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.
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.
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.