PP Picnic House, Bridge And Tunnel Club, 2

This story concludes our weeklong look at Brooklyn’s greatest treasure, Prospect Park.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Prospect Park Picnic House
Address: 95 Prospect Park West
Cross Streets: Behind Litchfield Villa at 5th Street and Prospect Park West
Neighborhood: Closest to Park Slope
Year Built: 1927
Architectural Style: Colonial Revival
Architect: J. Sarsfield Kennedy
Other Work by Architect: The “Gingerbread House” in Bay Ridge; houses in Prospect Park South, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope and elsewhere
Landmarked: Yes, in 1975. Also on the National Register of Historic Places

The story: The grass had hardly begun to grow in the new Prospect Park before eager picnickers swarmed the Long Meadow and other areas, ready to enjoy the outdoor spaces. The year was 1868, and the park wasn’t even done yet.

The city had already received seven requests for permits from groups of over 100 who wanted to have picnics. In response, a picnic shelter and concession stand was built in 1876.

The popularity of the park grew steadily, and as time went by, more shelters, restaurants and other buildings were added inside the park, all designed to make the park experience easier for patrons and to add to the park’s ambiance. Some of the buildings were quite charming, some quite unusual, and some just silly. (more…)

Polo at PP, composite

We continue our weeklong look at Brooklyn’s greatest treasure, Prospect Park.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

The first polo game in Prospect Park was played on June 11, 1879. It was between the Westchester Polo Club and a club from Queens.

Up until that day, “polo” had a totally different meaning to Brooklyn’s sports lovers. It meant ice polo, a game we now call hockey. It had been played in Brooklyn for several years, inaugurated by the Crescent Athletic Club and other well-to-do sports clubs.

They played in the Clermont Rink in Fort Greene, against clubs from nearby colleges like Yale and Columbia as well as other sports clubs.

As Brooklyn was getting richer, so too were her sports. Polo, the game with horses, had been played in Persia for centuries. A version of it traveled to the east, and was in play for hundreds of years in India before it was encountered by bored aristocratic British officers stationed there in the middle of the 19th century.

Two British soldiers started a polo club to introduce the sport — basically hockey on horses — to their countrymen, and the game took off and has been popular ever since.  (more…)

96 Parkside Ave, Peristyle, SSpellen 1

We continue this week’s look at Brooklyn’s natural treasure: Prospect Park. Summer is coming!

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Prospect Park Peristyle, aka Grecian Shelter, aka Croquet Shelter
Address: 96 Parkside Avenue
Cross Streets: Park Circle and Ocean Avenue
Neighborhood: Flatbush
Year Built: 1905
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: McKim, Mead & White
Other Works by Architect: In Brooklyn: Brooklyn Museum, Grand Army Plaza park entrance, and other entrances and structures within Prospect Park (Stanford White)
Landmarked: Yes, individual landmark (1968)

The story: Who doesn’t love this Classical Greek inspired structure? For many people, Prospect Park begins and ends on the Park Slope side, but other parts of the park have some of the best goodies, some hidden, and some, like this shelter, in plain view.

And to learn that it was designed by one of the finest architectural firms in the history of American architecture is just icing on the cake. As summer rapidly is upon us, let’s take a look at this wonderful folly on the Flatbush side of the park. (more…)

Prospect Park Lake composite

We continue this week’s look at Brooklyn’s natural treasure: Prospect Park.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Because it was so carefully planned and executed almost 150 years ago, Prospect Park today looks as if it has always been there. Which, of course, was the whole idea.

If you don’t know the park’s history, you could easily think that all the landscapers needed to do was to enclose the park with a fence, cut some roads and pathways, build a couple of bridges and a grand entrance or three, and mow the lawn.

