The movement to create Prospect Park, a large public greenery for America’s third largest city, began in the late 1850s. Construction began in 1866 and within two years city officials reported that 100,000 people had visited the park in the month of July - even though the first construction stage was still three years away from being completed. Despite its popularity the area around the green oasis was slow to develop. As late as 1884 the area to the west of the park that flows downhill to the Gowanus Canal and the flatlands beyond was still characterized as “fields and pasture.”
Soon thereafter a new street grid was laid out and the first mansions began to appear. A wonderland of Victorian finials, pinnacles, pediments, towers, turrets, bay windows, and stoops quickly followed and the lavish homes clustered around Plaza Street and Prospect Park West were christened the Gold Coast, rivaling the opulent lifestyle of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. The 1890 United State Census confirmed that Park Slope was the nation’s richest neighborhood.
Like most of New York City, Park Slope slumped through the middle of the 1900s. In mid-century one could find hundreds of vacant houses. By the 1960s, an official revitalization movement was in full swing to preserve the neighborhood’s historic row houses, stately brownstones, and Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival, and Romanesque mansions. The boom that followed has once again made the Slope a premier New York address. In December 2006, Natural Home magazine named Park Slope one of America’s ten best neighborhoods based on criteria including parks, green spaces and neighborhood gathering spaces; farmer’s markets and community gardens; public transportation and locally-owned businesses; and environmental and social policy.
Our walking tour will start at Grand Army Plaza where, in 1892, President Grover Cleveland presided over the unveiling of The Soldiers and Sailors Arch, a notable Park Slope landmark...
Grand Army Plaza
within Plaza Street at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Park West, Eastern Parkway, and Vanderbilt Avenue
Originally called Prospect Park Plaza, this monumental space was conceived by designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux as a grand entrance to their new park, creating a buffer with the boisterous city beyond. If features an 11-acre oval with concentric rings arranged as streets. In 1926 it became the Grand Army Plaza, the same as the southeastern corner of Central Park.
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument
Grand Army Plaza
The brother team of Charles W. and Anthony A. Stoughton created a white marble Greek temple memorial to the sacrifice of men who died to preserve the Union in the Civil War. Dedication took place on Memorial Day 1902. On facing walls inside the arch are depictions of Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln; it is the only known equestrian statue of the sixteenth President. William Rudolf O’Donovan sculpted both men and Thomas Eakins executed the two horses. The Quadriga resides at the top and depicts the lady Columbia, an allegorical representation of the United States, riding in a chariot drawn by two horses. Two winged Victory figures, each leading a horse, trumpets Columbia’s arrival. The lower pedestals facing the park hold the Spirit of the Army group and the Spirit of the Navy group.
Grand Army Plaza
Combining the talents of architect Edgerton Swarthout and sculptor Eugene Francis Savage , this is the fourth fountain to grace this site. Completed in 1932, it carries the name of Brooklyn-based financier and philanthropist Frank Bailey, who funded it as a memorial to his wife Mary Louise to the tune of $125,000. Bailey began his working life as at the Title Guarantee and Trust Company and wound up as president of the company for more than 30 years. The fountain, which spews 60,000 gallons of water an hour, features a sculpture grouping of allegorical and mythical figures including Neptune, the god of water and the sea and a pair of nudes representing Wisdom and Felicity. The original 1867 fountain boasted only a single jet of water.
WALK SOUTH THROUGH PROSPECT PARK ON WEST AVENUE.
Prospect Park West between Fourth and Fifth streets
Edward Litchfield was a lawyer who made his fortune in railroads. He eventually bought up a square mile of land in Park Slope in the 1850s and hired one of the most influential architects of the mid-19th century, Alexander Jackson Davis to build his new house atop Grace Hill that commanded a view down to the harbor. Davis delivered an outstanding Italianate villa dressed in stucco that simulated cut stone (long ago stripped but under restoration). For the past century, since 1913 the Litchfield residence has done duty as the Brooklyn Headquarters of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
TURN RIGHT ON PROSPECT PARK WEST.
