The Rivalry of Brooklyn Neighborhoods: Pigtown and Spotless Town


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Brooklyn had a small neighborhood not-so-affectionately known as “Pigtown.” The area straddled what is now Prospect Lefferts Gardens and East Flatbush. It earned its moniker from its high density of pig farms, which filled the air with sounds and smells. The poor town was something of a wasteland, with ash dumps, piles of garbage, and farm animals roaming free. Starved stray dogs were known to attack pedestrians walking through. People would go there to unload their trash and old junk.

On top of being a complete mess, Pigtown also had a bit of a crime problem. In 1891, Judge Sweeney won the Pigtown pig in a raffle—and it was promptly stolen as a prank by the town constable and an assistant keeper of the hall of records. In 1896, Thomas McCormick, the “terror of Pigtown,” barged into a barbershop and swallowed two pet canaries. This was a mild offense for the notorious McCormick, who was later shot five times by a man who claimed McCormick hit on his married sister.  

Down the street from this anarchic area was a completely different neighborhood. Starting on the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and Union Street in Crow Hill (now Crown Heights), this shiny new community was so fancy and immaculate that it was called “Spotless Town.” 

Local bigwig Frederick W. Rowe awarded this town the name, inspired by a recent Broadway play with the same title. The Pratt estate built the 38 houses that made up the small colony. The homes had steam heat that came from a central plant. A back alleyway that ran down the line of buildings allowed for deliveries to be made discreetly, so no unsightly wagons ever had to obstruct the view of the houses. The buildings shared a single emissions-controlled generator that kept the soot and pollution out of the air. You could almost see the buildings gleam in the sunlight.

Compared to stinking, crime-ridden Pigtown, Spotless Town was a pristine utopia. It comes as no surprise that the neighborhoods had an Eagleton/Pawnee-level rivalry.

In 1919, tension between the towns hit a fever pitch. Thirty rogue goats escaped from Pigtown, heading for greener pastures. The invading animals dined on the flourishing shrubbery in Spotless Town, much to the chagrin of its inhabitants. One man—whose lawn was being treated as an all-you-can-eat buffet—called the cops. The men then shooed 29 of the goats back to their sooty home. The last remaining goat, too stubborn to leave, was lassoed and arrested. When the owner came to claim the criminal animal, he was also arrested. The other owners of the goats were asked to admonish their unruly livestock and pay a $2 fine.

This altercation led to an uproar in Pigtown; its residents declared Spotless Town “entirely too stuck up.” But with a name like that, who can blame them?