Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Gowanus Canal

In 1664 Adam Brouwer and neighbors petitioned the Governor and Council for permission to dredge a canal at Gowanus to improve the operation of his grist mill (Henry J. Stiles, A History of the City of Brooklyn vol. 1 [1867], 68-69). The petitioned was granted and the ensuing work was the beginning of what would become the Gowanus Canal (the present day canal was finished in 1869). Now with nearly 350 years of history behind it, the Gowanus Canal is a Superfund clean-up site.

In March 2011, on the old "Brouwer Genealogy" website, I posted a link for this story from the New York Times, October 21, 2009, "Renewal - On the Waterfront."

Follow up articles were published in the New York Times in 2010 and 2011:
Gowanus Canal Gets Superfund Status, March 2, 2010
Gowanus Canal Underlies Severity of Pollution, February 2, 2011
Under the Gowanus Canal, Flushing Out the Stench, February 23, 2011
Hoping Gowanus Canal Cleanup Turns Up Old Treasures, March 14, 2011

The above are just a sampling, there are additional articles and blog posts at the New York Times.

Perhaps of more interest, however, is a website that was brought to my attention by Ken Brower. The website is the online home of, "Proteus Gowanus,"which "acts as an interpreter of culture and place, deepening the community's sense of context and connection." The organization's physical location is at 543 Union Street in Brooklyn. There is a lot of varied material on this website to explore, and although most of it has nothing to do directly with the Gowanus Canal, there is one upcoming presentation that is of special interest. If you go to the page for The Battle Pass Project, and scroll about half way down to "Battle Pass - Revolution III," you will find a description for a project titled, "Molinology - an installation on Tide Mills," scheduled for the Fall of 2012. Read the description. It may be of interest to anyone researching families (Brouwer and others) from this section of Brooklyn, or to those who simply have an appreciation for "how things work."It has my interest, and if time permits I may just make the trip to see it.

Ken also pointed out another page at this site, Hall of Gowanus Archive, has information including maps and photographs on the history and future of the Gowanus Canal. What is online is only a small sampling of what they have. I wonder what might be found with an visit in person.

House of Simon Aertsen de Hart still standing on Gowanus Bay in 1867 (NYPL Digital Gallery)


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