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Flatbush Malls

Midwood Malls

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

“Midwood” is the Anglicized variation of Midwout, a Dutch name given to the area now known as Flatbush. This Dutch word describes a location between two wooded areas, and it is also the name of a town in the Netherlands.

Flatbush was one of the first six towns in Brooklyn, colonized by Dutch farmers in 1652. It remained mostly farmland until the Flatbush and Coney Island Railroad opened in 1878. Increased access turned Flatbush into a proto-suburb, as commuters from the then-separate cities of New York and Brooklyn moved in. The Flatbush Town Hall, built in 1875 and now a New York City Landmark, is a relic of the independent town. In 1894, Flatbush was incorporated into the City of Brooklyn, which then became part of the City of New York when the five boroughs merged in 1898.

Sitting within the area known as Victorian Flatbush, named because of the dominant architectural style, the Midwood Malls define 17th Street between the Long Island Rail Road and Foster Avenue. Towering oak trees stand in the center of the street, with other smaller trees and shrubs underneath. Paving stones highlight the planted areas and the bases of the trees.

In the early 1900s, private developers constructed malls like this one to make the neighborhoods they built more attractive. Malls are common in New York’s outer boroughs and in upper Manhattan. The Midwood Malls were inspired by the designs of landscape architect John Aiken for the Flatbush Malls on Albemarle and Buckingham Roads. Working for developer Dean Alvord in 1898, Aiken created malls in the Kenmore and Albemarle Terraces district based on those on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. These are narrower than the Boston malls, as Aiken opted not to include the central promenade seen on Commonwealth Avenue.

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