William H. Childs House
53 Prospect Park West at northwest corner of Second Street
The J.T. Robertson Soap Company of Manchester, Connecticut first manufactured Bon Ami polishing soap in 1886; its Sapolio scouring soap of finely ground quartz and tallow was the Ivory of its day. William H. Childs and his cousin, William Henry Harrison Childs, organized the firm of Childs and Childs in 1890 and became the exclusive sales agent for Bon Ami. William Childs used his soap powder money to build this Jacobean home with English influences, unlike most of its street companions. It is a William Tubby creation.
Henry C. Hulbert House
49 Prospect Park West
Henry C. Hulbert was a Massachusetts native who entered the mercantile trade in 1850 as a 19-year old and built a fortune in the paper trade. The paper may explain the choice of gleaming white limestone to execute the Romanesque Revival design by Brooklyn architect Montrose Morris. Its detractors have lampooned the castle as “cadaverous” and resembling “bleached bones.” The 1892 house, used for years as a school, is framed by dissonant polygonal and round corner towers.
TURN LEFT ON MONTGOMERY PLACE.
Montgomery Place is one of the truly great blocks of American row housing, built as a real estate development by Harvey Murdock. Seeking the picturesque, he commissioned noted architect Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert to create most of the streetscape. Gilbert was a young graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and infused the rock-face brownstone, brick, and terra-cotta buildings with classical influences. Gilbert designed 20 of the 46 houses on this scrumptious block before drifting off to the lucrative commissions of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
54-60 Montgomery Place
Anchoring one of the most picturesque blocks in New York City, the delicate terra-cotta ornament is in sharp contrast to the boldly scaled detail on much of the block. Number 58 has superb Roman brickwork includes rounded-brick voussoirs and fabulous sheet metal cornice.
52 Montgomery Place
This 1890 rockface brownstone sports a dynamic bay window at the scale of a tower.
48 & 50 Montgomery Place
Brick decorations adorn these twin mansions by C.P.H. Gilbert from 1890.
47 Montgomery Place
The trappings of the French Renaissance were tapped for this red sandstone confection arranged beneath a steep, tiled pyramidal roof.
36-46 Montgomery Place
Thin Roman bricks, rock-face brownstone, and terra-cotta modillions all conspire for this Gilbert designed creation; the client was renowned stained-glass artist Alex S. Locke.
45 Montgomery Place
This 1899 creation highlights the talents of architect George Fletcher Babb, Walter Cook, and Daniel W. Willard with a rusticated granite base and red brick and limestone above. Two years later the firm would complete the mansion for Henry Carnegie on the fringes of Central Park.
37-43 Montgomery Place
This Neoclassical palace sprung from the from the pen of one of Brooklyn’s finest architects, George P. Chappell in 1891. Nothing is known of his origins or training but he did as much to shape the Brooklyn streetscape as any Victorian architect and worked into the era of Art Deco in the late
35 Montgomery Place
Look up to see stone scrollwork all the way into the gable of this 1889 townhouse.
30-34 Montgomery Place
Robert Dixon helmed one of the busiest architectural practices in Brooklyn; this roomy home is one of his creations.
21-25 Montgomery Place
C.P.H. Gilbert unleashed his imagination for these offerings in the early 1890s.
19 Montgomery Place
Gilbert executed his plans for this 1898 house with quarry-faced stone and bricks; it is notable for its rusticated arches.
16 Montgomery Place
This building anchors a triad of C.P.H. Gilbert homes, look for different shades of stone.
11 Montgomery Place
Gilbert infused his Romanesque Revival brownstone with some Dutch influences for street developer Harvey Murdock in 1888. It may have been the first on the block that was named for Major General Richard Montgomery, who led an ill-fated invasion of Canada during the American Revolution a century earlier.
TURN RIGHT ON EIGHTH AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT ON CARROLL STREET.
123 Eighth Avenue at southeast corner of Carroll Street
This Italian Renaissance townhome from 1894 was fashioned from gray brick and terra-cotta tile to form its pilasters and classical entrance.
