Vinegar Hill


Next on our tour of Brooklyn we’re heading to a curious little neighbourhood that is not exactly on the tourist trail – Vinegar Hill.

It’s a tiny neighbourhood in Brooklyn on the East River Waterfront between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


The neighbourhood gets its name from the Battle of Vinegar Hill, an engagement near Enniscorthy during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Vinegar Hill was commonly known as Irishtown in the 19th century, one of several places in the New York area with that name because of its sizeable population of Irish immigrants.

Most of Vinegar Hill consists of 19th-century Federal Style and Greek Revival style homes mixed with industrial buildings.

Hudson Avenue and Plymouth, Water and Front Streets are not tarmacked roads, rather they are made of Belgian Blocks which are similar to cobbles but a bit flatter and more rectangular.

The tiny little district is like a miniature open air architecture museum.

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It feels like a place stranded in time – a odd, out of place that has sealed the past in amber and shows how Brooklyn would have looked in the early 19th century.

The area was declared a Historical District in the late 1990s but it does not feel as if any investment is forthcoming, rather it feels like the developers are circling like vultures, just waiting to be able to level these characterful properties and throw up more homogeneous, glass sky scrapers.

Sadly it has a air of slow and inevitable decay, as is evidenced by the lone three story walk-up houses that are still standing defiantly even though their neighbours have long been demolished.

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It is one of a vanishing breed of areas that shows how New York was, back when it was a mecca for anyone with a dream.

A place of opportunity no matter how rich or poor you were. There is little space for penniless dreamers in the Big Apple these days.

With its endless concrete canyons and ever higher towers, New York feels like a place so concerned with rushing to its future that it has no time to appreciate where it has come from.

Long may places like Vinegar Hill stay standing to allow for a nostalgic remembrance of the ordinary people that contributed to NYCs success.

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