In 1636, Gowanus Bay was the site of the first settlement by Dutch farmers in what is now Brooklyn. During the American Revolutionary War Gowanus was the scene of fighting in the Battle of Long Island. The ponds of the original Gowanus meadowlands served the power needs of the early settlers who used them to drive gristmills. The Gowanus Canal, running through Gowanus, later became an active center of industrial activity after its construction, and the draining of the ponds began in the 1860s; since then, the area has been an active center of industrial and shipping activity. After World War II, with the decline of shipping at the port of Red Hook and the decrease of manufacturing around New York City in general, the vibrancy of industry in Gowanus began to change as larger industrial users left the city.
The area today is zoned for light to mid-level manufacturing (M1, M2, and M3). Recently, residential developers have been hindered by the industrial zoning and the problems of the sewage overflow through the canal water, but there have been rumors of rezoning by the New York City Department of City Planning.
The water and much of the land along the banks of the Gowanus Canal, however, have been severely polluted from a combination of CSOs (combined sewer outflows) along the canal designed to relieve sewage and storm water when the sewer treatment plant is overwhelmed as well as from decades of industrial use and extensive coal gas manufacturing during the late 19th century. The Gowanus Canal was also an alleged Mafia dumping ground. Even so, in the early 1980s, alongside the canal, an old nineteenth century munitions factory at 230 3rd Street in Gowanus became the site of the massive Gowanus Memorial Artyard, the remains of which can still be seen today.
On the New York City Subway, the D N R trains on the BMT Fourth Avenue Line and the F G trains on the IND Culver Line run through Gowanus. Bike routes cross the canal on the Union Street, 3rd Street and 9th Street bridges. The elevated Gowanus Expressway runs through the southern edge of the neighborhood, crossing the canal at Hamilton Avenue. The Carroll Street Bridge, built in 1889, is the oldest of the four remaining retractable bridges in the country.
- Stiles, Henry R. (1867). A History of the City of Brooklyn. p. 23. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- Lewis, Charles. Cut Off: Colonel Jedediah Huntington's 17th Continental (Conn.) Regiment at the Battle of Long Island August 27, 1776. p. 93.
- "Gowanus Canal Corridor Framework". New York City Department of City Planning. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- Kim, Janet (February 18, 2003). "Close-Up on Gowanus". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- Warshawer, Gabby (January 2, 2007). "Close-Up on Gowanus, Brooklyn". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- "Once Upon a Time on the Shores of the Gowanus: Frank Shifreen and "The Monument Redefined" Show". October 16, 2007. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
- NYC Department of Transportation. "List of Bicycle Lanes in Roadways". NYC.gov. New York City. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
- Gray, Christopher (May 21, 1989). "The Carroll Street Bridge; Getting a Landmark in Shape for Its 100th Birthday". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
|Cobble Hill||Boerum Hill||Fort Greene|
|Carroll Gardens||Park Slope|
|Red Hook||Gowanus Bay||Greenwood Heights|