Past and Present: The Mt. Prospect Reservoir

A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.

Mount Prospect is the second highest point in Brooklyn. During the Battle of Brooklyn, in 1776, the Continental Army used it as a lookout point, as one could see Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, NY Harbor and New Jersey from there. In 1856, the city of Brooklyn built a huge reservoir on the top of the hill to supply water to the western part of the city. The water came from the Ridgewood Reservoir in Cypress Hills, flowing to Mt. Prospect through underground pipes. The 80’ tower at the edge of the reservoir also held water, which then flowed to a pumping station on Underhill Avenue, and then on down the line to homes and businesses. When Brooklyn and the other boroughs consolidated into New York City, each borough gave up its separate water system, joining the City of New York’s Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity.

By the 1930’s, NYC was getting its water from upstate sources in the Catskills and the Delaware Valley, and the Ridgewood and Mt. Prospect Reservoirs were now obsolete and no longer useful. Mount Prospect reservoir was filled in, and the tower torn down, in 1935. In 1940, control of the land was given to the Parks Department, which built a playground and landscaped the park. The new Main Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library opened the next year. The park is now 7.9 acres of fields and greenery, still high on the hill.

The postcard on the left shows the reservoir and water tower, with the arch in Grand Army Plaza in the background. A very empty Eastern Parkway runs along the right side, at the bottom of the hill. The postcard dates from 1907, and shows a very built-up Brooklyn. The photo on the right was taken last year, and shows the fields created by filling in the reservoir. The mature trees are only around 60 or 70 years old. GMAP

Postcard: Brooklyn Collection, Brooklyn Public Library

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