A Brief Stroll Through Kings Highway’s 200-Year History

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A photo from the 1910s of Kings Highway between Ocean Avenue and Brighton Beach Road. (Source: Brooklyn Public Library)

A photo from the 1910s of Kings Highway between Ocean Avenue and Brighton Beach Road. (Source: Brooklyn Public Library)

In many ways, Kings Highway is the mother to Brooklyn’s major thoroughfares. The roadway is reputedly named after King George III — the British monarch who ruled during the American Revolution — and the roots of Kings Highway predate even the first Dutch colonists. Over the centuries, it has has slowly evolved into the road we know (and love?) today.

According to a recent write-up in Brownstoner, Kings Highway began as a trail used by the Canarsee Indians before it was later adapted by the Dutch to connect smaller roads and cow paths in Brooklyn’s early farm settlements.

The road is considered one of the first to be officially called a highway in the new world. Peter Stuyvesant used the term in a document dated June 4, 1654, according the Forgotten New York. Meanwhile, the name “Kings Highway” has been around for more that 200 years.

Kings Highway also used to be much longer and zigzagged through Brooklyn, connecting the Fulton Ferry to Flatlands and then turning southwest to head out to what is now Bay Ridge, according to Forgotten New York. Much of Kings Highway was still dirt road all the way into the early 20th Century. However, a building boom in the 1920s, crowded the roadway with theaters and storefronts and parts of Kings Highway were widened to accommodate more traffic.

A photo from the 1940s looking west on Kings Highway from Ocean Avenue. (Source: Brooklyn Public Library)

A photo from the 1940s looking west on Kings Highway from Ocean Avenue. (Source: Brooklyn Public Library)

Eventually, the section of Kings Highway connecting Flatlands to the ferry terminal became Fulton Street, according to Forgotten New York, and became the path we know today that connects Brownsville to Bensonhurst.

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  • Amela

    Born and bred….love these pictures!

  • Sean F

    I once found an old map (though I don’t recall how old) that showed Kings Highway continuing past its current Bensonhurst terminus at Bay Parkway, and angling across the neighborhood to end directly opposite my home. Someday, I’ll have to try to track down a copy of that map to hang in my house.