History & Culture
Williamsburg has passed through several incarnations in its roughly 200 years — from a village within Bushwick, to its own independent city, and then to being incorporated into the city of Brooklyn (which became a borough in 1898). It has also transitioned from a bucolic area — Cornelius Vanderbilt and others built waterfront mansions here — to a predominantly industrial area. After the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, it became the destination of recent immigrants, many overflowing from the Lower East Side. Traditionally Brooklyn’s Broadway marked an unofficial boundary between the Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Hasidic sections of Williamsburg to its south and the Italian and Polish ones to its north. In recent years, the Polish population has largely moved on (though Greenpoint still retains its Polish character), replaced by new residents drawn by, for lack of a better term, Williamsburg’s hipster reputation. There is still an Italian Williamsburg, bordered roughly by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Grand Avenue, and Humboldt.