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September 28, 2017 / Brooklyn news / Brooklyn Heights / The Greatest Story Ever

Heights in the heartland: Iowa town’s streets share names identical to those in Brooklyn Heights

Grass is greener: Court Street in Dunlap, Iowa features lush greenery and plenty of open space.
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Kings County’s oldest enclave has a sister in the Corn Belt!

A small Iowa town shares many of its street names with Brooklyn Heights, puzzling locals who were shocked to discover there’s a grassier version of their brownstone-lined nabe on the prairie.

“It’s astounding, it’s more than just a coincidence,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Michael Towers, whose college roommate told him of the connection after uncovering it while researching the ancestry of his father, who was born in the Midwestern community.

Dunlap, Iowa — which is northwest of Des Moines — is charted with Clinton, Montague, Jerolemon, Court, Remsen and Pierrepont streets, six stretches also found in tony Brooklyn Heights.

Hawkeye State officials platted the burg in 1867 and incorporated it in 1871, well after Brooklyn Heights evolved into a booming nabe with hundreds of houses. The reason for the like-named streets remains a mystery, but a borough history buff guessed it probably has to do with a Kings Countian settling out west.

“My first reaction was there’s some person from Brooklyn who moved there, or was connected to a business there,” said Julie Golia, a historian for the Brooklyn Historical Society. “It wouldn’t have been crazy for some person who was possibly involved in the railroad business to move out there and have a big influence on the nature of the town.”

A glance at Dunlap’s history books revealed the town’s first pioneers migrated from Connecticut. A couple of its notable residents hailed from New York, too, but no evidence connects the borough of Kings to Iowa.

Golia, however, is sure that the town’s settlers took the names from Brooklyn because the monikers are very specific to its past.

“The thing that’s unusual is a lot of the notable names in Brooklyn Heights are Dutch names. There’s a really rich Dutch history in Brooklyn, and in New York, so it’s enormously unlikely they were thinking about Remsen in 1867 in Dunlap, Iowa,” she said.

In fact, Joralemon Street in the Heights was spelled “Jerolemon Street” around the time heartland town was born, according to Brooklyn Eagle archives.

The historian also floated the theory that Dunlap’s founders admired Henry Ward Beecher, a popular abolitionist and preacher at Brooklyn Heights’ Plymouth Church, and named their roads after streets in the clergyman’s neighborhood to honor him. Doing so would not be unheard of, according to Golia, especially because Beecher was known to seek recognition.

“He was a nationally known figure and a celebrity at the time,” she said. “He was also very good at self promotion.”

Dunlap’s head bureaucrat didn’t know why some of its roads share their names with those in the Heights either — although Iowans pronounce Montague Street “Mon-tag,” he said — but was also amazed by the discovery.

“I think it’s neat,” said Mayor Jason Knickman, who also works as a deputy for the county sheriff. “Obviously there’s got to be some sort of connection.”

Aside from the like-named streets, Knickman’s municipality boasts two bars, two mini-marts, a dam, a pond for fishing, a public swimming pool and youth sports complex, several churches, a livestock supply store, and a swanky steakhouse near the Boyer River where a man who many claimed was the world’s oldest bartender worked until he retired at 103 — all of which make it a wonderful place to live, he said.

“We’re just really fortunate to have the town we have,” he said. “It’s a pretty good community we live in.”

Dunlap is home to just more than 1,000 people, while more than 10,000 reside in Brooklyn Heights, according to 2010 census data. And it may have fewer inclines and less expensive real estate than its sister suburb, but one Heights resident said he’s not in a rush to trade city for country because the town only has one grocery store and it isn’t even within strolling distance.

“It’s flatter and has incredibly cheap house prices, I’m sure. I suspect the availability of sweet corn is much easier,” said longtime local Andrew Porter. “I much prefer Brooklyn Heights. I can walk to Trader Joe’s.”

The Iowa town isn’t the only municipality to take naming inspiration from Kings County. In 1894, officials in the village of Lynbrook, in nearby Nassau County, New York, chose its name by swapping the syllables in Brooklyn, to honor residents from the borough of Kings who moved to the burb around the turn of the century.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 2:16 pm, September 28, 2017
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Reasonable discourse

Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
As I told your reporter, there's obviously a big trade-off. While house prices there are likely amazingly low in comparison to ours, without a car, you're dead.

The nearest good shopping, urban areas and especially hospitals are likely hours of driving away. How far away is the nearest Wal-Mart (not my idea of good shopping, but...)—there?
Sept. 28, 9:54 am
Jeremy Lechtzin from Brooklyn Heights says:
Great story.
Though the reference to the variant/incorrect spelling of "Jerolemon" Street doesn't say much. It's always been Joralemon, notwithstanding a few people over the years who've found it challenging to spell (or say).
More interesting would've been to track down the Joralemons who are still living in NYC!
Sept. 28, 12:19 pm
Eric from born in Dunlap says:
Nearest Walmart is 18 miles. With online shopping, though, there is little need to get to a mall or shopping center. Also there is a medical clinic, a pharmacy, two banks, grocer, newspaper, public library, and public high school in town.
Sept. 28, 8:52 pm
Joe from Greenpoint says:
I think I flew over there once.
Sept. 28, 10:45 pm
Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
Could we work out some sort of collaboration with Dunlap? What could BH do for them? What could they do for us?

And, is anyone here planning to visit the town?

Perhaps their historic society, and the BHS, could collaborate on something.
Sept. 30, 10:03 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I just find this to be more of a coincidence. It's very common for a lot of cities and towns to share street names as many of them as many of them aren't limited to one place. Keep in mind that even the boroughs of NYC share a lot of names and even numbered streets because they predate when they were merged into city back in 1898. By this logic about Dunlap, I guess Pleasantville, where I live, must have something in with Brooklyn Heights as well since we also have a Clinton Street as well or even with Manhattan's UES for having a Sutton Place as well. Overall, I don't see this as being anything special, just a coincidence to share some of the same street names.
Oct. 1, 3:40 pm
Andrew Porter from Brooklyn Heights says:
Tal B: Clinton is a common name in NY State, because of Clinton's Ditch, aka the Erie Canal. But to have such odd names here also in Iowa is just more than coincidence would explain.

Pleasantville has the great movie of the same name. I just hope where you live isn't in black & white...
Oct. 4, 8:17 am

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