Poly Place and Washington Drive on the Narrows, Phone: 718-630–4681
Any Brooklyn middle school student can tell you about the borough’s important role in the Revolutionary War — but Brooklyn’s military significance doesn’t end there. Thanks to Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn continues to play an important role for the armed forces today though its future remains uncertain. This is one of the most interesting places in this Brooklyn Historical Society review.
The base at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows is home to a United States Army Recruiting Battalion, a Department of Defense Military Entrance Processing Command, and a United States Army Corps Engineers, among other units. Civilians can visit the Harbor Defense Museum — aptly placed considering that a battery located in present-day Fort Hamilton fired on a British vessel on July 4, 1776.
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street, Phone: 718-802–3900
In 1898, Brooklyn bigwigs made the worst decision in the history of the borough — allowing the then-independent city to be consolidated as a part of New York City. Though the power players handed off much of Brooklyn’s autonomy, they didn’t tear down Brooklyn’s old city hall.
Today, the formidable building that stands between Brooklyn Heights and Downtown is known as Borough Hall. Home to the Brooklyn Tourism and Visitors Center, administrative offices, and Borough President Markowitz, this landmark structure — erected in 1849 — is breathing new life.
New York City Transit Museum
Boerum Place, Phone: 718-694–1600
It’s no Times Square, but Brooklyn’s got its own transit hub. Visitors of the New York Transit Museum can pass through old-fashioned turnstiles and explore an unused subway station filled with antique trains and buses. Check out the old ads and maps — and let the kids learn what the word “straphanger” really means. For lifelong Brooklynites, it’s a trip back in time.
500 25th Street, Phone: 718-768–7300
Brooklyn’s most under-rated green space is also its least recognized historical treasure. Green-Wood Cemetery, more so than anywhere else in the borough, tells the story of Brooklyn — from homesteading farmers and influential founders to brave soldiers, powerful politicians like “Boss” Tweed, mobsters like Joey Gallo, and acclaimed artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat. With more than 560,000 permanent residents and unrivaled views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty, GreenWood’s bucolic paths are always worth a visit. For more information on Brooklyn, check out this introduction to Brooklyn.
17 Eastern Parkway, Phone: 718-638–7600
Brooklyn has a long history as a home for American Jews — and in many ways that history starts with Union Temple. The borough’s first Jewish congregation came together in 1848 in what was then known as the Village of Williamsburgh, building a synagogue on today’s Marcy Avenue.
The followers eventually merged with another group, founding a single reform congregation housed at Union Temple just off Grand Army Plaza. The Eastern Parkway synagogue has since become a de facto community center with a well-regarded pre-school, Purim carnivals, neighborhood events, and hugely popular High Holy Day services.
222 Court Street, Phone: 718-624–0014
On a quiet, yet bustling, intersection sits a piece of Brooklyn history known as Staubitz Market — now in its third generation of ownership and still going strong. The butcher and specialty foods shop has withstood the test of time as one of the oldest food establishments still operating in New York.
A typical workday at Staubitz starts at 6 am, and every cut of prime meat, poultry, game, and other specialty provisions are hand-selected each morning. The meat is then meticulously cut and trimmed with hand tools dating back to 1917 when John Staubitz first opened his eponymous shop as a butcher store. Staubitz is frequented by both folks from Brooklyn and Manhattan.
For the past 40 years, the market has been operated by the McFadden family which has maintained its old-world charm, complete with sawdust-strewn floors, premium meats carefully arranged and displayed in the original showcase, and an 80-year-old cash register that still works.
The same ornamented tin ceiling that holds the soft lights that illuminate all the product lines is still beautifully intact, as are the original stained glass and other artifacts — making Staubitz a cut above the rest for preserving Brooklyn’s history. It still offers free delivery and ships orders for loyal clients who have moved to another state, or even out of the country.
Brooklyn Old Navy Yard
63 Flushing Avenue, (Phone: 718-907–5900
Those who complain that nobody in America makes anything anymore should visit the Brooklyn Navy Yard. On a sprawling facility spreading over 300 acres, they’ll find a modern industrial park filled with 240 business tenants that employ 5,000 workers.
Overseen by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp., the historic shipyard, founded in 1801, is now home to all kinds of businesses, from art storage facilities, photo studios, and glass engravers to armored car services, metal fabrication workshops, and trucking companies.