Page 3 of 10
1802: Williamsburg Gets Its Name!
Williamsburg is kind of a great name for a neighborhood for a few reasons. One is that it can be shortened, without really being shortened that much at all, into things like Billyburg. Aghh, Billyburg is totally an awful thing to ever say, actually. Please, don't say that. What's really interesting about the name is that many Brooklyn neighborhoods have monikers that evoke the geographic features of the borough. Think about it—Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Flatlands, Bay Ridge—all of these places have names that reference their various highs and lows, geographically speaking. But Williamsburg has no such land-related name. Who was William? Haven't you always wondered?
Well, I'll tell you! In 1802, Richard Woodhull bought land in northwestern Brooklyn and hired the engineer Jonathan Williams to survey it for him in order to map out a grid. After Williams, who was also a nephew of Benjamin Franklin, completed the job, Woodhull named the area Williamsburgh. Williams never resided in Williamsburgh, though. Instead, he moved to Philadelphia where he eventually died of gout, which sounds very painful and not like something many people in the Williamsburg of today really need worry about. And the "h" at the end of Williamsburg(h) was ultimately dropped in 1852 because it seemed too old-time-y*.
*not the official reason, but the probable reason, I think