The area that is Cobble Hill was first settled in the mid-17th century when Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant began to allow farming north of Red Hook.
The location played an important part in the Revolutionary War, with the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street offering a commanding view and becoming the site of Cobble Hill Fort.
By the 1800s, the neighborhood’s name died out and it became considered part of Brooklyn Heights until the 1950s when a realtor gave the name back after seeing it on a map from 1766.
Cobble Hill’s connection with the financial center of New York City prompted its development, with middle-class residents moving into its row houses. In the 1950s, brownstone enthusiasts moved into the area and renovated it block by block.
The neighborhood now boasts an activist spirit to preserve its low-rise identity, reminiscent of a Cobble Hill community that once blocked construction of a supermarket, leading to the construction of Cobble Hill Park.
How Cobble Hill Got Its Name
This neighborhood was settled in the 1640s, when Dutch Director-General Peter Stuyvesant, he of the artificial leg, began to allow farming north of Red Hook.
The Dutch farmers originally called it Ponkiesbergh, meaning Cobbles Hill, because of the cobblestones then being dumped in the area. The cobblestones were used as ballast on trading ships arriving from Europe, South Brooklyn being a major cargo port and Cobbles Hill then considered a part of South Brooklyn.
The largest mass of cobblestones was dropped at the corner of present-day Atlantic Ave. and Court St., making it a cone-shaped hill that was later known by the British as Bergen Hill. Because of the commanding view of the harbor from there, Gen. George Washington built Fort Cobble Hill there to help protect against the British invasion in the Revolutionary War. Fort Cobble Hill was also called the “Corkscrew Fort,” after the spiral road that was paved to move cannon to its top.
Washington used it as an observation post when the British invaded Brooklyn in 1776. The defenders of the fort were routed, the Americans retreated from Brooklyn, and the top of the hill was torn down by the British.
The area remained mostly rural until 1836 when the South Ferry started running between Brooklyn’s Atlantic Ave. and Manhattan’s Whitehall St. The neighborhood then developed rapidly, but it wasn’t until the 1950s — when a real estate broker saw the name on a 1766 map — that Cobble Hill was really reborn.
Situated between Carroll Gardens and Brooklyn Heights, its boundaries are considered to be the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Hicks St. on the west, Court St. on the east, Atlantic Ave. on the north and Degraw St. on the south.
Brooklyn-born Norm Goldstein is retired, after working 44 years for the Associated Press, the global news agency, where he served as a reporter, feature writer, editor, author and administrator. He also worked for AP as director of Educational Services and editor of the AP Stylebook.
He graduated from Brooklyn College and the Penn State Graduate School of Journalism.
He currently lives in Brooklyn Heights.