue Northsix opens in Williamsburg. In 2002, it’s named Best New Rock Club by The Village Voice.
Texas native Todd P. begins organizing DIY music events in Brooklyn, pushing the spread of venues like MonsterIsland Basement, the Market Hotel, and 285 Kent.
The New York Times declares the L train “the hippest train in the subway.”
Southpaw opens in Park Slope.
A New York Times headline asks “Has Billburg Lost Its Cool?”
The minds behind Free Williamsburg publish The Hipster Handbook.
Forest City Ratner announces plans to build Atlantic Yards, a multi-billion dollar development featuring what wil later become the Barclays Center. Organizations like Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn rally to protest the scope of the project.
n+1 is founded.
The Silent Barn, an alternative arts collective, opens in Bushwick.
Brooklyn Book Festival is founded.
Northsix is sold to Bowery Presents and remodeled,
to reopen as the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Death by Audio opens in a warehouse space in Williamsburg.
The DIY-centric all-ages listings publication SHOWPAPER begins printing.
Brooklyn Museum hosts a Takashi Murakami Show.
The Northside Festival starts in Williamsburg.
Brooklyn Academy of Music launches The Bridge Project, a transatlantic partnership with London’s Old Vic and Neal Street Productions.
New lit magazine Electric Literature launches.
Shea Stadium opens in East Williamsburg.
n+1 publishes “What Was the Hipster?”
Paul Auster releases Sunset Park.
Steiner Studios opens in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Jennifer Egan wins the Pulitzer for her novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad.
Silent Barn, the art collective begun in 2004, moves to Bushwick from Ridgewood.
Mayor Bloomberg announces three moves to strengthen the cultural community in Downtown Brooklyn.
Pattie Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s Clinton Hill apartment goes on the market for over a million dollars.
Jay Z plays the inaugural show at the Barclays Center.
Martin Amis moves to Brooklyn.
Lena Dunham’s GIRLS premieres on HBO.
Theatre for a New Audience moves to Fort Greene.
Adelle Waldman releases The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., allowing readers all over the world to finally gain insight into the mind of a privileged white man.
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City premieres on Comedy Central.
285 Kent closes.
Death by Audio closes.
Galapagos Arts Center closes, announces plans to relocate to Detroit.
VICE makes plans for a major expansion.
Phil Klay’s short story collection Redeployment wins the National Book Award for fiction.
Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming wins the National Book Award for young people’s literature.