Thomas Adams House
119 Eighth Avenue at northeast corner of Carroll Street
Thomas Adams, Jr. was the inventor of Chiclets chewing gum and the automatic vending machines that dispensed the delicacy. He commissioned C.P.H. Gilbert for this double house in 1888 for himself and his son. Gilbert tapped the Romanesque influences of Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson for the bold entrance arch on Carroll Street, hailed as one of the finest in New York.
838 Carroll Street
This house and its two 40-foot-wide neighbors to the east are three brownstone and brick beauties. They were all designed by C.P.H. Gilbert and went up in 1887.
848 Carroll Street
This Neoclassical invader to Park Slope arrived in 1905, dressed in limestone and brick.
855-861 Carroll Street
This foursome represents the work of Stanley M. Holden; look up to see stained glass and carved stone faces on the yellow Roman brick facade.
856-58-60 Carroll Street
The brickwork is especially fine on these Romanesque Revival effort.
862 Carroll Street
Frederick B. Langston, one of several talented Swedish designers working in Brooklyn in the late 19th century, designed this house in brick and sandstone in 1889. Here he provided a different window treatment on each of the three stories.
863 Carroll Street
Napoleon LeBrun and his sons Pierre L. and Michel Moracin were known for their elegant buildings first in Philadelphia and after 1861, in New York City. The architects typically shepherded large projects like churches and fire stations and early skyscrapers but this is one of their rare residential efforts, a brick Romanesque Revival with a curved balustrade from 1890.
870-872 Carroll Street
William Tubby hailed from Iowa but after architectural training at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1875 he settled in Brooklyn Heights and commenced a career of more than 50 years. Here he blended the Queen Anne and Shingle styles for this mansion in 1887.
876-878 Carroll Street
By the time this house arrived on Carroll Street in 1911 the Colonial Revival style was in vogue as seen here with brick and limestone trim; it features such hallmarks of the style as bay and double-hung windows.
18 and 19 Prospect Park West
southwest corner of Carroll Street
Montrose Morris, who did as much to shape the Brooklyn streetscape as anyone in the last years of the 19th century. Here he decorated the block with a pair of limestone Renaissance Revival houses. Ionic pilasters grace the upper floors and #18 boasts a hemispherical glass and bronze entrance canopy.
TURN LEFT ON PROSPECT PARK WEST.
13 and 15 Prospect Park West
These English Tudor style homes from 1919 sport two of the earliest driveways and garages in Park Slope.
TURN LEFT ON PRESIDENT STREET.
944-946 President Street
This tandem, enlivened with wrought iron and stained glass, were constructed between 1886 and 1890.
918-925 President Street
These 14 attractive bowfront brownstones that march down President Street were built in 1899.
TURN LEFT ON EIGHTH AVENUE.
105 Eighth Avenue, between President and Carroll streets, east side
This limestone mansion, home to a Montessori School from 1970 until 2012, was built in 1916 in the Regency Revival style - entrance comes through Corinthian columns.
RETURN TO PRESIDENT STREET AND TURN LEFT.
876-878 President Street
Architect Albert E. White was busy in Brooklyn neighborhoods in the 1890s and he gave this Queen Anne-flavored brownstone a prominent bay window.
Stewart Woodford House
869 President Street
A pair of oriel windows are standouts on this Spanish-Moorish house from 1885. Stewart Lyndon Woodford who lived here was a lawyer and Civil War veteran who went into New York politics after hostilities ended. He rose as high as Lieutenant Governor and served a term in the United States House of Representatives in the 1870s.
TURN RIGHT ON 7TH AVENUE AND RIGHT ON UNION STREET.
889-905 Union Street
between Seventh and Eighth avenues on the north side
This run of eclectic Queen Anne brownstones is another product of Albert E. White. He gave the houses a succession of bay windows and decorative friezes.
905-913 Union Street
between Seventh and Eighth avenues on the north side
The picturesque parade of Queen Anne houses continues with brick, shingle and brownstone creations.
