Greenpoint is well known for its Polish herritage, but New York’s Basque community also calls Greenpoint home. Since 1973, Euzko-Etxea, the Basque Club of New York, has maintained its headquarters at 307 Eckford Street. The group’s mission is to preserve Basque culture in the lives of immigrants and their descendants, and to share Basque culture and heritage with the community at large. To that end, Euzko-Etxea and offers Basque language classes, traditional Basque dancing, and pintxos (or tapas) on special occasions at the converted two story church on Eckford Street.
Basque Country is located in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, and immigrants from the region have been living in the United States since at least 1848, lured overseas by the California Gold Rush. The Basque community made its way East via the Transcontinental Railroad, and began to flourish in New York on Cherry and Water Streets, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, as Basques found work on the waterfront.
By the turn of the 20th century, more than 600 Basques came through Ellis Island, and in 1905, prominent members of the community began meeting informally on Water Street to discuss developing an organization. In 1913, they formed the Centro Vasco-Americano, the first Basque Center in the United States, with a charter drafted by none other than Fiorello La Guardia.
After their first permanent location at 48 Cherry Street was torn down, the group ping-ponged through different locations in Lower Manhattan until 1973, when they found a home in Greenpoint. The Basque community renovated their Greenpoint digs to include a large kitchen and bar, a dining room, a small meeting room or classroom for language classes, a small library, and a large reception hall.