Fort Hamilton has the unique distinction of being both a military base and a neighborhood in Brooklyn. Well, technically it’s a sub-neighborhood of Bay Ridge.
Named after founding father Alexander Hamilton, the neighborhood sits in the southwestern corner of Brooklyn and it’s about a square mile in size (give or take). Its boundaries are 86th Street to the north, Belt Parkway and Fort Hamilton military installation to the south, 7th Avenue to the east, and Shore Road to the west.
The area was originally inhabited by the Canarsie Indians and later settled by the Dutch in 1620. A few decades later, thanks to land grants from Governor Peter Stuyvesant, Cornelius Van Werckhoven from the Netherlands purchased what is now Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton for a very small amount of money.
The area remained an isolated stretch of rural land until the electric trolley line was introduced to Brooklyn in 1892. The trolley connected various points of Brooklyn and Fort Hamilton soon flourished. .
Fort Hamilton and Bay Ridge experienced waves of immigration and just like other areas of New York City it became a true melting pot. Irish and Italians immigrants made their way to the neighborhood in the early part of the 20th century followed by Syrian and Lebanese immigrants in the 1950s. More recently, Asian and Arab-Americans call Fort Hamilton home.
Modern-day Fort Hamilton may not have the cool factor that other Brooklyn neighborhoods flaunt but there are many trade-offs. It offers tree-lined streets and friendly neighbors. Most residents will tell you it has a small-town feel with the added perk of affordable housing. Fort Hamilton’s proximity to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and access to Manhattan-bound trains make it a very commutable neighborhood.
Shore Road Greenway - You can’t beat Fort Hamilton’s big open spaces along the water. Especially Shore Road Greenway, a five-mile round trip trek along a paved trail along Shore Road and the Belt Parkway. You can run, bike or walk and when you get to the end, you’ll find yourself in Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge. The path offers fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty and Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Fort Hamilton Community Club - Located in Fort Hamilton military base, this historical landmark building is one of Brooklyn’s best kept secrets. The club offers fine dining and catering as well as casual dining and a brunch buffet. They also have an after-hours lounge. Besides the club and all its amenities, the locals say that the outdoor swimming pool is the real gem of the neighborhood.
What You Might See
You’ll see historic places, monuments, and commemorative plaques honoring the military all throughout the neighborhood. Fort Hamilton once guarded New York Harbor against Confederate raiders during the Civil War. The garrison also helped quell the draft riots during both World Wars. The fort played a critical role in major deployments and national disasters.
What You Don’t Know
Fort Hamilton is New York City’s only active military base. It’s also one of the largest processing centers for young men and women shipping off to start their tours in the armed services.
The neighborhood has its very own whiskey distillery, and Its name is quite fitting. Fort Hamilton Distillery specializes in America’s original whiskey style, New York Rye.