Get to Know the Historic Wallabout District: One of the Oldest Neighborhoods in Brooklyn
We recently moved offices to a new Clinton Hill location in The Chocolate Factory Lofts at 275 Park Avenue, and have had the pleasure of working with Danelle Davis, the leasing agent of the building. We recently sat down with Danelle to learn more about Clinton Hill’s history as part of the Wallabout neighborhood and The Chocolate Factory Lofts itself.
Danelle has been a proud Brooklynite for nearly 20 years and has seen first-hand the boom of vitality in the neighborhoods she has lived and thrived in for two decades, having spent many years as a property manager and real estate agent. She is now a resident of the historic Wallabout District, so she knows quite a bit about this wonderful borough. She shared with us some cool stories about the area which may be of interest to history buffs. Join us as Danelle shares some fascinating stories of this district’s history.
Wallabout is One of the Oldest Neighborhoods in Brooklyn and was split into Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and Bed-Stuy
Danelle: I fell in love immediately with the [Wallabout] area when I first started working at 275 Park Ave back in the early 2000s when the neighborhood was very different. The Navy Yard was owned by the City of New York but a lot of it was sitting underused. Steiner Studios didn’t open until 2004, and a lot of the businesses that are in the neighborhood now hadn’t yet arrived. Now the Brooklyn Navy Yard is thriving with all kinds of businesses and thousands of people working there.
But what drew me in was the history.
Wallabout is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Brooklyn and often people wonder where the name comes from. The Walloon settlers arrived from what is now Belgium in the early- to mid-1600s and depending on what you read, Wallabout means “bend in the harbor” or “Bay of Walloons”. The neighborhood has some of the oldest homes in Brooklyn, including some wood-framed homes from the early 1800s like the landmarked Lefferts-Laidlaw House.
Meanwhile, Wallabout Bay figured prominently in the revolutionary War. The Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument in Fort Greene Park honors over 11,000 American prisoners of war who died on prison ships anchored in Wallabout Bay. So if you’re a history buff, or a military historian, there’s a lot to explore. Building 92 on Flushing has a great museum that includes several displays about the neighborhood’s history.
Wallabout Once Hosted the Second-Largest Food Market in the World
The federal government bought the land that is now the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1801 and Dry Dock 1 which opened in 1850 is still in operation today. The area was an active shipyard through the 1960s. One of my favorite things that people see every day is the replicated wash basin made by Bradley Wash Basin Corporation in front of the restrooms at Building 77 which is based on old wash basins that had been found around the Navy Yard. There’s also this huge mural of women steelworkers drinking milk on their break during World War II. Milk was often used to lessen the taste of metal from welding which I learned on one of tours I was on with Turnstile Tours.
From the 1880s until the 1940s a large part of one-mile stretch there along Wallabout Bay (which is basically our stretch of Flushing Avenue), was home to the Wallabout Market, which was the second-largest food market in the world—a key hub for importing and exporting sugar, cocoa, spices, produce, meat and fish.
The architectural history around the neighborhood is really cool, too. For example, there’s a building around the corner on Waverly that has a sculpture of a horse on the facade. That building served as horse stables for the Von Glahn Brothers wholesale grocers who were also the original owners of the brick portion of the Chocolate Factory building.
There Are Plenty of Transportation Opportunities in the Area
People think of the Navy Yard as being kind of remote, but one of the reasons I moved to the Navy Yard area is that I wanted to be more centrally located. Before I moved here, I was spending all of my time in just one area or visiting one park. I never got to Brooklyn Bridge Park which I now enjoy several times a week or Fort Greene Park which has so much to enjoy including the weekly Farmers Market.
Being here in Wallabout, I have access to the A, the C, the F, the G train, and five different buses. Bus service is excellent now. They’re all on the bus apps, almost all of them have free Wi-Fi and USB ports. So, it really expands areas that you can get to. And one of the things I really like about riding the bus is that you get to see neighborhoods that you would otherwise miss if you were underground and you can discover new things.
And then there’s Citi Bikes, especially the electric bikes. They are so much faster than using a regular bike. I’m at my office in North Williamsburg in, like, 13 minutes on an electric Citi Bike and I only have to ride in actual traffic for 2 or 3 blocks.
The NYC Ferry at Pier 72 is Brooklyn’s Best Kept Secret
The best kept secret is the ferry at Pier 72. It’s insane! A 10-minute ride to Wall Street and a 12-minute ride to Midtown. The ferry also gets you to Roosevelt Island, which I often enjoy on my day off. You can take the Astoria line to East 90th Street, plus you can transfer to other ferries within 90 minutes for that same $2.75 ticket. You can get all the way to Rockaway Beach and back for $5.50. You can get all the way to the Bronx and back for $5.50.
It’s a great option to have. And while it is faster to take the ferry to Manhattan, thank goodness, I would honestly spend an extra 30 minutes commuting if I had to, to take the ferry. It’s so pleasurable! No matter what kind of day you had, if you just hop on the ferry, you’re going to feel more relaxed almost instantly. Plus, the ferry has wine, beer, snacks, and clean bathrooms. You’re not going to get that on the subway. You could have the craziest day but just being out on the water really changes your perspective on everything.
Learn more in our blog post, 4 Easy Ways to Get to BCL Clinton Hill by Public Transportation, in which we share more details on transportation options you can use to get to our neck of the woods.
Danelle shared plenty of great insights with us and we’ve got even more tidbits from her to share with you in a part II blog post! In the meanwhile, if you’re interested in learning more about the Wallabout neighborhood or interested in renting an apartment, contact Danelle Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org!