Little Odessa boasts a vibrant community, rich in Russian cuisine, music, and shops and boutiques. It's influence on popular culture has been widespread. Click on the dates or arrows below to view our cultural timeline.

  • Until the late 1860s, Brighton Beach consisted of little but farms carved out of sandy hills. It was known as the "Middle Division", a section of Gravesend, the only English town of the original six in Kings County. By the mid-1700s, the Middle Division had been broken up into 39 lots.

  • ​William A. Engeman developed the area as a resort in 1868; it was named by Henry C. Murphy and a group of businessmen in an 1878 contest to evoke the resort of Brighton, England. Working with — or, in some eyes, conspiring with — Gravesend’s surveyor, William Stillwell, Engeman acquired all 39 lots for the bargain price of $20,000.

  • ​The centerpiece of the resort was the large Hotel Brighton (or Brighton Beach Hotel), placed on the beach at what is now the foot of Coney Island Avenue and accessed by the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island Railway, which opened on July 2, 1878.

  • ​Anton Seidl and the Metropolitan Opera brought their popular interpretations of Wagner to the Brighton Beach Music Hall, where John Philip Sousa was in residence. The New Brighton Theater was a hotspot for vaudeville. Visitors for tea at Reisenweber’s Brighton Beach Casino would be served by Japanese waitresses in full costume. And the Brighton Beach Baths was an enormous private club where members could swim, access a private beach, and play handball, mah-jongg, and cards.

  • ​Adjacent to the hotel, Engeman built the Brighton Beach Race Course for Thoroughbred horse racing. In December 1887, an extremely high tide washed over the area, creating a new, temporary connection between Sheepshead Bay and the ocean. Wrote the "Brooklyn 'Daily Eagle": "Unless [Engeman] is very lucky the next races on the Brighton Beach track will be conducted by the white crested horses of Neptune."

  • ​After a series of winter storms threatened to swamp the hotel, an audacious plan was developed to the Brighton Beach Hotel in one piece 520 feet further inland by placing railroad track and 112 railroad flat cars under the raised 460 ft. by 130 ft. building and using six steam locomotives to pull it away from the sea. Engineered by B.C. Miller, the move was begun on April 2, 1888 and continued for the next nine days, being the largest building move of the 19th century.

  • ​The village was annexed into the 31st Ward of the City of Brooklyn in 1894.

  • ​In 1905, Brighton Beach Park opened its own area of amusements, calling it Brighton Pike. Brighton Pike offered a boardwalk, games, live entertainment (including the Miller Brothers’ wild-west show, 101 Ranch), and a huge steel roller coaster. It burned down in 1919.

  • ​The years just before and following The Great Depression brought with them a neighborhood consisting mostly of first- and second-generation Jewish-Americans and, later, concentration camp survivors. Of the estimated 55,000 Holocaust survivors living in New York City as of 2011, most live in Brighton Beach. To meet the bursting cultural demands, the New Brighton Theater converted itself to the States’ first Yiddish theater in 1919.

  • ​Brighton Beach was re-developed as a fairly dense residential community with the final rebuilding of the Brighton Beach railway into a modern rapid transit line, known as the BMT Brighton Line of the New York City Subway c. 1920. The subway system in the neighborhood is above ground on an elevated structure. The opening of the BMT Brighton Line had conflicting consequences: although it made Brighton Beach viable as a year-round community, it was now much more feasible for visitors to return home in the evening rather than spend the night. This led to the closure of the Brighton Beach Hotel in 1924.

  • ​Today, the area has a large community of Jewish immigrants who left the Former Soviet Union since 1970. Some non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, such as Azerbaijanis, Armenians and Georgians, have also settled in Brighton Beach and the surrounding neighborhoods, taking advantage of the already established Russian-speaking community. Local NYPD officers volunteered to learn conversational Russian from the Shorefront YM-YWHA.