Curbed has an informative and interesting feature on the history of Bedford Avenue — Brooklyn’s longest street.
At nearly eleven miles, Bedford Avenue vies for the title of longest street in Brooklyn, running from Sheepshead Bay to Greenpoint. The avenue is actually a patchwork of older roads that ran through what were once independent villages in Kings County.
Though Two Trees is currently working to demolish Williamsburg’s history, much of northern Bedford Avenue’s history evolves around the sugar industry:
By 1852, the year Williamsburg was formally incorporated as a city, its population had skyrocketed from 1,000 to 40,000. Due to the favorable tax structure in King’s County, many Manhattan businesses and manufacturers moved to or were established in Williamsburg.
In 1856, Havemeyer & Townsend opened a commercial sugar refinery on the waterfront, capable of refining 300,000 pounds of sugar a day. By 1883, the renamed Havemeyer & Ellis (later known both as American Sugar and by the name of its most famous brand, Domino) was able to output a million pounds a day, well over 50 percent of the country’s sugar supply. Sugar refining would remain New York’s most profitable industry through the end of World War I.
Later, the neighborhood continued to grow after (and during) the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge:
The Depression and World War II brought more Poles to the north side and Greenpoint, a burgeoning Puerto Rican population on the south side, and the tight-knit Satmar community south of Division. It was for these new residents that Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Pool and Bath, still one of Brooklyn’s most popular pools, opened in 1922 at Bedford and N. 1st Street. Most famously, this era was chronicled in Betty Smith’s autobiographical novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which takes place between 1912 and World War II just a few blocks from Bedford Avenue.
Of course, Bedford Avenue extends all the way to the Sheepshead Bay so be sure to check out the whole story over at Curbed.