The 19th century metropolis was built on a foundation of industry. Nowhere is this more evident than in the explosion of the south Brooklyn waterfront in the 1840s, when commercial docks and warehouse stores were built for receiving the bulk cargo confronting space restrictions at the wharves of lower Manhattan. The largest of these installations were the Atlantic Docks, built in Red Hook at the south end of today’s Columbia Street Waterfront District. A new ferry line was routed to Hamilton Avenue, where an embarkation house was built in 1846. By 1872, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the total value of goods stored in the warehouses between Atlantic Street and Hamilton Ferry was about $60 million annually. Goods included grain, sugar, molasses, guano, bricks, lime, coal, salt pork, salt beef, lard and bacon.
Much of this neighborhood’s historic waterfront was removed with the dock modernizations of the 1960s, and the construction of a vast sewer project in the 1970s. Parts of the neighborhood were also torn down for construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Hamilton Avenue terminates at Van Brunt street today, but once continued through to the waterfront where the ferry house was located, as seen in this detail from an 1846 Brooklyn map: