28 May 2012

Is Dennett Place Really Bennett Place?

Dennett Place, the one-block thoroughfare of workingmen's cottages situation behind St. Mary Star of the Sea in Carroll Gardens, has always been a favorite conundrum of local historians. (That's a 1940s tax photo of the street above; it's not as attractive today—lots of aluminum siding—but still cute.) Nobody knows for whom it was named, or even if it should be spelled Dennet or Dennett. There are no famous Brooklyn Dennetts. But there is a history of Brooklyn Bennetts.

I got the idea that the street has been misnamed for more than a century when I read a personal history of the street, written by a resident of the street and published on the Brooklyn Historical Society's blog. The writer tried to get to the bottom of the street name's origin, and in doing so uncovered this old map from the 1860s where the alley is named Bennett Place.

The writer dismisses this as a misspelling. But I suggest that the map is right, and its the street signs that have been misspelled all these years.

For the Bennetts loom fairly large in the history of the ares. The BHS itself holds the Bennett papers. According to the Society, the Bennetts were an English family who lived in the Netherlands and then emigrated to New Amsterdam in the mid-17th century. William Adrianse Bennet (the spelling of the name varies over the years) settled Gowanus for the Dutch in 1636. The New York Times has gone so far as to call the Bennetts "the first Brooklynites." Dennett Place is just a stone's throw from the Gowanus Canal. In the 1830s, members of the Bennetts purchased the Wyckoff home in then Gravesend. The Wyckoff Bennett homestead is still there, on E. 22nd Street, and was granted landmark status in 1976.

During the 1840s and 1850s, there are a number of articles in the Brooklyn Eagle regarding Brooklyn land deals involving the Bennett family. Whether the Bennetts are selling or buying is hard to decipher; the legal language is near indecipherable. The point is, they were landowners. So why shouldn't there be a street named after the clan? It would be stranger is there was NO Brooklyn street named after them. And stubbornly unmovable street misspellings are hardly unknown. Nearby Luquer Street has been misspelled for decades. (See above.)


Kevin Walsh said...


Well, there's a street directory from 1876 that has Dennet, so if it's a mistake, it's been a mistake for a long time.

The correct current spelling is Dennet, one 't'.

Kevin Walsh said...

The BHS log link doesn't work

"Oops! Google Chrome could not find married into the ryder family, and the bennett-ryder"

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Hi, Kevin. Also nice to see you comment. I fixed the link. Yes, if it is a mistake, it's been one for a long time. The map I picture is 1860. As far as spelling, the current street signs say Dennet. But a lot of archival articles I did up say Dennett. Poor street's got lots of problems.

Jan P said...

This October 13, 1857 advertisement for a house to let on Dennet Place (one T) is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: "To Let In South Brooklyn, a Three Story house and store; rent $12 per month, or $6 for store separate. Also, two houses at $9 per month, for respectable families. Enquire at No 15 Dennet place, between Nelson and Lequer streets, or of E.H. Babcock, 37 Powers st.
--Jan Pejovic

Unknown said...

Holy Crap, 15 dennet place is my house! my family has lived there since the late 1800's.

do you have a link for the site that says that?