Founded as its own town in 1660, the neighborhood of Bushwick is regarded as one of the most historical areas in all of New York City. Central to its history are its businesses, streets and parks, all with their own mini-histories that help tell Bushwick’s story. Here’s an incomprehensive list of notable Bushwick landmarks and some background on how they got their names.
As we’ve previously reported in Bushwick Daily, the park formerly known as Bushwick Park was renamed following the tragic 1989 shooting death of Maria Hernandez, an anti-drug activist and community leader. She and her husband Carlos directly and indirectly confronted neighborhood dealers and gang members, passing along information to police about the local drug trade. Land for the park was first purchased by the city of Brooklyn in the early 1890s and was completed in its first iteration in 1896, with refurbishments and enhanced infrastructure added over the years. The park and its surrounding areas have recently seen something of a boom, having undergone further enhancements and having played host to artistic and cultural events.
Just a block down from Maria Hernandez Park on Knickerbocker Avenue sits this beloved French bistro, which has been featured in Bushwick Daily since its opening. According to its owner, the restaurant’s name derives from French slang for a small shot of absinthe, drank in the South of France when old men would play cards. The name loosely translates to “the little girl,” referring to the drink. However, the restaurant’s menu does not include the spirited green spirit, so you’ll have to content yourself with Mominette’s cocktails instead.
The name of this two-year-old, arcade-centric bar and event space on Broadway came about through a desire to have an arcade that didn’t have “arcade” or “-cade” in the name, “because we didn’t want to classify ourselves as just an arcade space,” said one of the owners, Mark Kleback. “We started throwing around prefixes and ‘Wonder’ really stuck because it sounded like an old carnival fun house or a Coney Island attraction (the Wonder Wheel). When we got to Wonderville we realized there wasn’t a space (in the United States) with that name, and it evoked exactly the sentiment we were going for — whimsy, fun and a little mysterious.”
When Mexican immigrant Faustino Ligero came to the United States in 1992, his dream was to make enough money to comfortably return to Mexico, according to David Ligero, Faustino’s son. However, with the birth of Faustino’s daughter Leslie in 2000, his dreams shifted. He decided to start a restaurant of his own. The road was long – obtaining U.S. citizenship, building funding and credit, etc. – but Faustino finally opened his own spot in Bushwick. “So, when it was time to finally name the place,” said David, who is now the restaurant’s manager, “he decided to name it after the person that inspired the idea!”
According to the owners of this Wyckoff Avenue staple, one of their mothers-in-law owned a Calypso 45 album from Panama named “Sally Ruth.” One night in 2016, the owners James, who spent much of his childhood growing up on the Caribbean island St. Croix, and John DePiper, a self-confessed lover of rum, came across the album when discussing a name for their vision of a great reggae Caribbean spot. It was an instant match, although when they kept saying “Sally Ruth,” everyone heard Sally Roots. Finally, they all agreed it matched the American-Caribbean fusion spot they had imagined.
This Myrtle Avenue French bakery was named after a printing press that is central to its history. The bakery’s building was built around 1890 and went through several phases, starting as a bakery — there is a coal oven under the sidewalk — and then a car showroom in the early 1900s. It became a print shop in the mid-1900s, until the current owners took over the space in 2014. The owner of the print shop, Jon, was printing orders books, invoice pads, doctor and dentist appointment cards, menus and more for local businesses. “He had two printing presses, a massive cutter, but then moved to offset. The press we kept hadn’t been used for a while,” said Gus Reckel, who owns and operates the bakery. “We still have a bunch of drawers, tintypes, letters, etc. The press is still connected and runs. We wanted to keep the building and the bakery connected to the history of the community and of the area, so we kept the press and moved it to the window. The name of the bakery became then very obvious. We had a few options in mind but once we found the spot and looked at the history, it became a no-brainer.” L’Imprimerie translates to “printing” in English.
The avenue that runs through the heart of Bushwick is named after Woodrow Wilson, America’s 28th president. The street was initially called Hamburg Avenue but was changed in 1918, when anti-German sentiment stemming from World War I elicited the change.
This avenue is named after prominent 19th century short story author Washington Irving, who penned standards like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.” His works also include an 1809 comic novel called, “The History of New York,” which features a character named Dietrich Knickerbocker. The name Knickerbocker is believed to have been coined for the word referring to a descendent of New York’s early Dutch settlers or, specifically, the socks worn by the Dutch settlers.
According to Preesa Bullington, the owner of this vegan bakery on Broadway, the story of the bakery’s naming is pretty straightforward. “When coming up with a name we decided to combine things we love most: cats, baking and puns. Thus, Brooklyn Whiskers was born. We thought the logo would make the pun clear to those who did not get it off the bat. (You use a whisk often when baking, a.k.a. you are a whisker and cats also have whiskers.)”
The popular Wyckoff Avenue restaurant was named after a nuclear class submarine called the USS Sea Wolf. According to a restaurant rep, the exact reasoning behind the use of the name isn’t quite clear, as the original owner who coined the name is no longer with them.
Renowned for its wings and burgers, Clara’s owner Eric Borg named his popular Wilson Avenue sports bar after daughter, who is now six years old. Clara sat for a brief ‘interview’ with her mother on how she felt about having the bar named after her.
Clara: When I first saw the sign I felt very amazed when I saw my name.
Mom: But that was after you knew how to read your name. When you were little you didn’t know your name was written on the sign.
Clara: I knew it was my name on the sign before I knew how to read, whipper snapper.
Mom: Do you think Jack [her younger brother] will be upset when he’s old enough to realize the bar is named after you?
Clara: No, because I’ll just say it was named after another Clara.
Featured image: Jackson Schroeder
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