Brooklyn Heights History and Harmony Just Across the River

If Manhattan is a sea of change, Brooklyn Heights is the peaceful shore to which weary Manhattanites retreat. More than 175 years ago, Brooklyn Heights emerged as one of the first American suburbs. Bounded by the East River, Fulton Street, Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, this quiet neighborhood has long been a haven for professionals, couples and families with its tranquil, tree-lined streets and stately 19th century homes.

"It’s a very nice place to raise a family," says Nancy Giddons, a condo owner who moved to Brooklyn Heights in 1972. "I walk down the street and people say ‘hi’ to me. It’s like a sophisticated small town."

It All Began with a Bridge

The "small town" of Brooklyn Heights began to take shape as a residential alternative to Manhattan with the introduction of Thomas Fulton’s steam ferry in 1814. The ferry made regularly-scheduled crossings to Manhattan, and by the late 1830s, a local real estate agent was advertising Brooklyn Heights as having "all the advantages of the country, with most of the conveniences of the city," according to New York: An Illustrated History by Ric Burns and James Sanders.

Starting in the mid-19th century, prominent landowners began dividing their property into standard 2,500-square-foot lots for development. Wealthy families began moving into Brooklyn Heights, enjoying the area’s unparalleled views of the waterfront and growing Manhattan skyline. With the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, residents had a new way to get to the City, taking a 20-minute walk across the footbridge and into the Financial District.

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