Monday, January 11, 2016

Is It De Graw Or Degraw? How To Spell The Name Of This Neighborhood Street?

An older street sign at Court Street and "DEGRAW" Street
Nigh sign across the street now spells it "De Graw" Street
The street sign at the corner of Smith Street and "DEGRAW" Street back in 2008
The same corner with the street sign now spelled "De Graw"
Pardon me for asking, but what is the correct way of spelling the neighborhood street name that divides Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill ? Is it De Graw or Degraw?  I have been confused about that for a while.  Obviously, so is the Department of Transportation.
A few days ago, I received the following email from reader Andy:
"Hey Katia,
I've noticed that the new street signs on Court and Degraw St now have Degraw spelled as "De Graw" Just wondering if you have any insight? Thanks! "

Of course I grabbed my camera and took a walk to investigate.  Sure enough, the new signs and the old signs have different spellings for the same street.  On Court Street, the signs attached to the lamp posts are different on opposite sides. Very strange

So how does one spell the name? 
It shows up as Degraw Street on Google Maps:

It also shows up as Degraw Street on this old map below, dated 1874.
Neighborhood Map 1874

The origin of the street name may be traced back to the prominent Degrauw family. John W. Degrauw, a New York City merchant had a house built at #219 Clinton Street for his son Abraham J. W. Degrauw. Abraham was a dedicated fireman of Brooklyn Fire Ladder number 4 and ultimately became President of the Brooklyn Fire Department. He lost his life in the line of duty on January 8, 1856 while trying to save the life of a woman during a fire at the Stillwell's Iron & Steel Rail Foundry at 105 Court Street.
To honor his sacrifice, Fire Ladder #4 adopted his name and a street in this, his neighborhood, was named after him.  The name however, was changed to Degraw.

Matthew Kassel of the New York Observer also noticed the difference in spelling on the new street signs at the intersection with 4th Avenue.  He traces the name back to land-owner James Degraw who sold his 10 acres of Brooklyn land in 1764.In his article, Matthew concludes: "One way to get around the issue is to spell the name “DEGRAW."

That's probably what the Department of Transortation should have done. Or perhaps, we should just change all of the signs to "Degrauw" Street.


Anonymous said...

Degraw. It's a mistake with the space. I've been living on Henry between Sackett and Degraw my whole life. There is no space between the DE and the G. It's just one word.

Unknown said...

The old map also shows it as Degraw

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic....when I was growing up in the 60s and going to St. Mary's grade school, the church and school were located on Court between Nelson and Luqueer Streets.

Some time later the spelling changed on the signs to Luquer Street.

I always wondered which spelling was correct.

Katia said...

I always wondered about the origin of the name Luquer. Does anyone know?

Anonymous said...

Have lived on Degraw between Hoyt and Bond for all of my 62 years. Always spelled it one word, with new street signs have decided to go with the flow and now use DeGraw. While I cherish the 'old neighborhood' there is much to be said about the exciting changes that have taken place so I decided to go with change.
Bill Gorman

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Typo Katia : you wrote Gegraw.

Also who cares about degraw what was The Road to Freekas?! On that old map. :)

And I think misspelling or re-spelling a street name isn't exactly the change people Get excited about.
It's rediculous.

It's Degraw.

Timothy Reed said...

Luquer St was named after the Luqueer family, who owned most of the 12th Ward in the late 1700s/early 1800s. More here:

Anonymous said...

I think, as usual, it comes down to error, or a lack of knowledge. We call/spell the Crosstown bus as one word, while new comers might think it's two words. As newer generations move in, or departments are outsourced to people who don't know the area, there's a wider disconnection to community details as a whole; or a need to change up historical content. But mostly I think it boils down to technology and our false sense of accuracy with computers and editing. In the not-too-long-ago past, without computers and spell check, etc., one never (I can't personally even say almost never) saw errors in books, magazines or newspapers. Now, you are almost certain to find errors in everything you read. Standards have changed, Someone may have just assumed the spelling was De Graw (based on his or her exposure to similar names) and no one bothered to double check t. It could be as simple as that.....and it changes the course of history. An effort should be made to have the city change it back to Degraw, which is correct.

Anonymous said...

Call those pain in the asses at the Historical society they probably have something to do with it ,,I lived on Degraw all my life but never gave it any thought ,Degraw and Court is the borderline between Cobble hill and Carroll gardens ,,another fact The Degraw street boys street gang of the 1960's made up a big portion of The South Brooklyn Boys ,,, another fact in the late 60's and 1970's Degraw st and Court was a major hang out for members of Organized crime ,especially members of the Gambino crime family , one Capo owned a resteruant where Mastelone's was and a Dry cleaners was owned by a family Soldier there was also a Bar where a candy store is today .Each day dozens upon dozens of Mafia members and associates came and went from all 3 places . If todays candy assed yuppies could have only seen it .

Anonymous said...

A quick search through the old Brooklyn Daily Eagle shows that the street was spelled both ways as far back as the 1830's.
But between 1830 and the 1964, there were more than 31,000 hits for the "Degraw" spelling and just about 5000 hits for the "De Graw" spelling. So it appears that "Degraw" has been the preferred spelling since the street was named.

Unknown said...

I noticed this in late 2013 when the sign was replaced on 3rd Ave and Degraw. I laughed and thought it was just a mistake but as the sings have changed in our neighborhood, it's clear that either someone doesn't care or took it upon themselves to modify the name.

Anonymous said...

Unrelated but is there a worse restaurant in the neighborhood than Provence en Boite? The only thing worse than their food is their service. Who patronizes this place that has allowed them to stay open, what, 7 years now?

Brett said...

I have to agree about Provence en Boite. The service is almost aggressively incompetent.

jjlnyc said...

Who really cares which letters are capital or nor?
Just another indication of this blogpost's trivial mindset

Katia said...

Ouch, jjlnyc. Glad you do stop by to read the posts, though.

Scott said...

It's both: DeGraw - capital G, but no space. It's my last name...and I'm related to the original Brooklyn family. I don't know anyone who spells it DeGraw or De Graw. It is true that it was originally De Grauw.