2. Walt Whitman’s Home
99 Ryerson Street, in the center, was once the home of Walt Whitman during a critical time period of his life
Less than two blocks from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, on a street lined with rowhouses of many sizes and styles, sits an unassuming, mundane aluminum-sided townhouse that hides a rich history. 99 Ryerson Street was a pivotal residence of Walt Whitman, whose ground-breaking poetry collection Leaves of Grass was published while he lived here with his brother and parents from 1855 to 1856. While living at this address, he also worked on the second edition of Leaves of Grass, which includes the first version of the poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” one of Whitman’s most well-known works. It is also the last remaining home of the poet in New York City – all the rest have been demolished.
Numerous attempts to landmark 99 Ryerson Street have failed, despite successful landmarking of other sites affiliated with LGBTQ figures. Whitman lived on the second floor in the front of the house (a third floor was added in about 1891) and in addition to construction work, he pursued his literary dreams preparing for the publication of his book and doing freelance writing. “That to me is the core of it,” says Brad Vogel, the Executive Director of the New York Preservation Archive Project who founded the Coalition to Save Walt Whitman’s House. “Walt Whitman looked at Brooklyn and looked out at the world from that second story space. This is where he burst meteorically onto the scene as a poet.”