A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 17, 2010
Little Norway (Sunset Park, Brooklyn)

"Little Norway,” in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn, was a popular area for immigrants from Norway in the 1880s and 1890s, but it’s barely recognizable as “Little Norway” today. The name “Little Norway” has been cited in print since at least 1967.

A nearby neighborhood to Little Norway was Finntown.

The “R” subway line through Brooklyn was once nicknamed the “Norwegian-American line.”


Wikipedia: Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Sunset Park is a neighborhood in the western section of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, USA. It is bounded by the Prospect Expressway or 17th Street and Park Slope on the north, and 8th Avenue Borough Park on the east, the old Long Island Railroad cut or 65th Street and Bay Ridge on the south and Upper New York Bay on the west. Sunset Park is patrolled by the NYPD’s 72nd Precinct.

There is a namesake city park within the neighborhood, located between 41st and 44th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues, which is the second highest point in Brooklyn (for the highest point in Brooklyn, see the Green-Wood Cemetery entry). The hilly terrain of the park affords visitors magnificent views of Downtown Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island and New Jersey beyond. The “main drag” of the neighborhood lies along Fifth Avenue. The area is also home to the Jackie Gleason Bus Depot.

Early years
In the heyday of the New York Harbor’s dominance of North American shipping during the 19th Century, Sunset Park grew rapidly, largely as a result of Irish, Polish, Finnish and Norwegian immigrant families moving to the area. The neighborhood grew up around the Bush Terminal of Irving T. Bush, a model industrial park completed in 1895 between 39th and 53d Streets, and continued to grow through World War II, when the Brooklyn Army Terminal between 53d and 66th Streets employed more than 10,000 civilians to ship 80% of all American supplies and troops.

Sunset Park’s fortunes began to decline after the war. The rise of truck-based freight shipping and ports in New Jersey, the growth of suburban sprawl and white flight, the closing of the Army Terminal, and the decreasing importance of heavy industry in the American northeast, all became factors. Families who had lived in the community for decades began moving out, and the homes in the neighborhood — largely modest but attractive rowhouses — lost value. The construction of the Gowanus Expressway in 1941 effectively cut the neighborhood off from the harbor, which further wounded the area, in a fashion often associated with the expressway’s builder: power-broker Robert Moses. Until the early 1980s, Sunset Park’s main population was made up of Norwegian Americans who began leaving the neighborhood during the white flight years of the 1970s and 1980s.

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
The neighborhood of Sunset Park, named for the park built in the 1890s, was home to waves of European immigrants, beginning with groups of Irish fleeing the 1840s potato famine. Norwegians and Finns followed in 1880s and 1890s, establishing sections of Sunset Park known as “Little Norway” and “Finntown” in the early 1900s.

Google Books
We who built America:
Tthe saga of the immigrant

By Carl Frederick Wittke
Cleveland, OH: Press of Case Western Reserve University
1967
Pg. 283:
By 1930, there were over 40000 Norwegians in Brooklyn, New York, where they lived in a “Little Norway” in rows of brownstone houses flush with the street.

Google Books
The colony that rose from the sea:
Norwegian maritime migration and community in Brooklyn, 1850-1910

By David C. Mauk
Northfield, MN: The Norwegian-American Historical Association
1997
Pg. 184:
Sunset Park would not become the home of Little Norway until a decade or more later when its Norwegian population had grown so large that many more community organizations on the peninsula felt forced to relocate there.

Google Books
Brooklyn:
A soup-to-nuts guide to sites, neighborhoods, and restaurants

By Ellen Freudenheim
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin
1999
Pg. 283:
Scandinavians found work at the shipyards in the late nineteenth century and created a “Little Norway” from 45th to 60th streets, where some of their descendants still live.

Google Books
Walking Brooklyn:
30 Tours Exploring Historical Legacies, Neighborhood Culture, Side Streets and Waterways

By Adrienne Onofri
Berkeley, CA: Wilderness Press
2007
Pg. 173 (Sunset Park: Melting Pot on the Waterfront):
There used to be many more of them in this neighborhood, which has been nicknamed Little Norway and Finntown over the years.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • Wednesday, November 17, 2010 • Permalink


I have to dispute the statement “Until the early 1980s, Sunset Park’s main population was made up of Norwegian Americans”.  While Sunset was the largest concentration of people of Norwegian ancestory, as a neighborhood - the marjority ethnicity was Irish even at the peak of Norwegian growth.  While Finns were concentrated in a few blocks in the lower 40s, near 6th Avenue, Norwegians were most concentrated in the 50’s & upper avenues. By the 1950’s, the leading groups were Irish, Italian & Norwegian (distant 3rd).  At the end of the 1960’s Puerto Ricans became the 3rd largest group and fastest growing - becoming the dominant group within a decade.  This rapid change was brought about by intense “block busting” techniques of local realtors.  The Puerto Rican dominance didn’t last long as Dominicans challenged them in the mid-1980s.  Today Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans are the dominant group with
Asians actually being 80 to 90 percent of census tracts as you reach 8th Avenue (the former epicenter of the Norwegian presence).  Where the Sons of Norway sign once stood - 60th & 8th is now a major Arab business presence - with a mosque, grocery/fruit/veg store & restaurant. The Arab presence is small though, with its largest numbers just across the southern border of Sunset. The census numbers are very inaccurate.  The under counting of Asians probably approaches 20 to 30 percent.  The under counting of Mexicans/Cent. Amer/South Amer may be as much as 40%.  My estimates are based on the number of illegal dwellings (basements & sub-divided apartments in the Asian sector, and the overcrowding of apartments in the Spanish sector.)

An amazing observation is that even with such severe overcrowding (even with the failure of gov’t service agencies to increase services since much of the population is not included in official counts) Sunset Park is a place of civil “order”, cleanliness and low crime statistics.  This is indeed to the credit of the quality of our newest neighbors who come to these shores with a strict sense of social order and family-centric behavior.  Their work ethic - even in the face of a slow economy is incredible.

Posted by tee gee  on  11/19  at  07:52 AM

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