Clinton Hill is an affluent neighborhood in north-central Brooklyn, a borough of New York City. It is bordered by Crown Heights to the southeast, Bedford–Stuyvesant to the northeast, Prospect Heights to the southwest, Williamsburg to the northwest, and Fort Greene to the west.
The neighborhood is served by the NYPD's 88th Precinct. “The Hill”, as the general area was known (maximum elevation: 95 feet), was believed to have health benefits, as many thought germs were more prevalent in low-lying areas. The area is named after Clinton Avenue, which in turn was named in honor of New York Governor DeWitt Clinton (1769–1828).
The area’s European history began in the 1640s, when Dutch settlers laid tobacco plantations near Wallabout Bay. Bedford Corners, situated just southeast of Clinton Hill, was incorporated in 1663, and the settlers (both Dutch and French Huguenot) purchased surrounding lands from the native Lenape in 1670.
On August 27, 1776, the “Road to Jamaica” (approximately Atlantic Avenue, the southern edge of today’s neighborhood) was used by the British army in a surprise overnight march to outflank the American army, which was forced to retreat toward Gowanus Creek, and two nights later, to Manhattan. After the war, the Dutch continued to build on the land, which sloped toward the East River and offered great views of the water and of Manhattan.
By the 1840s, Clinton Hill and neighboring Fort Greene had become fashionable neighborhoods for the wealthy of Brooklyn, who could commute to Manhattan by way of stagecoach to the Fulton Ferry. The area was originally devised for those “determined to escape from the closeness of city life”, as Walt Whitman put it in 1846. George Washington Pine had bought up the land in the area and broke it into lots, selling them to those who wanted to lead a quiet life not too far from the conveniences of the Navy Yard. Whitman, a 28-year resident of Brooklyn, had lived for less than a year in the area in 1855, where he completed his masterpiece Leaves of Grass. The 1995 New Yorker article "Walt Whitman’s Ghost” identified the address as 99 Ryerson Street, which still stand.
After the Civil War, Clinton Hill was developed with row houses.
The Clinton Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The district includes the mansions of Clinton Avenue, built in the 1870s and 1880s. The most prominent of these are linked to Charles Pratt, who built a mansion for himself (at 232 Clinton Avenue in 1874, the year his Charles Pratt & Company was acquired by Standard Oil) and one each as wedding presents for three of his four sons. These four mansions can be seen on Clinton Avenue between DeKalb and Willoughby. The rest of the historic district is noted for its prominent Italianate and Beaux-Arts row houses. The Clinton Hill South Historic District was listed in 1986.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Clinton Hill was built in 1858.
The brick building at 275 Park Avenue was once for a chocolate factory that produced and distributed Tootsie Rolls throughout the United States. In 2002, the building was converted into loft apartments.
Pratt Institute, founded by Charles Pratt in 1887, is located in Clinton Hill. Pratt began as an engineering school, designed to train immigrants in then-novel sciences. Today the prestigious school is known for having some of the highest ranking programs in architecture, interior design, and industrial design.
The Success Academy Charter Schools group planned to open a school in Clinton Hill in September 2013, starting with kindergarten and first grade.
St. Joseph's College's Brooklyn campus is in Clinton Hill.
Clinton Hill is served by the IND Fulton Street Line (A C trains), with a stop at the Clinton–Washington Avenues Fulton Street Line station, as well as the IND Crosstown Line (G train), with stops at Classon Avenue and Clinton–Washington Avenues Crosstown Line stations. Several New York City Transit local bus routes provide service to the neighborhood, including the B25, B26, B38, B45, B48, B52, B54, B57, B62, and B69. Starting in the 1880s, the Myrtle Avenue and Lexington Avenue elevated lines served the area. The Lexington Avenue line followed Grand Avenue south from Myrtle. The last train on the Lexington Avenue line ran on October 13, 1950; dismantling of the elevated tracks began on November 1.