Started from the Bottom Now We’re Here: A Brooklyn Cultural Timeline

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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.


1646

1646
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.


1646
The colony of New Netherland is surrendered to the British government and renamed “New York.”


1797
The population of Brooklyn reaches 1,603.


1801
Construction begins on the Brooklyn Navy Yard along the bank of the East River.


1823

1823
The 4-year-old Walt Whitman moves with his family to Brooklyn.


1829

1829
The Coney Island House hotel opens, marking the beginning of the area as a seaside resort.


1834
The village of Brooklyn is incorporated into a city, and George Hall is elected as its first mayor.


1838

1838
Green-Wood Cemetery is founded as a rural county burial ground.


1841_1

1841
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.


1855
Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg become part of the city of Brooklyn.


1847

1857
The Brooklyn Mercantile Library Association of the City of Brooklyn, one of the predecessors of the Brooklyn Public
Library, forms.


1860
The population of Brooklyn hits 279,122.


1861

1861
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.


1862

1862
The Long Island Historical Society, later the Brooklyn Historical Society, is established.


1867
Grand Army Plaza is laid out to commemorate the victory of the Union Army in the Civil War.


1883

1883
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.


1884
Mark Twain presents a reading at BAM.


1887

1887
Pratt Institute is founded.


1890
Population of Brooklyn reaches 838,547.


1891

1891
Booker T. Washington delivers a speech about the full emancipation of African-Americans at BAM.


1893
Vaudeville star Mae West is born in Brooklyn.


1897
The Brooklyn Museum opens.


1898_1866_Johnson_Map_of_New_York_City_and_Brooklyn_-_Geographicus_-_NewYorkCity2-johnson-1866

1898
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.”


1903
Dreamland amusement park opens on Coney Island.


1908

1908
The Brooklyn Academy of Music reopens on Lafayette Street after its first location burned to the ground.


1912BrooklynMusicSchoolfrontsign2012

1912
The Brooklyn Music School, complete with a 266-seat Spanish style theater, opens.


1916
Jackie Gleason is born in Brooklyn.


1921)GreenwichVillageGirl

1921
An article appears in the New York Sun declaring “Greenwich Village is moving to Brooklyn.”


1928
The Brooklyn Nest, one of the most notorious speakeasies in Brooklyn located at 1286 Bedford Avenue, is raided by the cops.

Williamsburg Savings Bank

1929
Architectural icon the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building is completed and remains the tallest building in Brooklyn for 81 years.


1930_The_Great_Migration

1930
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.


1930

1930
Brooklyn College, “the poor man’s Harvard,” is established and provides education virtually free of tuition until 1976.


1933

1933
Prohibition is repealed, but only nine breweries are revived in Brooklyn.

The A train is extended to Brooklyn, connecting Harlem with Downtown Brooklyn at Jay Street-Borough Hall.


1936

1936
Henry Miller’s Black Spring is released.


1938

1938
Richard Wright pens Native Son while living in Fort Greene.


1940

1940
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.


1941

1941
Harry Nilsson is born in Bushwick.


1942
1942
Lou Reed is born in Bushwick.


1943

1943
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith’s novel about Irish immigrants struggling to make ends meet in Williamsburg, is published.


1947_2

1947
Larry David is born in Sheepshead Bay.


1955
Daily newspaper the Brooklyn Eagle closes. It was briefly revived in 1962 before publishing its last edition the following year.


1957
The Brooklyn Dodgers play their final game at Ebbets Field before moving to LA.


1958

1958
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is published, a novel writen by Truman Capote when he was living in a Brooklyn Heights mansion.


19basquiat

1960
Jean-Michel Basquiat is born in Fort Greene.


19eddiemurphy

1961
Eddie Murphy is born in Brooklyn.


1964

1964
Hubert Selby Junior’s novel Last Exit To Brooklyn is published.


Ryerson Avenue Gate

1966
The Brooklyn Navy Yard closes.


pattyrobert

1967
Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe move into an apartment in Clinton Hill. Their rent is $80 a month.


19spikealso

1968
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.


West Indian Day

1969
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.


1969-2

1969
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.”


1971

1971
The French Connection is released (featuring maybe the most iconic Brooklyn scene in film history?).


1971_2

1977
Saturday Night Fever is released.

Bargemusic—chamber music played on a floating barge at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge—launches.


