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Historic Photos of Prospect Park in Brooklyn

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Prospect Park in Brooklyn celebrates its 150th birthday this year! The gorgeous 585 acres opened in 1867. The park was created to be an urban retreat and is the perfect blend of man made structures and nature. Designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same team who designed Central Park in Manhattan, were commissioned to create Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park when they were done in Manhattan. Some say Central Park was practice for Olmstead & Vaux while Prospect Park is their true masterpiece.

 

Long Meadow is a mile of green space in Prospect Park.

Today Long Meadow is the perfect space for birthday parties, picnics and flying kites but it used to be where actual sheep grazed in Prospect Park. FUN FACT: many of the sheep were relocated to Brooklyn from Central Park in order to make room to build Tavern on the Green.

 

People watching the sheep graze in Prospect Park, circa 1895.

prospect parks sheep vintage

[Photo: New York City Parks Archives]

Boathouse in Prospect Park.

The original boathouse was built in 1867 when the park first opened. Here it is in the 1890s.

[Photo via Brooklyn Visual Heritage]

It was quite different than what it looks like today. The boathouse was made of a rustic canopy over two piers.

[Photo via MCNY]

The current boathouse was built in 1905 and has a rich history in itself. It was almost demolished in 1964 because no one visited it! Can you believe that now? For twenty years it served as a visitor center and Park Ranger station and is now home to the Prospect Park Audubon Center. It was even seen in Martin Scorsese’s movie The Age Of Innocence.

prospect park boathouse

 

Prospect Park Lake is man made, but you’d never know it.

How cool is this vintage postcard of the lake from 1909? Most folks don’t even realize that there’s a lake in Prospect Park, but it’s there! It’s a total of 55 acres and 7 feet deep.

Prospect-Park-Lake-postcard-1909-1

 

Prospect Park Zoo opened in 1935.

Another thing most folks don’t realize is in Prospect Park is The Prospect Park Zoo! At the time the zoo was being built, New York Governor Al Smith called himself the “renting agent” of the Zoo: “two-thirds of our apartments are taken, and as far as I know, by very desirable tenants.”

prospect park zoo 

Litchfield Villa.

The Tuscan-style mansion was built for businessman Edwin Clark Litchfield between 1854-1857 by Alexander Jackson Davis. It is Davis’s best example of Italianate style architecture. Litchfield was very rich, and the reason that his house sat in Prospect Park is because he owned all the property that made up the park. In fact, the 585 acres that make up Prospect Park were but a mere fraction of all the land he owned in Brooklyn. The house still stands in the same spot today and is currently being used as the Brooklyn borough headquarters for New York City Parks Department which maintains Prospect Park. As for Litchfield, he’s buried in Green-Wood Cemetery which is not only a place we visit on our Neighborhood Tour but land which was also owned by Litchfield.

old villa prospect park 

Anyone up for a little lawn tennis?

Here’s a group playing in Prospect Park in 1885.

lawn tennis prospect park 1885

 

We hope you loved seeing these old photos of Prospect Park. They certainly remind us of a bygone era. You can learn even more about the park by taking our Neighborhood Tour! It’s just one of the many area featured on the tour.

 

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