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Guide to the Brevoort family papers 1977.285

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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Robert Sink

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 10, 2011
English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Finding aid edited and reformatted by Marilyn H. Pettit in 2007. Finding aid further developed and entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Patricia Glowinski and Nicholas Pavlik.  , February 14, 2011.

Biographical note

The first members of the Brevoort family in America came from Holland prior to 1655 and soon thereafter settled in Bushwick, then a separate village that would eventually be annexed by the City of Brooklyn in 1855. After 20 years in Bushwick, the family purchased land in New York City (present-day Manhattan) where the family prospered. It wasn’t until 1845 that members of the Brevoort family moved back to Brooklyn.

Henry Brevoort (1747-1841) was a successful farmer whose lands lay just outside of the early city limits of New York. His estate consisted of 86 acres between 9th Street and 18th Street, bounded by Fifth Avenue on the west and the Bowery on the east, thus part of today's West Village. The opening of Broadway up to 23rd Street forced New York City street commissioners to create a dog-leg bend at 10th Street, as Brevoort was determined to prevent the disruption of his estate. Brevoort and son Henry, Jr. prevented the opening of 11th Street between Broadway and the Bowery in the 1830s and 1840s to prevent the destruction of the old family farm house.

Henry Brevoort, Jr. (1782-1848) was widely respected for his adventurous travels and artistic interests. He accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition to the Pacific Northwest from 1803 to 1806 and spent a great deal of time in the North American wilderness working for John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company. He was equally at home and well received in salons throughout Europe during his travels abroad. Henry Brevoort, Jr. was a close friend of Washington Irving and was primarily responsible (along with Irving’s brother Ebenezer) for the publication of the American edition of Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent..

James Carson Brevoort (1818-1887), Henry Jr.'s son, was educated in Europe during his parents' travels. He graduated from Baron Fellenberg's school in Hofwyl, Switzerland and then earned a degree in civil engineering from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. He served as Washington Irving's private secretary following Irving's appointment as United States Minister to Spain in 1842. Brevoort married Elizabeth Dorothea Lefferts in 1845 and moved to Brooklyn. There he managed the large land holdings of his father-in-law, Judge Leffert Lefferts. In Brooklyn, Brevoort gained renown for his scholarly interest and public service. He studied history, entomology, and ichthyology and also served for many years as a member of the Brooklyn Board of Education and the Board of Water Commissioners. Brevoort also helped to found the Long Island Historical Society (now the Brooklyn Historical Society) in 1863, served as its President for 10 years, and was a Director of the Society until his death.

James Carson Brevoort's only child, Henry L. Brevoort (1849-1895), followed his father's interest in engineering and became one of the country's foremost patent and invention lawyers, with a client list that included Westinghouse, Western Union, and the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Company. He was also a founder in 1890 of the Brevoort Savings Bank in Brooklyn.