Brooklyn Stories and Tips

Cobble Hill

Christ Church tower Photo, Brooklyn, New York

Cobble Hill was just that: a hill where the Dutch found cobble stones for paving at what is now the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street. The hill was leveled by the British after Washington used it to survey troop movements during the Battle of Brooklyn. The name fell out of use and was rediscovered by real estate promoters in the 1950's to give some panache to what was a part of South Brooklyn. Now an historic district, Cobble Hill was "developed" as a suburban residential neighborhood in the 1830's-1840's. It is a compact area that has an almost village-like feel, with mainly brownstone and brick houses on tree-lined streets and two "high streets" (Court Street and Smith Street) for shopping, dining and entertainment. Families and singles, old and young, live here and the area has a great mixture of straight and gay folks and is somewhat ethnically diverse.

The Bergen Street stop on the "F" Train is the best entrance to Cobble Hill. Head west towards Clinton Street (you will have to dog-leg a bit in this neighborhood of unmatched grids of streets)and then turn left (south). Along Clinton you will find an award-winning park (Cobble Hill Park), a great deli and a wonderful local bar and restaurant just past the park and Verandah Place.

Go one more street to Warren and turn right and go a block and a half and take a look at Warren Place and the apartment block on Hicks Street between Warren and Baltic Streets. These were built in the mid-19th Century to provide decent housing for working-class people and are fantastic, both architecturally and as a bit of social history.

As you walk along Hicks Street you will hear and see the cut for (and smell the exhaust from) the scar Robert Moses left in the neighborhood (effectively cutting it off from its traditional Red Hook part) when he forced the Brooklyn Queens Expressway through the area in the 1950's.

Continue south along Hicks one more block and turn left into Kane Street. Returning the two blocks to Clinton Street, you will see Cheever Place and Strong place, half blocks lined with small homes and carriage houses.

As you approach Clinton Street you will see the tower of Christ Church ahead of you. Turn right into Clinton Street and you will be in front of Christ Church. This brownstone gothic revival Episcopal church is the oldest church in the neighborhood (1841) and was designed as his parish church by the reknowned architect Richard Upjohn. The interior is by Louis Comfort Tiffany and is a complete surprise of cream-colored marble, irridescent glass and fantastic mother of pearl inlay (plus several Tiffany windows) after the somewhat austere exterior. The church has an exceptional accoustic environment and is used for numerous concerts throughout the year. If the building is closed, the church office is next door at 326, downstairs, if you want to see inside.

Return to the corner and continue east along Kane Street one half block to Tompkins Place. At that corner you will see the Kane Street Synagogue. Originally a church, the building has been home to the oldest Jewish congregation in Brooklyn for over 100 years.

Turn right into Tompkins Place, a street lined with outstanding houses, and walk to DeGraw Street. Turn left and go to Court Street turn left again. (South of DeGraw street is Caroll Gardens, another neighborhood).

Court Street is lined with shops, big and small, with many speciality stores, bakeries, green grocers, butchers, restaurants and book shops. You can continue down Court to Bergen and turn right to return to the subway.

Or continue one more block to Smith Street and turn left. Although technically outside Cobble Hill, Smith Street, which seems lined with one great restaurant after another, as well as small shops and boutiques, is very much a part of the area culturally. Find a place for a drink, brunch or lunch, or dinner and then head back towards Bergen Street and the subway. A great place to spend a sunny afternoon or balmy evening!

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