Brooklyn, N. Y. City and seat of justice of Kings co., on the W. end of Long Island, separated by the East River from the S. part of the city of New York. Population in 1810, 4402; in 1820, 7175; in 1830, 15,396; in 1840, 36,233; in 1850, 96,838. During the last twenty years, since the habitable part of New York has been extending, and becoming more and more remote from the seat of business, the population of Brooklyn has increased with unexampled rapidity. It is connected with New York, in the very district where the heaviest commerce lies, by a number of steam ferries, which are from 700 to 750 yards wide, and are crossed in four or five minutes by boats which ply continually between the two cities. Except on rare occasions, in the winter, when the ice opposes an obstruction to the free passage of the boats, these ferries bring the cities virtually nearer to each other than would be done by bridges, or even by a continuous connection on terra firma. The greatest thoroughfare among these is the Fulton Ferry, from Fulton Street in New York to Fulton Street in Brooklyn.
The ground on which Brooklyn is built is considerably more elevated than that of New York, especially towards its southern extremity. "Brooklyn Heights," so-called, memorable in revolutionary history, presents a bold front to the sea, rising abruptly to an elevation of 70 feet above tide water, affording a view of the city and harbor of New York, the islands in the bay, and particularly Governor's Island, with its noble fortifications, Staten Island, and the New Jersey shore, all combining to furnish a prospect which is scarcely surpassed by any in this country.
The greatest length of Brooklyn, within its its corporated limits, is 6 miles, N. E. and S. W., and its greatest breadth 4 miles. The whole of this extensive area has been laid out into streets, though many of them have not yet been opened and regulated. The city, generally, is laid out with order and symmetry of plan; and the streets, excepting Fulton Street, the oldest in the city, are straight, and, almost without any other exception, they cross each other at right angles. They are generally from 50 to 60 feet wide, and several of them have a still greater width. Many of the streets are shaded with beautiful trees, which impart to portions of the city, in the summer season, a peculiar air of pleasantness and comfort. No city in the country, perhaps, is better built than Brooklyn. The houses are very generally marked by chasteness and elegance of design, and many of them are splendid specimens of architectural beauty.
Of the public buildings the most prominent is the new City Hall, situated on a triangular piece of ground between Fulton, Court, and Joraleman Streets. This noble building is constructed of Westchester marble, 162 feet long by 102 feet wide, and 75 feet in height to the top of the cornice. The crown of the cupola, with which it is surmounted, is 153 feet from the pavement. In the eastern part of the city, near Fort Green, is the Jail, which is a substantial building erected in 1837. The Lyceum, at the corner of Washington and Concord Streets, a fine granite edifice; the Savings Bank, an elegant structure at the corner of Fulton and Concord Streets; the Brooklyn Female Academy, a spacious building on Joraleman Street; the City Library, containing a large collection of valuable literary and scientific works; a new and elegant Athenaeum, the Brooklyn Orphan Asylum, are each of them buildings which are ornamental to the city.
The more thickly-settled parts of Brooklyn have no public squares or open grounds. Such, however, is the commanding width of many of its avenues, the high and airy location of its site in general, and its almost rural aspect, in many parts, from the abundance of the trees with which the streets are bordered, that the absence of such open pleasure grounds is less to be regretted than it otherwise must have been. Provision has been made, however, in the newer parts of the city, for some public squares.
Brooklyn contains about 50 churches, several of which are splendid edifices recently constructed. Among these is the Episcopal "Church of the Holy Trinity," on Clinton Street, a fine specimen of the Gothic architecture, erected by the munificence of an individual citizen of Brooklyn, at a cost of about $150,000. The Congregational "Church of the Pilgrims," not far from the same locality, is a fine edifice, of dark gray granite, in the characteristic English style of the period of Cromwell. In the base of the principal tower of this church, about 8 feet from the ground, is placed an angular fragment, of considerable size, from the rock on which the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth.
