Although Brooklyn has been a borough of New York City for more than a century, it had a long and illustrious history as an independent city
until that time. In 1890, the last census before it was annexed, Brooklyn ranked as the fourth largest city in the United States.
The first settlement in what is now Brooklyn took place in 1636, when a group of Dutch farmers established themselves along the shore of Gowanus Bay. Flatlands, on Jamaica Bay, and Wallabout were established at about the same time. In 1642, a ferry to Manhattan was established at what is now the foot of Fulton Street, and the community that grew up there became known as The Ferry. In 1645, a settlement was established near the site of the present borough hall and was designated Breuckelen, perhaps after a town in Holland. The spelling varied for more than a century before being settled as "Brooklyn."
During the Revolutionary War, Brooklyn was the site of the important Battle of Long Island. Fort Putnam, erected by General Nathanael Green in 1776, protected General Washington's retreat after the battle. On the same site, Americans built an earthworks fort to protect themselves against a British attack during the War of 1812. They named it Fort Greene, after General Greene.
The editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1846 was Walt Whitman, later to become one of America's most famous poets. At Whitman's urging, Brooklyn set aside land, including the site of Fort Greene, that in 1847 became Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn's first park. Construction on Prospect Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, began in 1866. The famous conductor and composer, Leonard Bernstein, was born in Brooklyn, as well as the actress and comedienne, Mae West.
During the 19th century, Brooklyn gradually absorbed neighboring districts, including incorporated towns like Williamsburg, until it
extended to every corner of Kings County. In 1898, it surrendered its independent existence and became a borough of New York City.
Brooklyn was connected to Manhattan in 1883 by the Brooklyn Bridge, considered one of the engineering marvels of the age. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connects Brooklyn with Staten Island. The longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, it remains the longest in the United States.
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