1978

1978
Legendary rock venue L’amour opens in Bensonhurst and becomes an important venue in the New York City hardcore scene.


1979
BRIC Arts Media founded.


1983

1983
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.


1983_2

1983
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.


1984

1984
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.


1986

1986
Licensed to Ill, the debut album from the Beastie Boys, is released.


19radio days

1987
Woody Allen releases Radio Days, a film based on his childhood in Brooklyn.


1988
651 ARTS is founded. Its mission is to promote and develop performing arts of the African diaspora.


1989

1989
Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is released.


lizards tail

1989
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.


1990

1990
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.


1991

1991
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.


1991_02

1991
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.


1992

1992
On the cover of its June 22nd issue, New York declares Williamsburg “The New Bohemia.”


1994

1994
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.


1994_2

1994
Notorious B.I.G. releases his debut album, Ready to Die, a chronicle of his youth in Clinton Hill.


1995
Ol’ Dirty Bastard releases his first solo album, Return to 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, which features the hit single “Brooklyn Zoo.”


1995
Galapagos Art Space opens on North 6th Street in Williamsburg.


1996

1996
Jay Z releases Reasonable Doubt.


1997
Biggie is killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles.


1997

1997
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.


1998

 

1998
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.


1998_2

 

1998
BAM converts the Carey Playhouse into Rose Cinemas, a four-screen theater featuring repertory, independent and foreign films.


1999_3

1999
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
Kyp Malone.

The Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame opens.


1999_4

1998
Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection opens at the Brooklyn Museum the controversial show (which included Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary” fashioned from elephant dung) causes Mayor Giuliani to withhold the museum’s monthly city subsidy and start eviction proceedings.


1999_5

1999
Brooklyn-born Mos Def releases Black on Both Sides.

Pete’s Candy Store opens.

VICE moves to Williamsburg.


2000

2000
Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars form.


2001

2001
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.


2001_2

2001
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.”


2002

2002
Southpaw opens in Park Slope.


2003

2003
A New York Times headline asks “Has Billburg Lost Its Cool?”

The minds behind Free Williamsburg publish The Hipster Handbook.


2004

2004
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.

L’amour closes.


2005

2005
The Silent Barn, an alternative arts collective, opens in Bushwick.


2006

2006
Brooklyn Book Festival is founded.

Glasslands opens.

Northsix is sold to Bowery Presents and remodeled,
to reopen as the Music Hall of Williamsburg.


2007

2007
Death by Audio opens in a warehouse space in Williamsburg.

The DIY-centric all-ages listings publication SHOWPAPER begins printing.


2008

2008
Brooklyn Museum hosts a Takashi Murakami Show.


2009

2009
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.


2010

2010
n+1 publishes “What Was the Hipster?”

Paul Auster releases Sunset Park.

Steiner Studios opens in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


2011

2011
Jennifer Egan wins the Pulitzer for her novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad.


2012

2012
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.


2012_2

2012

Jay Z plays the inaugural show at the Barclays Center.

Martin Amis moves to Brooklyn.

Lena Dunham’s GIRLS premieres on HBO.


2013

2013

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.


2014

2014
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City premieres on Comedy Central.


2014_2

2014
285 Kent closes.

Glasslands closes.

Death by Audio closes.


2014_3

2014

Galapagos Arts Center closes, announces plans to relocate to Detroit.

VICE makes plans for a major expansion.


2014_5

2014
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.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The end of slavery in 1827 (somewhere between 25-30% of Brooklyn’s population had been slaves)

    The years of the openings of the Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, Marine Parkway Bridge, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

    The openings of Long Island University and Poly Tech, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the nation’s first children’s library (now Stone Avenue branch in Brownsville), Fort Hamilton.

    Obviously this is geared to your readership, which skews very young, well-off, white, and heavily North/Brownstone Brooklyn; it’s also very much skewed in terms of recency, probably because there are things you just don’t know about — which is fine. Even young people, I’m sure, could add stuff. ODB was great, but the Prospect Park Zoo might rate a mention with his “Brooklyn Zoo.”

    “Brooklyn Bridge” was not a very memorable TV series. “The Patty Duke Show” didn’t look like any Brooklyn Heights me and my friends at JHS 285 were familiar with, but it had a lot more impact. I’m sure even the current “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” will have more impact than “Brooklyn Bridge.”

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