Before IKEA and Fairway and Sunny's... Red Hook was home to Hoovervilles, corruption and crime. In the 1950s, many of the 21,000 residents of the neighborhood were longshoremen living in the Red Hook Houses (which were built in 1938 "to accommodate the growing number of dockworkers and their families"). According to PBS, "the neighborhood had a tough reputation—with such notorious figures as Al Capone getting their start there as small-time criminals—and its seedy side was immortalized in movies such as the On the Waterfront (1954), starring a young Marlon Brando."

In the 1960s, containerization replaced traditional bulk shipping for the most part, causing a lot of the area's businesses (and jobs) to move to New Jersey—"unemployment increased quickly as industries abandoned Red Hook, and the neighborhood’s economy underwent a rapid decline." Click through for a look at the area just before all that went down, with these photos from Brooklyn Visual Heritage, all shot between 1952 and 1961.

And if you want more, the Bowery Boys have a great podcast on the neighborhood's history.