70 Eighth Avenue
northwest corner of Union Street
Lansing C. Holden provided this standout Victorian mansion in 1887. The composition is awash with turrets, beefy gables and terra-cotta and stained glass ornamentation. The building later did duty as a restaurant and endured a period of abandonment before joining the Park Slope renaissance.
TURN LEFT ON EIGHTH AVENUE.
64-66 Eighth Avenue
between Berkeley Place and Union Street, west side
These Romanesque-flavored mansions were crafted from yellow Euclid stone from Ohio on plans drawn from the the three Parfitt brothers from England in 1889. Number 64 was the residence of Irving T. Bush, who inherited $25,000,000 from his “oil king” father and invested $10,000,000 in building the mammoth Bush Terminal, an industrial park on the Sunset Park waterfront. On June 9, 1930, less than one hour after his divorce was finalized in Reno, Nevada, Bush married his third wife, Marian Spore, the “Angel of the Bowery,” who helped feed the homeless on New York’s skid row.
TURN RIGHT ON BERKELEY PLACE.
George P. Tangeman House
276 Berkeley Place
George P. Tangeman owned the Royal Baking Powder company that began in 1866 and was an early advocate of mass advertising that turned the business into a consumer goods conglomerate. He awarded the commission for his home to Hugh Lamb and Charles Alonzo Rich, architects who teamed up in 1880 and operated together until the end of the 19th century. Their list of credits included Theodore Roosevelt’s house at Sagamore Hill. For this mansion in 1891 combined elements of the venerable Romanesque Revival style with elements from the emerging classical revival forms.
RETURN TO EIGHTH STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
The Montauk Club
25 Eighth Avenue, northeast corner of Lincoln Place
With founding members whose names now identify Brooklyn neighborhoods like Dean, Lefferts, Montgomery and Underhill, the private Montauk club formed in 1889. Celebrated architect Francis H. Kimball based his clubhouse design in 1891 on palaces lining Venice’s Grand Canal. Friezes on the upper stories remember the namesake Long Island Indian tribe that once ruled the area.
TURN LEFT ON LINCOLN PLACE.
Charles Fletcher House
214 Lincoln Place, between Seventh and Eighth avenues, south side
This brick and brownstone Queen Anne was built for Charles Fletcher, a gas company executive, in 1883.
181 Lincoln Place
One of the oldest independent schools in New York City, the Berkeley Carroll School traces its origins to 1883 and to a series of informal classes held by the Reverend Alfred C. Roe. In 1886 the school received its charter from New York State. Today’s school is a conservative 1992 brick and limestone addition that you can compare with the flamboyant 1896 Jacobean-style building from Richard Walker and Charles Morris that still stands next door.
Brooklyn Conservatory of Music
58 Seventh Avenue, northwest corner of Lincoln Place
This five-story brownstone with ornamental brickwork began life as the home of William M. Brasher, a millionaire in “oil-cloths.” Brooklyn architect S. F. Evelette in 1881 drew up the plans in 1881, outlining the roof with stylish cast-iron cresting. Brasher had one daughter, Louisa, whose tumultuous personal life led William Brasher’s widow to leave the million-dollar estate to charity when she passed in 1920. It became the Park Slope Masonic Club in 1924 and the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in 1944. Founded in 1897 by Edward Adolf Whitelaw, who served as its head until his death in 1944, the Conservatory was modeled on European conservatories, with students auditioning for admission.
Lincoln Plaza Hotel
153 Lincoln Place, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, north side
This Romanesque Revival mansion was built in 1887 for a merchant named F.L. Babbott, and was expanded nine years later. After Babbott died in the 1930s, the house was chopped up and turned into a rooming house for unwed mothers. It later became a hotel and at its lowest ebb in the 1970s offered the use of rooms for $15 an hour. Today the operation is a more conventional luxury condominium.
John Condon House139 Lincoln Place, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, north side
John Condon was a cemetery florist with his greenhouse opposite the Fifth Avenue gate of Green-Wood Cemetery. His Romanesque Revival house from 1881 is accented with a lion’s head corbel.
