New York is a city of transformation. Nowhere are these transformations more apparent than in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where rapid growth and new construction have completely altered the cultural fabric of the neighborhood.
To tell the history of the Williamsburg Country Club is to the tell the history of Williamsburg itself.
In 1638, the Dutch West India Company purchased a plot of land from the Canarsee tribe in exchange for eight fathoms of duffels, eight fathoms of wampum, twelve kettles, eight adzes, and eight axes, with some knives, beads, and awl blades. In 1661, the Dutch chartered that land into Town of Boswijck. The name was later anglicized to Bushwick when the English seized New Netherland in 1664.
Much of the area remained Dutch farmland until the late 1790s, when enterprising Manhattanite Richard Woodhull purchased 13 acres of land. Woodhull hired his friend, surveyor Jonathan Williams, to plot a grid and named the territory Williamsburgh in his honor. He then created a ferry service that ran from his property along the Bushwick shore to Grand Street in Manhattan. Despite his attempts to promote the area, Woodull failed to sell his lots. Soon thereafter, a rival entrepreneur, Thomas Morrell, purchased the land adjacent and began operating a competing ferry business. Woodhull’s ferry fell out of public favor, though the name Williamsburgh remained, expanding to cover the areas surrounding Woodhull’s initial 13 acres.
In 1852, Williamsburgh dropped the h (a savvy branding move, predating the glossy creative agencies that would fill its streets 150 years later) and was incorporated as a city in its own right. Because of Williamsburg’s appealing tax rates, businesses and wealthy industrialists moved their manufacturing and offices from Manhattan. The influx of jobs and industry caused the population to soar from 1,000 to over 40,000.
What came next was your standard New York story of reinvention and rapid commodification, where blue collar workers were followed by immigrants, who were then followed by artists, who were then followed by developers, capitalizing on the communities built by previous inhabitants.
The Williamsburg of today bears little resemblance to the Williamsburg of yore–or even the Williamsburg of literally yesterday. The area, once a multicultural melting pot, has been almost entirely erased and transformed into a mere simulacrum of what came before.
To complete that transformation, we realized what Williamsburg needed was a proper country club—a place above the fray where community members can socialize, shop, and engage in athleisure. And so, the Williamsburg Country Club was born.
Welcome. Nobody belongs here more than you.