You might wonder about the origins of the name of the street you live on. Neziah Bliss, the patriarch of Greenpoint, had the streets surveyed in the 1840’s. He named the streets starting at the Northern end in Greenpoint after the letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, etc. People didn’t love this naming system and ended up giving full names to those streets, but the alphabetical order stuck.

Ash Street was named after the ash trees that once grew here, as was Oak Street. Box street was named after the box factories, which were once an important local industry. Clay Street could be named for Henry Clay who was an important Senator who kept the union together by working out the Compromise of 1850 or it could be named after a local 17th century pirate (yes, pirate!) called Humphrey Clay who settled down to run an early local ferry and was an associate of Captain Kidd. DuPont Street is named for Admiral Samuel DuPont, a hero of the Mexican War who commanded the first ever ironclad armada during the Cvil War. Why no L street? Well there was once a Lincoln Street that later became Greenpoint Avenue. Rumor is that local Democrats did not like the name of a Republican President and changed it. 
Lets stop the alphabet for a second and talk about Naval names for Greenpoint streets. Monitor Street is named for the famous first ironclad battleship built on Quay Street, which is a word for dock or pier. Eckford Street is named for Eckford Webb who opened the first shipyard here in 1850. Diamond Street is named for the Diamond Brothers who also ran a local shipyard. Moultrie Street is named for a fort in Charleston harbor that was attacked at the start of the Civil War. India and Java Streets were named for the sources of local hemp that was shipped into Greenpoint for the rope businesses that once manufactured here. Milton Street is named for Daniel Milton who was a local sail maker. Dobbin Street can either be named for a secretary of the Navy who purchased many ships built locally or a corruption of a man called Dobbins who built houses in the 1850’s. One of the ships produced locally and bought by Secretary Dobbin was the U.S.S Huron! Finally, Norman Avenue is named for Dirck the Norseman, the first immigrant to Greenpoint who was a shipbuilder.

West Street is not named after Mae West, but instead was named because it is the westernmost street in our area. Some streets take their names from the original Huguenot farmers of the area. The Meseroles had an orchard and the Calyers were another ancestral family as were the Provosts.

There are streets named for locally important people, who are now forgotten. Opened in 1852, Kent Street was named after a noted jurist and first professor of Law at Columbia College and Chancellor of The New York Court of Chancerey, James Kent. Lorimer Street is Named after James Lorimer Graham who along with his brother was an active real estate developer in Williamsburg. Noble Street takes its name from the 1842 Trustee of The Village of Williamsburg, James Noble. Driggs Avenue was named after Edmund Driggs, last President of the Village of Williamsburg. Humboldt Street was named after the brilliant German academic Alexander Von Humboldt. Guernsey Street honors a local medical doctor Dr. Egbert Guernsey, founder of The Williamsburg Daily Times. Banker Street honors Edward Banker who purchased and developed local property. Samuel Leonard was the Superintendent of schools who built P.S. 34.

via Forgotten NY

Manhattan Avenue used to be called Orchard Avenue because it went through the Meserole Orchard. At one time there was a bridge at the end of Newtown Creek that led to Long Island City; Greenpointers had to travel down this avenue to get to Manhattan. Franklin Street led to Williamsburg, which was first surveyed by the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, Jonathon Williams, so the name of the street honors the man on the hundred dollar bill. McGuinnness Boulevard used to be called Oakland Street, but was renamed to honor the legendary boss of Greenpoint, Peter J. McGuinness.

A few names still stump me: Russell Street, North Henry Street and Engert Street amongst others. If you know the origin of the names please let us know.

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  1. Curious to know about Green Street.
    My grandmother lived at 72 Green St for many years. My mother grew up there as well. I lived at the same address as a child.
    My grandfather and uncle were both longshoreman and worked down at the docks. 🙂

  2. I lived on Vandervoort Ave. in Greenpoint (near the tanks) for 34 years. Also before that on Beadle St. around the corner. What is origin of those names?

  3. You say that Manhattan Avenue was once Orchard Avenue. There is an original stone on a building at Ainslie Street and Manhattan Avenue that shows the strret name was once Ewen. Do you know anything about this? Thank you

  4. Wonderful article…always interested in our street names(we live on Java St for six decades)…just want to ask…there is a sign on the corner of Kent St and Manhattan Ave that say UNION st ( ithink its street)…haven’t heard anything about that

  5. North Henry Street (Brooklyn) was just regular Henry Street in the independent town of Greenpoint. But that changed in 1855, when Greenpoint — and its neighbors Williamsburg(h) and Bushwick — were annexed into the city of Brooklyn. Dozens of old street names were changed when the annexation took place. Here’s a lengthy list of other altered names. Since the southern Henry Street was the ‘original’ Henry Street of Brooklyn, this one got a North stuck to it.

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