The United States Navy Yard, at Brooklyn, is situated on the S. side of Wallabout Bay, which makes up with a broad curve from the East River, at the N. E. part of the city. From this point a ferry runs directly across to the foot of Walnut Street, New York. About 40 acres of ground are included in these premises. There are two large ship houses for the protection of naval vessels of the largest class when building, together with extensive workshops, and every requisite for a great naval depot. There is connected with this establishment an important literary institution, called the United States Naval Lyceum, formed in 1833 by officers of the service connected with the port. It contains a mineralogical and geological cabinet, and a fine collection of curiosities of a miscellaneous character. The government has constructed a dry dock here similar to that in the United States Navy Yard at Charlestown, Ms. On the opposite side of the Wallabout, about half a mile E. of the Navy Yard, is the Marine Hospital, situated upon a commanding elevation, and surrounded by about 30 acres of land under high cultivation. In this bay are always one or more large naval vessels lying in ordinary. These mark the spot where lay the Jersey and other British ships, during the revolutionary war, made use of as prison ships, for the confinement of those American soldiers whom they had taken prisoners in battle, in which it is said that as many as 11,500 prisoners perished in the course of the war, from bad air, close confinement, and ill treatment. These unhappy men were buried upon the shore, with little care but to put their bodies out of sight. In 1808, the bones of these sufferers were collected, as far as could then be done, and placed in 13 coffins, corresponding with the old 13 states, and honorably interred in a commemorative tomb erected for the purpose, not far from the Navy Yard.
The harbor of Brooklyn is extensive, and is capable of being very largely improved by adding to the number of its docks and slips. Vessels of the largest class can come up to its piers, to discharge or receive their cargoes. The Atlantic Dock is a very extensive basin for the reception of shipping, about a mile below the South Ferry, constructed by a company incorporated in 1840, at a cost of about $1,000,000. The basin within the piers covers 42 acres, with sufficient depth of water for the largest ships. The outside pier extends 3000 feet on Buttermilk Channel. The piers are furnished with spacious stone warehouses. The terminus of the Long Island Railroad is located near the landing from the South Ferry, which connects with New York at the S. E. corner of the Battery. From the station, the road is carried, by a long tunnel, under a number of the most important of the streets of Brooklyn, which it has to cross in its route.
Greenwood Cemetery, in the S. part of Brooklyn, about three miles from Fulton Ferry, is an extensive and beautiful ground provided by the cities of New York and Brooklyn for the burial of their dead. It may be approached either by this ferry, from which hourly carriages run to the entrance for a trifling charge, or by another at the Battery, which passes round and lands its passengers on the S. side, in the near vicinity. Greenwood contains 250 acres of ground, one half or more of which is covered with wood of the natural forest. The grounds have a varied surface of hill, and valley, and plain. From some of the open elevations extensive views are obtained of the ocean, and of the cities of Brooklyn and New York. The whole cemetery is traversed by about 15 miles of winding avenues and paths, leading through each shaded recess, and to every spot at once hallowed and adorned by the memorials of the dead. Great improvements are continually going on, andevery year adds new beauty to this interesting place.
The first settlement of Brooklyn was made at the Wallabout Bay, by George Jansen Rapelje, in 1625. The earliest deed for lands on record is to Thomas Besker, in 1639. October 18, 1667, Governor Nicholls granted a patent "to certain inhabitants of the town Breukelen, for and in behalf of themselves and their associates, the freeholders and inhabitants, for all the lands in the town not taken up in severally." This patent was confirmed by Governor Dongan in 1686. In 1670, license was giyen by Governor Lovelace to the inhabitants to purchase the Indian title.
With Brooklyn and its immediate neighborhood is connected the memory of the bloody battle of August 27, 1776, in which the Americans were defeated, occasioning the withdrawal of the army from Long Island into New York.
Brooklyn was incorporated as a village in 1816. In April, 1834. the whole territory of the town was incorporated under the name of the "City of Brooklyn." It is divided into nine wards; and the powers of the corporation are vested in a mayor and a board of aldermen, composed of two from each ward, all elected by the people.