To some, Red Hook is best known as a hard-to-get-to neighborhood that prosperity forgot.
But it is also the birthplace of America.
To ensure that future generations don’t forget what most members of the current one clearly have, the city unveiled “Red Hook Lane Heritage Trail” street signs at 10 intersections in the neighborhood on Wednesday.
That’s what brought about 300 people, some dolled up in American flag bonnets and tricorn hats, to the corner of Dwight and Delavan streets (where, ironically, someone had scrawled “Bring me the head of George W. Bush” on the side of a building).
While kids from nearby PS 27 sang “This Land is Your Land” with the enthusiasm of, well, kids forced to sing “This Land is Your Land,” local historian John Burkard pointed out that the industrial neighborhood is actually “the birthplace of America,” the former marchlands that helped George Washington flee British attacks in 1776.
“Now when people ask ‘Hey kid, where are you from?’ they can answer with pride, ‘Red Hook, where America began,’” said Burkard.
The historian has been pushing for the Red Hook heritage trail since 2005 and seeing the intersection given it’s due made the “old man’s dreams come true,” he said — but even with the new signage, connecting Red Hook to its historical past is hardly easy.
Neighborhood expert Dan Wiley, who leads tours of Red Hook, said that part of the problem is that no one can say for sure where the historic events took place. Even Wiley can’t pinpoint the site of Fort Defiance, where Washington fended off attacks from the British Admiral William Howe.
And Red Hood residents aren’t too clear on where Washington fought 231 years ago — though at least one man was cognizant of the Founding Father’s contributions to modern society.
“All I know is, I got a bunch of George Washingtons in my pocket,” said Timothy Mathews, 19, who bypassed the ceremony, choosing instead to fill his tank at a Getty station hear the “heritage trail.”