In August of 2011, fourteen of the Pratt Institute's graduate historic preservation students commenced a historical survey of the Southside of Williamsburg, Brooklyn on behalf of client and prominent community organization, El Puente.
El Puente was founded in 1982 in response to socio-political issues plaguing the area, and does work to restore and maintain peace and justice in the community through varied and nontraditional programming. The neighborhood and the community within which they do their work is predominantly Puerto Rican, with a presence dating back to the 1940s/1950s. Although the Puerto Rican community has had a consistent presence in the neighborhood for some time, the study area has undergone many cultural and physical changes, and has an extensive and considerably dynamic documented history dating from the sixteenth century to the present. Central to the collaboration between El Puente and the Pratt Institute was the exploration and interpretation of this history. The survey included research and documentation of both a thematic narrative of the study area, from its pre-urban context to the more recent zoning reform, as well as individual site, building, and/or block histories.
The purpose of historical survey in the specified neighborhood of Southside Williamsburg was twofold: identify historic trends and physical resources unique to an area yet to be extensively studied, and equip the client, El Puente, with baseline heritage research and the tools necessary for teaching and conducting further research.
Through identification of historic resources and trends, whether related specifically to the built environment, culture, or both, the project leaders at the Pratt Institute expect to aid El Puente in supporting their organizational mission so that they may further realize goals and community initiatives relating to arts, culture, research, wellness, and environmental justice. The information presented herein serves as a foundational historic timeline and offers examples of historically significant sites in the study area, as identified, researched and documented by Pratt students. This information serves to equip the organization, its members, and the community with tools for conducting similar research, be it further thematic investigation or research and documentation of other sites and buildings in the study area. By utilizing the examples and resources this website has to offer, El Puente is presented with a unique opportunity to both teach and practice further historic research in Williamsburg and beyond.