Fort Greene Park: The Plan and the Reality

Fort Greene Park — the borough’s first outdoor recreation area — came into being in 1848 at the urging of Walt Whitman, then editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In 1858, the park was so heavily used (and showing it) that talk began of building an even larger one to the south. In 1867, with work on Prospect Park proceeding apace, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux were hired to redesign Fort Greene Park (then known as Washington Park). Their plans, at top, called for a vault to hold the remains of American soldiers who had died on the British prison ships that had been anchored in Wallabout Bay during the War of 1812 Revolutionary War. The Panic of 1873 resulted in only a scaled-back version (bottom photo) being actualized: The observatory and rostrum were omitted and only the foundation for the Martyrs Memorial was built. The revitalized park was still a big hit and led to a construction boom of brownstones in the surrounding area.
Photo from New York 1880: Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age by Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman.

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