Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ever since Robert Gair discovered a location with access to shipping just north 

of the new Brooklyn Bridge in the 1880′s, the neighborhood saw a rise of 

factories, warehouses, and dock storehouses. Although the area has been 

known in the past as Rapailie, Olympia, Gairville, or Walentasville, it is now 

known as Dumbo (which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge 

Overpass) and these old factories have been converted into luxury lofts and old 

warehouses into art galleries and theaters. The area’s industrial buildings 

were recognized by inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic 

Places in September of 2000. Dumbo is not quite Brooklyn brownstone and not 

quite Manhattan glass condo. With its exposed Belgian block streets anchored 

by massive bridge structures, Dumbo has a unique character on it own.

In 1978, the naming of Dumbo was conceived by resident artists as a way to 

make the area sound silly and unattractive to people looking to buy real estate 

here. To read more about the origin of Dumbo’s name, read the story written 

for the first time on by the person who named Dumbo.

On December 18, 2007, the Landmarks Preservation Commission granted 

landmark status to the Dumbo Historic District. The historic district is bound 

by John Street to the north, York Street to the south, Main Street to the west and 

Bridge Street to the east. The Dumbo area was “essential to Brooklyn’s rise as a 

major American industrial center and was the home of some of the most 

important industrial firms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century 

America including Arbuckle Brothers (coffee and sugar), J. W. Masury & Son 

(paint), Robert Gair (paper boxes), E. W. Bliss (machinery), and Brillo (steel 

wool). The buildings in the district reflect the extraordinary diversity of 

Brooklyn’s industrial development, with manufactured and processed goods 

including coffee, tea, sugar, machinery, paint, varnish, paper boxes, shoes, 

soap, ale, and steel wool. By the early twentieth century, Brooklyn was the 

fourth largest manufacturing center in the entire country and a significant 

portion of this manufacturing was done in DUMBO.”


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