Neighborhood Guides

These guides reveal the fascinating stories behind how communities grow and develop. Using historic images from the BHS archives, the guides bring history to life, connecting past to present, including compelling stories of neighborhood activism and growth. After discovering the dynamic past, find the evidence yourself, by using the accompanying walking tour and map included in every Neighborhood History Guide.

bay ridgeBay Ridge / Fort Hamilton

By Marcia Reiss, 2003. Illustrated, 37 pages. Features Bay Ridge walking tour.

Originally established as a residential location by Dutch settlers, Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton were sought after by residents as a “suburb within the city.” Both immigrants and established New York residents flocked to the area for its tree-lined streets and grand estates. This neighborhood, originally known as Yellow Hook, was also an important point of harbor defense during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Though this role changed over the past two centuries, Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton are still rich with Brooklyn’s history and considered thriving multicultural destinations.

flatbushFlatbush Neighborhood 

By Adina Back and Francis Morrone, 2008. Illustrated and bound, 69 pages. Features 3 Flatbush walking tours.

Involving a range of experiences and perspectives, this Flatbush neighborhood history is told with the rich voices of its residents, writers, and historians. As one of Kings County’s original six townships, Flatbush’s history extends back almost four hundred years. This text discusses the many different waves of change and immigration from its earliest Native American settlers to the modern day. The three featured walking tours ensure that all visitors will be able to explore a fresh perspective on the deep-rooted histories of this captivating neighborhood.

Fort Greene GuideThe Fort Greene & Clinton Hill

The Fort Greene and Clinton Hill Neighborhood and Architectural History Guide by Francis Morrone is a wide-ranging social and cultural history of the part of Brooklyn bounded roughly by Flatbush, Classon, Atlantic, and Flushing Avenues and includes extensive material about the development of the Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Wallabout neighborhoods; the history of Fort Greene Park; notable neighborhood personages including Walt Whitman, Marianne Moore, Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, Richard Wright, William C. Kingsley, Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, Charles Pratt, and Spike Lee; and the histories of local institutions such as Pratt Institute, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Colored School No. 1, St. Joseph's College, Lafayette Avene Presbyterian Church, and much more. The guide is illustrated with contemporary architectural photographs by Etienne Frossard as well as numerous older and archival photographs. Click here for the audio guide.

dumboFulton Ferry, DUMBO & Vinegar Hill

By Marcia Reiss, 2001. Illustrated, 45 pages. Features DUMBO walking tour.

As early transport to Brooklyn from Manhattan was by ferry prior to the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Fulton Ferry, DUMBO, and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods developed into a commercial thoroughfare and became densely populated. Into the late 19th and 20th centuries, the waterfront between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges transformed into a major hub of industry and transportation. Though the neighborhoods are now more residential, the influence of manufacturing is still evident today.  



By Marcia Reiss, 2005. Illustrated, 48 pages. Features Greenpoint walking tour.

The Greenpoint guide explores the neighborhood’s more than three hundred year history of inhabitants, from Native Americans, Dutch settlers, English Puritans, and the waves of immigration that give Greenpoint its diverse culture and the largest concentration of Polish Americans in the country today. The walking tour offers a snapshot of neighborhood, including 19th century rowhouses and churches, the site where the Civil War battleship The Monitor was launched, and more modern destinations where you can enjoy the culture and culinary delights of this ethnic neighborhood.

Park Slope CoverPark Slope

 Copyright 2008, illustrated and bound, 57 pages + two walking tours. Author: Francis Morrone. Noting Park Slope's magnificent architecture, this guide covers Park Slope's days as a horsecar suburb, the emergence of the "Gold Coast" of Brooklyn's elite, the working-class history of the South Slope, and the mid-20th-century demographic changes that brought new groups, including Italians and African-Americans, into the neighborhood.

Download the Walking Tour (pdf)

Download Audio to Accompany the Walking Tour (mp3)

You can hear voices from Park Slope to accompany this walking tour. Listen to store owners, long-time residents, local bloggers, and others reflect on their place in the neighborhood.

