- Richard M. Woodhull purchased the area in 1792 and named it Williamsburgh after his friend Col. Jonathan Williams, U.S. Engineer and surveyor, around 1800. Williams was a nephew of Benjamin Franklin.
- With the influx of German immigrants in 1850-1860 to what became the Eastern District, breweries became a major employer. Many existed for a long time: Edelbrau, The Eastern Brewing Company, Ernest Ochs, Samuel Liebmann (which became Rheingold Breweries) and Schaefer. Schaefer Brewing Company, although originally a Manhattan enterprise, purchased a large tract of land on the East River waterfront at Kent Avenue. Enormously successful for forty years, Schaefer realized that its Brooklyn plant was dated and in 1971 built a new plant in Lehigh Valley, PA. In 1976, the Brooklyn plant closed. Today, the old buildings are being converted to condominiums, apartments and retail stores.
- The Williamburgh Branch of Brooklyn Public Library opened in 1903, welcoming many immigrants through its doors to the wonder of books within. In 2005, it celebrated its 102nd birthday with the discovery of a time capsule buried in its foundation and completion of renovations to the original building.
- The Williamsburg Bridge celebrated its 100th birthday on June 22, 2003. When it opened, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world and had the world's first all-steel towers.
- Williamsburg has a long history of protest and community organization:
- In the 1930s, mothers organized and demanded that streets be closed to provide "Play Streets" for the safety of their children.
- During the 1970s, widespread increases in crime, arson and middle-class flight affected much of Brooklyn. Williamsburg was particularly hard hit, losing its Well Baby Clinic, Police Precinct 92 and Fire Engine Company 212. Grass-roots groups organized to restore services cut by the city. With the announced Firehouse closing, this disparate community came together to save it. For 16 months, the people occupied the fire station and pressured the city. A city official called off attempts to remove protestors, who said the fire station was "the People's Firehouse." The name stuck and eventually Engine Company 212 was reopened.
- In 1992 and again in 1995, a project to remove lead paint from the Williamsburg Bridge created a rain of lead-contaminated dust and paint chips. Residents affected by the toxins organized and a law suit was brought. In October 1995, Justice Martin Schoenfeld ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and work on the bridge was halted pending an appeal.
- Much of Williamsburg's economic base has been in manufacturing, trash incinerators, sewage treatment plants and other heavy industry. This has created a community greatly polluted by toxins. Residents have organized around health issues, and work is slowly being done to relieve these problems.
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