The Remsen family of Brooklyn dates back to Rem Jansen Vanderbeek (d. 1681) who settled in the Wallabout area prior to 1643. Following the custom of their culture and time, Mr. Vanderbeek’s 15 children all took the name Remsen (literally meaning “son of Rem”). The Vanderbeek lineage from that point became known as the Remsen family. One of the earliest families in the Brooklyn area on record, the Remsens spread throughout the various local townships.
Although historians agree that Rem Jansen Vanderbeek immigrated to Albany, New York, they are not sure if he originated in Ieveren, Westphalia, or Drenthe, Netherlands. Vanderbeek employed himself as a blacksmith during his stay in Albany, and several of his 15 children were born there. Vanderbeek sold his residence and land in 1660 and moved with his wife, Jannetje Jansen Rapalie, to a plantation adjacent to his father-in-law in the Wallabout area in what became the City of Brooklyn.
Dozens of Remsen family members settled the area. Although an extensive history of the family does not exist, a few of Vanderbeek’s sons’ life stories have survived. The first four of the five men discussed are sons of Vanderbeek: Jan Remsen (1648-1696), lived in New York City for a time, but settled in the town of Flatbush, in what became Brooklyn. He served as a grand-juryman for the town in 1695. Joris (b. 1650) purchased land in Brooklyn Heights where he built a mansion. The British used this mansion as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. Years later, William Cutting a partner of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton (1765-1815), owned the property. Brooklyn’s historic Grace Church now occupies the site.
Jeronimus Remsen (1664-1750) lived in the town of Brooklyn and served as an officer there in 1700. Abraham Remsen (1667-1752) owned an estate, which came to be known as the Abraham A. Remsen estate in 1795 after his son, Abraham Junior, took possession of the property. Abraham, the senior, owned the only dry goods store in the area, which stood at the corner of Fulton and Front Streets. Rem Jansen, another member of the Remsen family although he does not share the familial surname, served as a trustee of the township of Brooklyn from 1727-1752.
Remsen playground, jointly operated by Parks and the Board of Education, lies between Remsen Avenue, Glenwood Road, East 92nd Place, and Bay View Place. The playground, surrounded by wrought iron fencing, contains metal play equipment with safety surfacing, lampposts, World’s Fair benches, and a gazebo. Crabapple (Malus coronaria), Calery pear (Pyrus calleryana), honeylocust (), and oak (Quercus spp.) trees add nature’s beauty to the playground.