These audio tracks are also available for download through the Brooklyn Historical Society's podcast on iTunes.  Brooklyn Historical Society - Brooklyn Historical Society

The Park Slope Neighborhood and Architectural History Guide and and the walking tour audio were funded by the Trust for Architectural Easements and American Express. Additional support was provided through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and Constance and Henry Christensen.

gowanusRed Hook & Gowanus

The 45-page Red Hook-Gowanus guide presents two gritty neighborhoods making a comeback as places to live, work and visit. It's illustrated on every page with historical photos, contemporary scenes and maps. Highlights include: rare 19th-century scenes of booming docks and shipyards, stories of long-time residents who lived throug h devastating times, and contemporary scenes of people canoeing on the Gowanus Canal and swimming off Red Hook Point, once full of industrial pollution.


By Marcia Reiss, 2005. Illustrated, 25 pages. Features Williamsburg walking tour.

Illustrated with historic photographs from the BHS collection, our Neighborhood Guide series offers readers an insightful and informative history of streets, buildings, people, and historical events that have shaped the individual neighborhoods and Brooklyn as a whole.

Though Williamsburg began as its own city in 1851, it was soon annexed by the city of Brooklyn in 1855, almost doubling the borough’s size. Williamsburg transitioned from a farming village into a thriving industrial center in the early 19th century, a tradition that is seen today in older factories lining the waterfront and fully operational manufacturing locations such as the Brooklyn Brewery. Williamsburg’s rich and long history stems from these institutions, and is punctuated by its diverse inhabitants. The including Williamsburg walking tour takes readers through the neighborhood’s historical locations, as well as representing the contributions of modern-day residents, including art galleries and restaurants.

Fort Greene / Clinton Hill audio tour

To complement the Fort Greene / Clinton Hill Neighborhood & Architectural History Guide by Francis Morrone, Brooklyn Historical Society presents this audio tour of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. The tour is hosted by author, filmmaker, and longtime Fort Greene resident Nelson George. It features excerpts from oral history interviews from Brooklyn Historical Society’s collections: artists, community activists, and longtime residents both past and present, including professional basketball player Albert King, WNYC’s Jad Abumrad, and former Freedomways managing editor Esther Cooper Jackson.

Fort Greene
The numbers in the parentheses of each track correspond to the item numbers in pages 98-103 of the published guide.

Clinton Hill

The numbers in the parentheses of each track correspond to the item numbers in pages 104-108 of the published guide.

Hosted by Nelson George

Produced by Sady Sullivan, former Director of Oral History, Brooklyn Historical Society with production help by Dorothy Saint Jean, Long Island University.Music by Black Star, Mos Def, Living Colour, Betty Carter, Erykah Badu, Biggie Smalls, Talib Kweli, and Bill Lee and The Natural Spirit Orchestra (with Branford Marsalis)

Thank you to Nelson George, Edward Lee, Spike Lee, Francis Morrone, Ina Howard-Parker, and all the other artists heard here, for your time and creativity. And to the New York Center for Visual History and the Media Arts Department at Long Island University.

Special thanks to Hillel Arnold, Alexis Taines-Coe, Ann Heppermann, and Selma Jackson who contributed interviews to the collection, and to YouTube users dominoize and oojenoo who captured great live sound of important events in Fort Greene: Soul Summit 2009 and 2010, and election night 2008.

And a very special thank you to the people of Fort Greene / Clinton Hill who shared their memories with Brooklyn Historical Society. We’re so happy your voices are heard in this tour: Jad Abumrad, Marianne Engberg, Dr. Josephine English, Yolande Garcia, Hal Glicksman, Ruth Goldstein, Colvin Grannum, DK Holland, Karen Brooks Hopkins, Esther Cooper Jackson, Albert King, Irene Levy, Karla Murthy, Ron Shiffman, and Mary Elizabeth Smith.