The Gravesend neighborhood is located in the south-central area of New York City in the Brooklyn borough. It has a population of about 30,000 residents and it was one of the original towns settled by the Dutch as a part of the New Netherland colony.
Gravesend also became one of the six original Kings County towns in colonial New York. In fact, it was the only English chartered town to become a part of Kings County and was actually called Shire Town after the English took control of the area. This was due to the fact that it was the only town where records could be kept in English.
One of the most notable things about Gravesend was that it was founded by a woman, Lady Deborah Moody. Another early settler was Anthony Janszoon van Salee. The original Gravesend Town covered about 7,000 total acres in the southern section of Kings County. This included all of Coney Island, which was considered the common land of the town on the Atlantic Ocean. It was divided into 41 parcels for the original patentees. At the begging, when the town was laid out, about half of the land was salt marsh wetlands and sandhill dunes. This land was found along the Gravesend Bay.
Gravesend was annexed by Brooklyn in 1894.
The origin of the name isn't completely clear. Some believe it comes from the English seaport of Gravesend, Kent. However, others believe the area was named by Willem Kieft as the settlement of s- Gravesande, which means Count's Beach or Count's Sand. The Netherlands also has a town called 's-Gravesande.
Today's Gravesend is found between Stillwell Avenue on the west, Coney Island Creek and Shore Parkway on the South, Coney Island Avenue on the east and Kings Highway on the north. Sheepshead Bay is found to the east, while Bensonhurst is to the northwest, Bath Beach is to the west and Midwood is to the northwest. Coney Island is located to the south across Coney Island Creek and Brighton Beacon is found across Shore Parkway.
The center of the neighborhood is a four-block area bound by Village Road North, Van Sicklen Street, Village Road South and Village Road East. This is where the Van Sicklen family cemetery and Moody House are both found. The Old Gravesend Cemetery is found next to the van Sicklen Family Cemetery and it's where Lady Moody is believed to be buried. In addition, this cemetery is where Egyptian emigre Mohammad Ben Misoud was laid to rest. He was a part of a Coney Island attraction and diet in 1896.
Three New York City Subway lines serve Gravesend. The D Train is found on the BMT West End Line at 25th Avenue and Bay 50th Street. The F Train is found on the IND Culver Line at Avenue X, Avenue W, and Kings Highway. The N train is found on the BMT Sea Beach Line at Avenue U, 86th Street, and Kings Highway. Gravesend is also patrolled by the 60th, 61st and 62nd Precincts of the NYPD. It's also home to the Coney Island subway yard.
European settlers were the first to find Gravesend and included Henry Hudson on the Half Moon ship. He landed on Coney Island in 1609 when it was inhabited by the Lenape people.
The land where Gravesend is became a part of the New Netherland Colony and was granted to Lady Deborah Moody in 1643. She had homes to establish a community for her and her followers who practiced Anabaptist beliefs. They were trying to escape from persecution.
Since the local tribes clashed with the new settlers, the town wasn't completed until 1645. When this happened and the town charter was granted and signed, it was one of the first awarded to a woman in the new world.
Lady Moody established Gravesend as one of the earliest planned communities in all of America. It was shaped in a perfect square with a 20-foot-high wooden palisade. Gravesend Road and Gravesend Neck Road bisected the town as the two main roads. Today, Gravesend Road is now McDonald Avenue. The two roads divided Gravesend into four quadrants, which were all divide into ten plots of land from there. You can still see the grid from the original town on maps and through aerial pictures. Where the two main roads intersected, a town hall was constructed for town meetings. Today, it is believed that Lady Moody is buried in the Old Gravesend Cemetery.
Many religious groups moved to Gravesend because of the persecution they received. Quakers made the town their home briefly before they were chased out of New Netherlands by general Petrus Stuyvesant. The general wasn't aware of the open acceptance of "heretical" sects in Gravesend.
It took about $15 worth of guns, gunpowder, and seashells for the people of Gravesend to purchase Coney Island in 1654 from the locals.
Thousands of German mercenaries and British soldiers came over through Gravesend Bay in August of 1776. They were in a staging area on Staten Island before and this led to the Battle of Long Island and the Battle of Brooklyn. Troops were met with plenty of resistance from the Continental Army under General George Washington. It was the largest battle ever fought in the war.
Coney Island has remained as a major tourist attraction, but the Gravesend's great racetracks closed during the early parts of the 20th century. The rest of the town became a bit obscure. It became a working-and-middle-class residential neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The 1950s saw the construction of 28 Marlboro Houses between Avenue V and X. these houses were run by the New York City Housing Authority.
The 1990s saw an influx of Sephardic Jews and several upscale single-family homes were developed in the northeastern section of Gravesend.
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