In the mid-19th century, Bushwick began to lose its rural, agricultural landscape. Large numbers of Germans immigrated to New York following the political upheavals in central Europe in 1848. Many settled in Williamsburg and Bushwick (collectively with Greenpoint known as Brooklyn’s Eastern District) and began the development of the area's most famous local industry, brewing. Owned by German immigrants, the breweries employed a largely German workforce, whose families also provided a sufficient local demand for lager beer.
Development in Bushwick was further propelled by improvements in transportation. The Myrtle Avenue horsecar line was extended east to Broadway in 1855, while the elevated rapid transit line, operated by the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad, reached Broadway and Gates Avenue in 1885. By 1880, 35 breweries had been established in Brooklyn, including at least 11 located in a 14-block area in the Eastern District known as “brewer’s row,” and other industrious German immigrants opened factories and knitting mills in the area. Tenements and small row houses were built to house the workers and their families.5 A second wave of development began after the construction of the elevated railroad along Myrtle Avenue in 1888, making the area an attractive alternative to congested downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Development, consisting primarily of three- and four-story multiple dwellings, spread eastward toward the Brooklyn- Queens border during the following decade. A number of picnic grounds, beer gardens, amusement parks, and racetracks opened amidst Ridgewood’s fields and farming villages towards the end of the nineteenth century, catering especially to the large German population of Bushwick. These areas provided open space for many people who otherwise spent their time in crowded tenements. German shooting clubs also provided a popular pastime.
Located to the east of Bushwick, Ridgewood (also known as East Williamsburgh) remained largely rural until after the consolidation of the City of New York in 1898, just as the last vacant land in Bushwick was being developed. Transportation improvements to the area helped propel development. Myrtle and Metropolitan Avenues and Fresh Pond Road are among the oldest streets in Ridgewood, having originally been Native American trails and then used by Long Island farmers to take their products to market. Stagecoaches and horsecars ran along Myrtle Avenue which extended from Fulton Ferry – with ferries that provided access to Manhattan – to Jamaica Avenue. The first railroad to reach the area, in 1878, was the New York Connecting Railroad Extension (once the Manhattan Beach Railroad), running from Brooklyn through Ridgewood to the Brooklyn seashore. (Figure 1) The elevated rapid transit line ran to Wyckoff Avenue along the Brooklyn/Queens border beginning in 1888 and an extension of the electrified trolley ran from Bushwick to Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood in 1894. The Myrtle Avenue line was extended at grade over a private right-of-way from Wyckoff Avenue to Lutheran Cemetery in 1904. 6
By the turn of the century, Bushwick’s builders began purchasing Ridgewood’s farms, parks, and racetracks. Over the next two decades they constructed tenements and small row houses similar to those they had built for the German immigrant workers and their families in Bushwick.7 An article in the Real Estate Record and Guide8 published in late 1909 mentions that
5 Bushwick was not a company town. Housing was constructed by speculative builders, most of whom were also of German descent, including some brewers who invested some of their profits into real estate.
6 This extension of the BRT’s Myrtle Avenue line was elevated to Fresh Pond Road in 1915, replacing the trolley line along the same right-of-way.
7 Three basic types of homes were constructed: two- and three-family row houses with one apartment per floor, two- and three-story tenements with two apartments per floor, and small multiple-dwellings with ground-floor stores.
8 “Growth of Queens,” Real Estate Record and Guide (December 25, 1909), 1200, as cited in Stockholm Street Historic District Designation Report.