But in reality, Prospect Park is as constructed as the sets of Lord of the Rings in New Zealand. Every aspect of both the park and the Shire was carefully thought out and crafted. (more…)

Meadowport Arch, Wally Gobetz on flickr 1

This week, in anticipation of summer, we are revisiting articles about the greatest masterpiece in Brooklyn: Prospect Park.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Meadowport Arch
Address: Prospect Park
Cross Streets: Roughly between Union and Carroll streets
Neighborhood: Closest to Park Slope
Year Built: 1868-1870
Architectural Style: Victorian Orientalist
Architect: Calvert Vaux with Frederick Olmsted
Other Buildings by Architect: Olmsted and Vaux designed all of the picturesque arches and bridges within the park
Landmarked: Yes (1975), also National Register of Historic Places

The story: All of the arches in Prospect Park are great for different reasons, but nothing beats the sensory experience of coming out of the Meadowport Arch and seeing the Long Meadow stretching into the distance. Only the Endale Arch, a close second, compares in this regard. For both, as Francis Morrone says in his Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, “WHAM!”

Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted were able to create this powerful experience through just the use of a tunnel and double entrance, artfully placed in front of a huge meadow. That, in a nutshell, is the mark of genius.

While the experience of walking through the tunnel is certainly quite something, especially for us greenery-starved New Yorkers; the arch itself ain’t bad either. It’s actually quite complex. (more…)

brooklyn strand map 1

After a year of community workshops, architecture firm WXY Studio has presented its recommendations to link the waterfront, courthouses and the Navy Yard with a series of green spaces — an effort known as the Brooklyn Strand. The Strand would create more public space and easier walking around areas that have been neglected by the Parks Department or made inaccessible by the BQE. During a Community Board 2 meeting on Monday, which we attended, WXY principal Claire Weisz offered improvements and renderings for Borough Hall Park, Cadman Plaza Park, Commodore Barry Park and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

Here are the recommendations:

The parking lot next to Borough Hall could be moved underground, freeing up space to build a covered cafe with seating and space for events. Another plan calls for renovating the Brooklyn War Memorial and transforming it into a visitors center. Weisz also suggested adding bike lanes around Cadman Plaza Park, making it more accessible and establishing a better link with the Brooklyn Bridge.

(more…)

domino-site-e-rend-030215

Two Trees has broken ground on the first building in the Domino Sugar complex, according to a press release we just received. It’s Site E, above, where the temporary Havemeyer Park was located, on the east side of Kent Avenue between South 3rd and South 4th streets. (Click through to see a rendering showing all the buildings.)

The 16-story building at 317 Kent Avenue will have 500 rental units, including 105 affordable units. It is expected to wrap in 2017. The developer also started rebuilding the waterfront pier, which will eventually house a five-acre public part, it said.

The reconstruction of the bulkhead and pier will take about 12 to 18 months. The James Corner Field Operations-designed park will include lawns, gardens, playing fields and better streets to make it easier to get to the waterfront. There will also be an elevated “artifact walk,” as previously reported, “modeled after the High Line,” with such finds as syrup tanks and cranes from the factory.

The SHoP-designed building will be clad in zinc and copper, with many terraces, a “dramatic courtyard,” views, and careful siting framed by pubic spaces, said the release. There will also be “small scale neighborhood” shops on the ground floors.

The affordable units will be aimed at residents earning 60 percent of the area median income, aka $33,560 to $50,340 for a family of four.

By the way, the now-closed pop-op Havemeyer Park will be relocated and open again somewhere on the Domino site this summer!

Renderings by SHoP (more…)

Pros Park, Troy, Garnet Baltimore, Composite 2

On July 4th, 1902, the bands marched, politicians waxed poetic, and the people celebrated on this, the grand opening of the Warren Hill Park, on top of Mount Ida, overlooking downtown Troy. The year before, after a few positive voices of agreement, along with the usual contentious wrangling and pompous posturing, the City Council of Troy voted in favor of purchasing the parkland to create Troy’s newest and most important public park.

After debating the issue for several years, the city finally owned the land. Now it was time to hurry up and wait. People wanted to see the view that had made Mount Ida famous, a panoramic vista that on a good day, allowed people to see for miles around. Troy lies in the Hudson River valley between the Catskills and the Adirondacks, and the view from the top of the mountain would allow you to see both ranges. It was a great place to take in the summer breezes and escape the hustle and bustle of one of the nation’s busiest and wealthiest cities. The only problem was that in the rush to get people in the park, they hadn’t yet gotten around to finishing it. In fact, it was barely begun.