Sixth Avenue Baptist Church
Sixth Avenue, northeast corner of Lincoln Place
The church was founded in 1867 by the prolific hymn writer, Robert Lowery, who originated several churches in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The brick house of worship with limestone trim lost its corner steeple in the Great Hurricane of 1938.
TURN RIGHT ON 6TH AVENUE AND TURN RIGHT ON ST. JOHN’S PLACE.
William M. Thallon and Edward Bunker Houses
176 and 178 St. John’s Place, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, south side
These stately Queen Anne residences, built for neighboring physicians in 1888, bring a bit of the German Rhineland to Park Slope.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
139 St. John’s Place, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, north side
This parish was founded in 1826 as the second Episcopalian congregation in Brooklyn. Its Victorian Gothic meetinghouse dates to 1889 and is crafted from quarry-cut and random ashlar in multiple shades of brownstone. The arched openings are framed by alternating cream and brownstone voussoirs in a style popularized by Victorian stylist John Ruskin.
Memorial Presbyterian Church
42-48 Seventh Avenue, southwest corner of St. John’s Place
The congregation was formed in 1866 and was soon meeting in a wooden structure on Prospect Place between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The price tag for the building and land was $7,500. The current Gothic sanctuary was erected in 1882-83 and is constructed of Belleville brownstone with a roof of blue slate. Architects Pugin & Walter outfitted the church with a 117-foot buttressed stone spire, that serves as a porch above the main entrance to the church.
TURN LEFT ON 7TH AVENUE.
Grace United Methodist Church and Parsonage
29-35 Seventh Avenue, northeast corner of St. John’s Place
The Parfitt brothers, Henry and Walter, sailed from England in 1875 to Brooklyn in 1875, where they established one of the town’s busiest architectural practices. They were joined by their younger brother Albert in 1882, a year before they executed this exotic Romanesque-Moorish flavored church.
Lillian Ward House
21 Seventh Avenue, southeast corner of Sterling Place
In the morning mist of December 16, 1960, two airliners collided over Staten Island. One plane broke apart at impact and the other, crippled beyond control, flew on until it crashed into the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place with its nose on the doorstep of Lillian Ward’s old house. All on board the two planes and six people on the ground were killed. The death toll of 134 was the largest in American history up to that time and it marked the first time an airplane’s flight recorder, or black box, was used to analyze data in a plane crash. Architect Lawrence B. Valk built this and another at 23-27 as rental properties for Charles Pied. Valk typically designed churches but did the occasional residence, such as this. He began his career in 1859 and took commissions until his death in 1924.
TURN RIGHT ON STERLING PLACE AND RIGHT AGAIN ON FLATBUSH AVENUE TO RETURN TO THE STARTING POINT IN GRAND ARMY PLAZA.
After losing Boston in March, 1776, Sir William Howe retreated to Canada to lick his wounds and began to take the American Revolution seriously. He sailed for Staten Island on July 2-3 and waited for reinforcements. By August 20 he had a force of over 30,000 men, a quarter of which were German mercenaries. it was the largest British army yet assembled in the New World. George Washington, already in New York with the Continental Army, knew an attack would be forthcoming. He chose to establish fortifications along the Brooklyn Heights on the western end of Long Island.
On the morning of August 26, 1776, Howe’s assault began. The British and Germans soon routed the American left and center. Desperate fighting ensued at the stone Cortelyou House, which guarded the man American escape route from the field. Brigadier General William Stirling attacked the house six times to divert British musket fire, while colonials attempted to scamper away through the stream by the house. British reinforcements were required to drive the dogged Stirling away.
As was his pattern, the overconfident Howe failed to follow up on his victory, finish American military resistance, and end any thoughts of American independence. The Continental Army survived, albeit in disorderly retreat. Almost all of Stirling’s 250 Maryland troops were dead. Today, plaques just north of the zoo commemorate this event, as does the Maryland Monument at the foot of Lookout Hill.
