Brownstoner alerted us to a history of Greenpoint, which was written in 1919 but has been handily digitized. Ostensibly built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Green Point Savings Bank, it delves much deeper into the origins and culture of the neighborhood than would a simple company history. We learn about how Greenpoint is separated from the rest of Brooklyn by rivers and such geographical inevitabilities. We learn about its orchards, its tulips, its grassy knolls, and then about its transformation into a hub for shipbuilding and other manufacturing trades. (Oh, Industrial Revolution.) There was ethnic diversity, and good ol' American schools. It was also apparently a hub for the arts ("Green Point, like Grecian Athens, was at one time celebrated for her potters"), and two famous painters of the time liked the respite from busy Manhattan Island across the river, easily accessible by ferry.
Far from a "pastoral and simple life," the anonymous author intones, there were by 1919 "improved methods of travel, of heating, of illumination, of food and clothing supply." Well, let's look at where Greenpoint stands today. It has not-so-awesome access to public transit (same!), waterways that most folks consider kind of rancid (sorta the same... shipbuilding yards and factory runoff can't have helped their cleanliness), a reputation for having good schools (sounds about right), and the most buzzed-about beer bar in the city (a different sort of sustenance). So crack open the quaintest 59-page PDF ever and play a little "then and now" game for yourself.
· Historic Green Point [www.archive.org]
· A Journey Back in Time to Greenpoint [Brownstoner]