Brooklyn is located on the lower Hawkesbury, a drowned river valley with an extensive tidal shoreline. Aboriginal people have lived in the area for thousands of years, exploiting the readily accessible marine resources of the area, evidenced by the ubiquitous shell middens. They were also prolific artists, carving enigmatic engravings into the soft sandstone platforms, and paintings in ochre and charcoal on the walls of sandstone shelters. Europeans moved into the area shortly after the First Fleet’s arrival in Port Jackson, searching for suitable agricultural land, and other exploitable resources. Timber cutters, lime burners, fishermen and farmers surged into the valley, and the traditional Aboriginal lifestyle was soon extinguished.
The village of Brooklyn owes its existence to the Great Northern Railway that was pushed north of Hornsby in the 1880s. The name is taken from an 1883 subdivision of land owned by the Fagan brothers at the southern end of the planned river crossing. When the railway arrived in 1887, the village developed into the new centre of commerce for the lower Hawkesbury, as produce that had been previously delivered to Sydney by coastal shipping, or primitive tracks, could now be dispatched rapidly and reliably by rail.
In 1889, the Hawkesbury River Rail Bridge was opened, forming the final link in a chain of track between Adelaide and Brisbane, and providing valuable symbolism for advocates of a federated Australia. The bridge was hailed as a major engineering feat at the time, but a combination of flawed design, and sloppy construction techniques, resulted in serious structural defects. Despite remedial work, one of the piers developed an alarming crack, and it became apparent that a new bridge was urgently required. The current bridge was constructed under difficult wartime conditions, opening in 1946.
Peats Ferry Road from Hornsby was constructed in the 1840s, connecting with a punt across the Hawkesbury River that was operated by George Peat. This route fell into disrepair once the railway arrived, and it was many years before a new concrete road was constructed in the 1920s, followed by the Berowra to Hawkesbury River section of the M1 motorway in 1968. These improved roads attracted a new breed of tourist to the town, and Brooklyn remains a popular destination for day trippers from Sydney.