Friday, February 28, 2014

Gropecunt Lane, Brooklyn

Location:   Brooklyn Heights
Year:   After 1665

Brooklyn Heights has long been the heart of the borough. Sometime after the English assumed power over what had been New Amsterdam, one of the streets of old Dutch Brooklyn  acquired the English name of  "Gropecunt Lane." 

English cities and towns had many streets named after professions: for example "Lamplighter's Lane" would be where the first street lamps were installed. Cooper Street would be where barrel makers lived or worked or both. The London square named Covent Garden was once the vegetable patch for a nunnery.

"Gropecunt Lane," where prostitutes plied their trade, was actually a very common street name in many larger English towns and cities of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Elizabethan Era. London itself had a famous (or notorious) Gropecunt Lane. The sex trade in any given municipality was usually restricted to Gropecunt Lane by law.  

In the Georgian and Victorian Eras, shifting sensibilities caused most Gropecunt Lanes to be renamed:  Grape Lane, Grap Lane, Grap Street, Love Street, and Love Lane became common replacement names, though the traditional business of the district often continued for years afterward. 

Exactly when Brooklyn's "Love" Lane became Love Lane is unknown, but there's no question that the residents of the area still grope one another from time to time. Even if they do it indoors.


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