Gowanus, Brooklyn is such a lively neighborhood that we’re so proud to be a part of. It’s rich with Brooklyn neighborhood history, amazing art, unique shops, and a scrumptious food scene. But where did it get its start and, more importantly, where did its name come from? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, we’re here with the scoop.
While it seems pretty obvious (to anyone that lives here) that the neighborhood was named after the famed Gowanus Canal, that doesn’t really help us figure out where that name came from. However, the truth of the name’s origin is about as murky as the water that fills the canal itself. The best guess is that it evolved from Gouwane, the name of a Native American chief who resided in the area long before it looked anything like it does today.
The Gowanus Canal has changed so much over the years but this change first started when early settlers created a series of millponds which are reservoirs that are used to run water-powered mills. Of course, as the years progressed this helped attract a series of wealthy businesspeople to the canal who saw its usefulness as a means of money-making industrial production.
This development helped draw even more people (in need of work) to the area, but it also led to the severe pollution of the once-pristine canal despite the end of so many of the unfortunate actions that created the mess in the first place.
The good news is that the Gowanus Canal has finally started to undergo a much-needed cleanup, with crews beginning to dredge up all the sediment and pollutants that have called the waterway home for the better part of a century. We’re excited that this important next step is finally happening. The neighborhood surrounding the canal has grown into a vibrant, desirable hotspot in this borough; it’s long overdue that our beloved canal reflects the spirit of our community.
So there you have it; a little bit of insight into how Gowanus, Brooklyn came to be and where its name came from.