As mentioned in May 22nd’s post, Saving the Interior of the Plaza Hotel, New York City isn’t known just for its landmarked buildings, but also its scenic historical sites, as well. Brooklyn’s 585-acre Prospect Park is a hybrid of built structures, planned landscapes, and natural areas left relatively unchanged. The Park features wooded and paved trails, open lawns, a lake and streams, Brooklyn’s only forest, rolling hills, and ball fields, among other recreational and educational facilities.
Prior to establishing Prospect Park, Brooklynites visited Green-Wood Cemetery to find a little outdoor recreational space. The inappropriateness of using a cemetery for leisure activities soon became apparent, as evidenced by the rules listed on this pass for visiting Green-Wood, to the right.
James Stranahan, a business and civic leader, was an early advocate of establishing a park in Brooklyn. With significant real estate interests in Brooklyn, he hoped a park would help lure residents to the city and turn Brooklyn into the next great metropolis. He was a driving force behind the new park, serving as its first President of the Prospect Park Commission and selecting the design by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the landscape architects responsible for Manhattan’s Central Park, as well as many other parks throughout the city and country.
Construction began on the park in 1866.
Olmsted felt a park should provide a rural respite from the demands of city life. Among the many sites designed for the park was the Concert Grove House and Pavilion (sometimes referred to as the Oriental Pavilion, and in this postcard to the left, as the Shelter House), built adjacent to the Lake so Park visitors could enjoy music in a pastoral setting. One of the original features of the Concert Grove was Music Island, where live performances were held as visitors sat in an open air pavilion along the side of the lake. In 1949, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses demolished the Concert Grove House, converted the Concert Pavilion to a snack bar, and constructed a skating ring in the area in between the lake and the Concert Grove. Following a fire in 1979 which nearly destroyed the Concert Pavilion, it sat dormant until 1987, when it was restored to its original design.
Today, more work to restore this section of the Park to its original design is underway. Those of you who frequent Prospect Park may have noticed the construction going on along the southeastern side of the park. The construction fencing around the site announces, “Lakeside is coming!” The Lakeside project will restore the view of Music Island and recreate the promenade along the Lake, restoring the original view conceived by Olmsted and Vaux pictured below.