June 1, 2015

Vinegar Hill: A Waterfront Neighborhood in Brooklyn

In an often forgotten swath of Kings County lies Vinegar Hill, a somewhat desolate, cobblestone waterfront neighborhood that has much more dilapidated charm than its sour-tasting name suggests.

by Nicole Haddad

Hillside, next door to Vinegar Hill House.

In an often forgotten swath of Kings County lies a somewhat desolate, cobblestone waterfront neighborhood that has much more dilapidated charm than its sour-tasting name suggests. Vinegar Hill nestles between DUMBO, the bursting-at-the-seams neighborhood to the west, the 300-acre Navy Yard to the east, the East River and the sprawling Con Ed Substation to the north, and public housing to the south. The sleepy neighborhood, which spans a radius of approximately 10 blocks, reflects an old-world ambience that remains virtually intact well into the 21st century. Pre-Civil War brick row houses with street-level storefronts—some turned art galleries or offices, some turned residences, some seemingly abandoned—and even an early 19th-century Federal-style mansion known as "the Commandant's House" grace the area. So architecturally out of place it appears to have been dropped in the area on a whim, the Commandant's House is said to have once housed Commodore Matthew Perry, who helped lead the path to a trade treaty with Japan in the 1850s; it earned its nickname because it served as the residence of the neighboring Brooklyn Navy Yard's commander. It is currently a private residence.

A building on the corner of Hudson Avenue and Plymouth Street.

GETTING THERE The F train to the York Sreet station is the closest train to Vinegar Hill.

GOOD EATS You only truly need one good restaurant, and Vinegar Hill House on Hudson Avenue, the neighborhood's most popular street, certainly fills the role. Husband-and-wife team Sam Buffa and Jean Adamson (a chef herself) opened the restaurant in 2008. "We were enamored with the neighborhood's creaky charms and instantly fell in love," says Adamson. While the restaurant's instant fame put the neighborhood on the map, Adamson still says: "We are lucky in that little landmarked gem. Things seem to move there as if time stands still."

DUMBO's popularity is slowly encroaching on the neighborhood. Brick row houses line many of the cobblestone streets and, in many cases, add some much-needed charm.

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