Not much of anything significant happened on Prospect Hill (located behind today’s Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library) for the next 90 years. In 1866 Calvert Vaux, fresh off his success at creating America’s first landscaped grounds in Manhattan’s Central Park submitted a site plan for a similar project in the City of Brooklyn. When it was approved, he brought his Central Park partner Frederick Law Olmsted on board. Olmsted believed parks should function as a green escape for people of every class to find a rural respite from the incessant pace of city life. He wanted to plant trees and gardens where others viewed public parks as a place to plant imposing structures and memorials to famous citizens.
Olmsted’s vision prevailed and soon the 320 acre park was being transformed into rolling green meadows, meandering carriage drives with high elevation scenic lookouts, woodland waterfalls and springs, and a rich forest complete with maples, magnolia and cherry trees, among others, and exotic plant and tree species from the Far East and Europe. Original Park structures included rustic shelters, arbors, sandstone bridges and arches. A Concert Grove House and Pavilion were built adjacent to the Lake so Park visitors could enjoy music in a pastoral setting, and there was a Wellhouse near Lookout Hill and a Dairy with milking cows.
Like the city that surrounds it, Prospect Park struggled through lean times in the mid-1900s. Maintenance was neglected and the park looked weary. The bronze sculpture of Columbia at Grand Army Plaza fell over in her chariot. Usership dropped to less than two million by the late 1970s. But the City pledged $10 million for various restoration projects, wisely allocating a gradual rebirth that enabled targeted areas of the park to feed upon one another. Today the park is once again a Brooklyn showcase, attracting more than 8 million visitors a year - about twice the visitation of the Grand Canyon.
Let’s look at some of the highlights to be found in Prospect Park, roughly from north to south...
200 Eastern Parkway, northeastern corner of Prospect Park
This Beaux Arts monumental building is one of the largest museums in the world but it is only 25% of what was originally planned in 1897 - the rest disappeared when Brooklyn got consolidated into New York City the following year. The original design by the architects McKim, Mead & White was meant to house comprehensive collections of art, natural history, and science objects, as well as myriad educational and research activities. The ambitious building plan, had it been fully realized, would have produced the largest single museum structure in the world. Inside, the Egyptian collection is among the finest anywhere; outside the facade is lined with sculptures of historic thinkers and artists.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
1000 Washington Avenue, northeast section of Prospect Park
Growing from its humble beginnings as an ash dump in the late 1800s, Brooklyn Botanic Garden has come to represent today the very best in urban gardening and horticultural display. McKim, Mead & White were appointed to design the fifty-acre site in 1897. Key elements of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden were carefully positioned to align with the Brooklyn Museum; the Cherry Esplanade is located on an axis directly behind the Museum, while the mall of the Osborne Garden runs along what would have been the completed building’s western side.
northern boundary of Prospect Park
In their original plan Olmsted and Vaux conceived of the first park-and-parkway system to be built in the United States. Their sketches included radiating parkways to key points in the city but only two were ever built, including this one in 1870.
Brooklyn Public Library
Flatbush at Eastern Parkway, in the northern section of Prospect Park
Raymond F. Almirall designed the library to look like an open book in 1908 but it wasn’t until 1941 that construction actually took place and Beaux Arts architecture was about two decades out of style. So “the book” picked up an Art Moderne wrapping.
Long Meadownorth-central section of Prospect Park
Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux saw the Long Meadow as “a broad stretch of slightly undulating meadow without defined edges, itself lost in a maze of shadows of scattered trees.” They wanted the Long Meadow to be a more natural outdoor space, as opposed to the artificially delineated spaces of their previous work, Central Park. Ironically, however, a great deal of construction was necessary to create the appearance of a “natural” meadow. Woods were thinned out in some places and transplanted in others. Large quantities of earth were moved around to fill in the swampy peat bog that occupied the area and create the tree-covered embankments that make the space seem like a continuous unfolding of pastoral scenery.
west-central section of Prospect Park
The Picnic House occupies a site favored by park visitors for over a century. In 1868, before the park was even finished there were almost four score permits processed for parties of 100 picnickers. In 1876 a wooden shelter was added for their use which stood until a fire in 1927. Canadian-born architect James Sarsfield Kennedy, known for his fanciful English-countryside inspired creations, designed the current Picnic House.
