Place in History

Dumbo Development Boxes

Year: 1999
Project: Installation of ten viewing boxes at Brooklyn's Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park as part of the Intervistas/Between the Bridges exhibit, sponsored by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition. Each box housed images exploring the planning, development, and redevelopment of Fulton Ferry/DUMBO/Vinegar Hill area since its emergence as Brooklyn's chief port in the mid-1600s. Place in History kicked off the project by drawing up a timeline history of DUMBO, and by organizing a community workshop, at which local residents, activists, urbanists, artists, historians and developers met to discuss neighborhood history and current development plans.
  • Dumbo Community Workshop

    June 10, 1999 - Smack Mellon Studios Brooklyn, NY

    The Development Box Project was an interdisciplinary initiative focused on the history and development of the Fulton Ferry / DUMBO / Vinegar Hill area, Brooklyn's first port neighborhood. As a first step towards examining this history, Place in History organized a workshop with community members, historians, urbanists and artists to discuss the social, physical and economic history of the area. In the aftermath of the workshop, Place in History drew on participants' comments and our own research to develop a series of slides, evoking the neighborhood's landscape and history. These slides were then displayed in ten viewing boxes which Place in History mounted in Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge.

    Click here to read excerpts from the workshop transcript.

  • Dumbo Development Boxes

    July 31 to September 6, 1999 - Fulton Ferry State Park New Dock Street & East River, Brooklyn, NY

    The DUMBO Development Boxes Project was an interdisciplinary initiative focused on the history and development of the Fulton Ferry / DUMBO / Vinegar Hill area, Brooklyn's first port neighborhood.

    As a first step towards examining this history, Place in History organized a workshop with community members, historians, urbanists and artists to discuss the social, physical and economic history of the area.

    Combining ideas and materials from a Place in History-organized community workshop with our own research, Place in History developed a series of slides for display within our ten viewing boxes. The slides evoke the neighborhood's ever-changing landscape (from pastoral village to manufacturing center to upscale residential enclave), its allure as the subject of grand development schemes, and its strong and sometimes strained relationship to Lower Manhattan, its sister neighborhood across the river.

    Sponsors

    Brooklyn Borough President's Office
    Independence Community Foundation
    New York Council for the Humanities

    Partners

    Marcia Hillis
    Marcia Reiss
    Marianna Koval
    Gary Vanderputten
    Louanne Smith
    Robert Winkler
    Arlene Winkler
    Christopher Drago
    Lorraine Walsh
    Berit Fischer
    Monique Denoncin
    Anne Howland
    Michele Convery
    Jonas Kyle
    Orin Brown
    Adam Levinson
    Carol Clark
    Susan De Vreis
    Smack Mellon Studios
    Brooklyn Historical Society
    Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition
    Brooklyn Public Library
    New York Public Library
    New York City Municipal Archives

  • Historical Chronology, 1642 - 2000


  Page 1: The Early Years  

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The Early Years

1642: Cornelius Dircksen of New York begins a ferry service to Breuckelen. (Dircksen owned a small inn near Peck's Station on the New York East River Shore)

1654: Governor Stuyvesant enacts the first ordinance controlling the ferry service.

1655: Egbert Van Borsum builds the first ferry-house tavern (a wooden structure) at foot of the road to the ferry.

1699: New York Corporation contracts for a stone ferry-house and tavern, to replace wooden structure, completed in 1700.

1704: The ferry road is officially laid out and becomes known as the "Road to the Ferry" and the "Road to Jamaica."

1748: Stone ferry-house and tavern is burned in protest by Brookland citizens who resent New York Corporation's ownership of Brookland property and shoreline.

1765-67:A map of Brookland Ferry show the East River Shoreline at about midpoint between the present Front and Water Streets. Lands along the shoreline are owned by Mr. Rapailie.

1776: On the night of the 26th-27th August 1776, George Washington leads the American Army's retreat across the East River from the site of the present Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.

1784: The lands of Rapailie, lying between the Fulton Ferry and Wallabout Bay, are confiscated by the City Corporation and sold to the Sands Brothers.

1788: Streets in the Fulton Ferry area are laid out by the Sands Brothers and a later partner named Jackson. They name the place "Olympia."

Olympia 1788

In the 1780s, landowners Joshua Sands, Comfort Sands and John Jackson began to develop the new city of "Olympia" in the area between Fulton Ferry Landing and today's Navy Yard. The following excerpt describes the virtues of the location:

"Olympia is extremely well calculated for a city; on a point of land which presents its front up the East River, surrounded almost with water, the conveniences are almost manifest. A considerable country in the rear affords the easy attainment of produce. A pure and salubrious atmosphere, excellent spring water, and good society, are among a host of other desirable advantages. As regards health in particular, it is situated on the natural soil -- no noxious vapors, generated by exhalations from dock-logs, water and filth sunk a century under its foundations are raised here."  

1795: A permit is given to William Furman and Theodosius Hunt to establish a ferry at the foot of present Main Street (at the junction of Main and the present Water Street) which became known as the "New Ferry" and "Teamboat Ferry," and later the "Catherine Street Ferry" (after the landing point in Manhattan). The name of the road to this ferry, originally "New Ferry Road," was later changed to Main Street.

1795: The First Landfill: A map of Brooklyn in 1796 shows that landfill operations east of the ferry landing had created Water Street by this time.

1811: On November 22, Joshua Sands and his wife, Ann, transfer property to Thomas Carpenter and mark Fowler in the vicinity of the future Empire Stores. The record shows the existence (at least on paper) of Plymouth, Main, and Water Streets.

1814: Robert Fulton's steam-propelled ferry on the new Fulton Ferry line to New York is introduced. The "Road to the Ferry" is renamed Fulton Street in honor of the inventor.

1815: Village of Brooklyn is incorporated. The Second Landfill: The area of the Empire Stores, between Water and Plymouth Streets, has been landfilled by this time. The landfill could possibly date back to c. 1811.

1835: Fulton Street and Water Street are widened.

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