Bath Beach History
This quiet seaside neighborhood filled with ocean breezes and wind chimes was developed as a retreat for wealthy families to escape the city on weekends. Part of the original town of New Utrecht, Bath Beach was their place to sail, sunbathe and swim.
A residential community grew around an amusement park that opened in 1893, growing still after the park closed six years later.
It remained mostly rural until just before the turn of the 20th century though, when the elite recognized its potential and built villas, yacht clubs and mansions in the area. With the rapid rail transit opening in 1916, Jewish and Italian families poured in from Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Its current population, heavy with Italian-Americans, came to realization after the 1929 stock market crash left mansions abandoned. These vacancies left smaller homes and apartments free to match the needs of immigrants from Italy and other countries.
How Bath Beach Got Its Name
A strange thing about Bath Beach: It doesn’t really have a beach.
It did at one time, of course, which explains part of its name. The “Bath” part refers to the famous spa and Roman baths in Bath, England.
Bath Beach was a portion of the Dutch town of New Utrecht when it was settled in 1652, part of a purchase of land by Cornelius van Werckhover for the Dutch West India Company. He made the deal with the Canarsie and Nyack Indians and named it after his home city in the Netherlands.
In the mid-19th century, freed slaves were given parcels of land in Bath Beach and created one of the first African-American settlements.
The neighborhood developed with the opening of the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island steam railroad in 1862 to connect with the horsecar system of the City of Brooklyn. The Ulmer Park amusement center, with rides and a dance hall, was built by Ulmer Brewery (of Bushwick) in 1893, but lasted only about six years.
The extension of the subway system in 1916-17 brought new settlers, mainly immigrants, to the area, which gained a reputation as a retreat for the wealthier families, with mansions built to face Gravesend Bay. But the market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression changed that to a great extent.
Growth was revived later, especially with the completion of the Belt Parkway around the southern edge of Brooklyn in 1939.
And the beach? It was paved over for construction of the Shore Parkway in the 1950s.