center of Prospect Park
To Park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the Ravine was to be the heart of Prospect Park and the centerpiece of an Adirondack-like tableau. The “Ravine District” represented their greatest challenge: It was at the most remote and topographically varied section of the Park, with the highest elevations and the most rugged terrain. This limited the potential uses of the area and subjugated all plans to the natural tendencies of the land. At the same time, the Ravine epitomized the designers’ desire to create heavily forested mountain scenery right in the middle of Brooklyn.
east-central section of Prospect Park
The first animals on display in Prospect Park showed up in the late 1800s, donated by well-to-do New Yorkers. The collection was known as the Menagerie and operated informally until Parks Commissioner Robert Moses used Great Depression stimulus funds to open the Prospect Park Zoo on Flatbush Avenue on July 3, 1935. Today the collection boasts over 600 animals representing some 150 species.
Lefferts Historic House
eastern section of Prospect Park
The Lefferts family was among the earliest European settlers in Brooklyn, tracing back to Dutch colonist Pieter Janse Hagewout who sailed from Holland aboard the De Bonte Koe in 1660. His son Leffert Pietersen built the house which was destroyed by retreating Americans in the Battle of Brooklyn during the American Revolution. Peter Lefferts, a great-great-grandson of Pieter Hagewout and one of the wealthiest landowners in Kings County, rebuilt Lefferts Homestead prior to 1783. Members of the Lefferts family continued to live in the house until 1918, when they donated it to the City. At that time Lefferts Homestead was moved several blocks from its location near Flatbush Avenue and Maple Street to its present location in Prospect Park.
eastern section of Prospect Park
A series of carousels have delighted visitors to Prospect Park since 1874. The current incarnation, sporting horses by master carver Charles Carmel, was moved from Coney Island to its present spot near the Willink Entrance in 1952. Of the 6,000 carousels constructed in the United States during the golden age of carnivals in the early part of the 20th century, only 200 remain intact. Twelve are the handiwork of Carmel, who operated from a shop located on Ocean Parkway near the Prospect Park Horse Stables. His imaginative rendering of a running horse’s spirited expression and flowing mane, accompanied by flamboyant tassels and feathers, became the standard for carousel design.
western section of Prospect Park
The architectural firm of Helmle, Huberty and Hudswell, who also designed the Boathouse, drew up plans to accommodate the tennis players in 1910. The classically-inspired buildings were a sharp departure from Frederick Law Olmsted’s pastoral vision of minimal, rustic structures that sat lightly on the land.
western section of Prospect Park
Architect Aymar Embury II, who also designed the Prospect Park Zoo, created the Bandshell in 1939. The Prospect Park Dance Area hosted nightly performances in the 1940s and 1950s, often featuringsome of the biggest names in the entertainment business. This land was part of the estate owned by Edwin Clarke Litchfield, who built the nearby Litchfield Villa in 1857.
south-center of Prospect Park
This rolling meadow is ringed by some of the oldest trees in Prospect Park. The shady grove at the north end has hosted live performances since the 1880s and is currently the home of the octagonal Music Pagoda.
southeastern section of Prospect Park
This space was envisioned as a large promenade introducing audiences to open-air concerts on Music Island, a small islet in the middle of the nearby Lake. Architects Thomas Wisedell and Calvert Vaux graced the formal area with the Concert Grove House and the Concert Grove Pavilion in 1874. Robert Moses put his oft-time unsentimental stamp on the Grove in 1949 by demolishing the Concert Grove House and transforming the graceful Oriental-themed Pavilion into a snack bar. The Concert Grove is decorated with historic bronze sculptures, including a monumental Abraham Lincoln that stood in Grand Army Plaza until 1895 and is one of the oldest statues in the Park.
southeastern section of Prospect Park
A centerpiece of Robert Moses’ plan for a modern Prospect Park was the Wollman Rink where patrons enjoyed skating in the winter and boating in the summer. The Rink, opened in 1961, was named after Kate Wollman, whose family helped fund its construction. The Wollman family had previously donated $600,000 for the construction of the Wollman Rink in Central Park in 1949.