Brooklyn By Name

My friends Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss have written a new book about the history of Brooklyn place names, entitled Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges and More Got Their Names. Last week there was an excellent reading at the Brooklyn Historical Society. From the NY Sun:

“This is not a completist book,” Leonard Benardo, co-author with his wife, Jennifer Weiss, of “Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges and More Got Their Names”(New York University Press), said. Speaking at a book launch at the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Park Slope resident said jazz aficionados often talk of “completism,” as in, “having the entire John Coltrane discography at their fingertips.” By contrast, their Brooklyn reference book doesn’t cover every street, place, and name in the borough. Rather, it focuses on what the authors felt to be the culturally curious and historically interesting.

The reading was held on Pierrepont Street, and the authors started off the evening by first reading the entry about that street. Mr. Benardo, who is also author of several chapters to “The Big Onion Guide To Brooklyn: Ten Historic Walking Tours” (New York University Press), noted that the street’s name comes from Hezekiah Beers Pierrepont, a businessman who helped develop Brooklyn Heights into a residential area.

Mr. Pierrepont, who lived in France where he witnessed Robespierre’s beheading, helped back Robert Fulton’s ferry. His grandfather, Reverend James Pierrepont, a founder of Yale College, anglicized the family name to “Pierpo but, as Mr. Benardo noted, “Hezekiah returned the surname to its original spelling for his own family, though he kept ‘Pierpont’ for business purposes.”