In 1664, John Tilton, Sr. and Samuel Spicer of Gravesend acquired much of the land that became Mill Basin from the Canarsee Indians, who named it Equendito (broken lands) for the incursion of tide pools and rivulets from Jamaica Bay.
Mill Basin, part of the original town of Flatlands, quickly became known for its many tidal mills that used the motion of the tides to grind grain.
Until the first quarter of the 20th century, Mill Basin’s number one resources were still shellfish, crabs, oysters and clams from the depths of Jamaica Bay. Then in 1906, the Flatbush Improvement Company bought the marshland and hired the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company to dredge the creeks and fill in open meadows. Within a decade, National Lead, Gulf Refining and other firms opened plants on the land.
The industrial powerhouses eventually lost interest in the neighborhood in the late 1940s when plans for trains to connect the area with the rest of Brooklyn were halted.
For the remaining residential interest, brick bungalows were built from East 65th Street to Mill Avenue and the area became so desirable that residents tore down original bungalows and custom built homes.
How Mill Basin Got Its Name
Part of the original Dutch town of Flatlands, the Mill Basin area was called Equendito (Broken Lands) by the indigenous Canarsies, who sold it in 1664 to John Tilton, Jr. and Samuel Spicer.
The name of the neighborhood later was changed to Mill Island because of the tidal mills, which used the motion of the tides to grind grain.They were built on the land which was owned from 1675 by Jan Martense Schenck and between 1818 and 1870 by the family of General Philip S. Crooke.
(The Crooke-Schenck House, which stood at East 63rd Street, was dismantled in 1952 and later reassembled as an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.)
The area, later called Mill Basin, retained its rural character until Robert L. Crooke built a lead-smelting plant there in 1890. In 1900, Crooke Smelting was bought out and his land sold to McNulty and Fitzgerald, which built the bulkheads that filled in the marshes.
In 1906, the Flatbush Improvement Company bought the marshland, had the creeks dredged and the open meadows filled in. Industrial development followed and shipping businesses came in.
Beginning in 1913, when Flatbush Ave. was extended to the Rockaway Inlet, more dock facilities were built as well as a roadway along the marshes.
In 1970, Mill Basin became home to the first suburban shopping mall in Brooklyn, the Kings Plaza Shopping Center, adjacent to a marina and in a sector still known as Old Mill Basin.
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.