Photos of Dumbo Before It Was Dumbo

The Manhattan Bridge from Washington Street, 1908 and 2015.

We’ve been going through the Dumbo NYC archives, and one of our favorite features by far is Then And Now, a look at Dumbo, Brooklyn through the years. Looking at historical photos of the neighborhood, courtesy of the New York Public Library and the New York City Municipal Archives, you can see how much the neighborhood has changed over the years. (For that matter, you can see how much it’s changed since DumboNYC started in 2006!)

Here are some of the best pics from our past posts in the Then And Now series… more to come in the near future!

Dumbo, Brooklyn: Historical Photos

68 Jay Street, 1937 and 2007.

The roof of 68 Jay Street still has the platforms of the water towers that have since been removed.

Dumbo, Brooklyn: Historical Photos

Washington Street, in 1926 and 2006.

In the mid-20th century, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was built to relieve traffic congestion. The controversial Robert Moses project changed the face of many Brooklyn neighborhoods. Walking down Washington Street from Cadman Plaza and the Brooklyn Bridge, the BQE serves as an informal boundary for Dumbo.

Dumbo, Brooklyn: Historical Photos

Plymouth Street, west of Pearl, in 1938 and 2006.

Plymouth Street hasn’t changed as much as other Dumbo streets. The paving stones are still there, under a thin layer of asphalt.

Dumbo, Brooklyn: Historical Photos

Front and Jay Streets, 1927 and 2007.

Most of the rowhouses along Jay Street are gone, though at least one remains. Dumbo residents will note that this 2007 photo of the Mexican restaurant Pedro’s was taken after they had put stucco over their old mural, and before the new mural appeared.

Empire Stores, Dumbo: From Warehouse to Shopping Center

The Empire Stores warehouse in 1935, and a rendering of how it will look in 2016.

One of the biggest changes coming, of course, is the transformation of the 19th-century Empire Stores warehouse to a modern, upscale shopping center, office space, and beer garden.

Dumbo, Brooklyn: Historical Photos

Main Street, south from Front Street, in 1926 and 2006.

Of all the photos, this photo of Main Street from 1926 is possibly the most shockingly different. The wooden buildings look as if they were built in the 19th century — they probably were — and there are little kids roaming around on the streets unaccompanied by adults. Shouldn’t those kids be learning violin or fencing or something?

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Dumbo Then And Now [category]
Empire Stores: From 19th-Century Warehouse to 21st-Century Shopping Center
The Brooklyn Bridge in 1903