That was not the fault of the city’s parks landscape engineer. Garnet D. Baltimore had already scoped out other cities and their parks, including Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and had great ideas on how to make Warren Hill Park a masterpiece. But first he needed to have his plans and a budget approved. Mr. Baltimore was a scrupulous record keeper, and the Troy newspapers faithful commentators, so we know what he had to go through to get the job done. For more background on the park and the man, check out Part One and Part Two of this story. (more…)

Prospect Park, Troy postcard 1

After the great successes of New York City’s wonderful parks, such as Manhattan’s Central and Riverside Parks, as well as Brooklyn’s Prospect and Fort Greene Parks, every city in the country was envious. Cities are judged by their public buildings and public spaces, and by the beginning of the 20th century, almost every municipality and its civic movers and shakers wanted to have exemplary parks. Parks were places that every citizen, high and low, could enjoy the beauties of nature, fresh air, and room to relax.

For many urban areas, that was key to a better quality of life and a happier populace. Thanks to the philosophies of the City Beautiful Movement, city fathers also thought that parks, like great public buildings, would inspire the lower classes to civic pride, and therefore industrious behavior, better citizenship and moral uplifting. Parks were also a chance for city fathers, committee heads, wealthy donors, and ambitious landscape designers to shine. They all knew they were creating places that would live on after they were long gone. (more…)

pierhouse 1 1272015

Construction can resume at the southernmost Pierhouse building, the condo complex going up south of the Squibb Bridge at 130 Furman Street, now that the partial stop work order has been lifted. Minor adjustments have been made to the specs so the building does not interfere with the legally protected Brooklyn Heights Scenic View District.

These include removing two parapet walls on the roof and reducing the height of the building by 1.5 feet, a spokesperson told New York YIMBY. The snow-covered site, where workers have poured part of the first floor, can be seen at the bottom left of the photo above, taken in late January. The partial stop work order was rescinded Tuesday.

“We take our responsibilities to safeguard the scenic view district very seriously,” Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer told YIMBY in an emailed statement. “The changes made here will ensure the promenade’s view plane will be protected by reducing rooftop elements and adjusting the building’s height.”

Work Set to Resume at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 Building After Minor Height Adjustment [NYY]
Pierhouse Coverage [Brownstoner]

Pros Park, Troy, Composite

As our Brooklyn readers all know, Prospect Park was designed by the famed landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park. That park opened in 1857 with great fanfare and much success. As well it should; Central Park is one of the great urban parks, and Olmsted and Vaux created a masterpiece of natural and enhanced landscaping that America had never seen before. When the City Fathers from across the East River in Brooklyn went to inspect the park, of course, they wanted one too.

One of Brooklyn’s leading citizens, James S.T. Stranahan, was appointed to head a parks committee that would oversee this great project. In 1860, they picked an engineer/architect to map out the project. His name was to Egbert L. Viele, and he had actually been the original architect picked to design Central Park. That is until someone called in Olmsted and Vaux, who blew Viele out of the water with their far superior plans for the park.’

Viele would get his chance in Brooklyn. He accessed the site chosen, a huge tract of swampy and hilly land not far from Green-Wood Cemetery, up until that time, the largest park area in the city. Viele planned to include many natural features in his park, including the city’s Mount Prospect Reservoir, atop Mount Prospect, the second highest point in Brooklyn. The park would extend west towards the highest point in Brooklyn: Battle Pass, which was part of Green-Wood. Down below lay Gowanus, the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, the first decisive battle in the War of Independence, fought in 1776.

But it was the Civil War that defeated Egbert Viele. All plans for the park had to be shelved until the end of the long war, and by that time, Stranahan and his committee had years to mull over his plans, and decided to get a second opinion. As we know, they asked Olmsted and Vaux, and before the committee’s very eyes, the partners had totally redesigned the park site, dazzled the committee with their plans, and got poor Egbert fired. (more…)