Evolution of a Neighborhood 

Williamsburg: From Pirates to Purim to Peaches to Passats

1680 to 1880
Notorious pirate Captain Kidd hangs out on Jean Mesurolle’s farm between South 6th and North 1st Streets, doing whatever it is pirates do when relaxing. By the mid-19th century, the area becomes a fashionable suburb for well-off industrialists of German, Austrian and Irish descent. Light industry grows.

1900 to 1940
The Williamsburg Bridge is built in 1903 and thousands of working-class Jewish and Italian immigrants settle the area, making it one of the densest neighborhoods in the city. The Depression leads to bankruptcies for local businesses and older, affluent residents leave. Persecution in Europe sees thousands of Jews, mainly Chasidic, begin to settle the area.

1950 to 1980
Waterfront industry attracts thousands of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans looking for work; in 1957, the BQE shreds through the neighborhood, bringing projects along with it. The 1970s see more businesses leave; poverty and blight spread. Williamsburg, especially between Grand and the park, becomes crime-ridden and very dangerous (packs-of-wild-dogs dangerous).

1985 to the Present

In the mid 80s, artists looking for cheap rent and more space begin to colonize an otherwise blasted heath of urban decay. The late 90s see hipsterized gentrification move ahead full spreed in the artists’ footsteps. The inevitable condo colonies follow. Packs of wild i-bankers roam the streets.


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