For some it may be hard to imagine a time when Prospect Park wasn’t a beautiful green oasis in the midst of the borough. For longtime Brooklynites, however, the tough days of the park in the 1970s and 1980s — with shuttered attractions and maintenance issues — may not seem so long ago.
The Prospect Park Alliance was founded 30 years ago this year to help sustain and restore the park. With that anniversary, and the 150th anniversary of the park itself this year, it’s a perfect time to check out some before-and-after shots of the some of the success stories.
The Boathouse, designed in 1905 by Helmle and Huberty, was no longer used for boating by the mid 20th century and was not maintained. By the 1960s there were suggestions that it was better to just demolish the building.
The Boathouse was designated a city landmark in 1968 and was finally restored in 1999. It reopened as the Audubon Center in 2002.
There were actually two carousels before the current, beloved one in the park. The first two were in different locations, and both burned down. In 1952, a new building was constructed and a vintage carousel installed. Maintenance issues took their toll and by the early 1980s, the carousel was shuttered.
After a fundraising campaign, the carousel was restored and reopened to the public in 1990.
The Ravine was originally designed by Olmsted and Vaux as a picturesque, winding place to ramble with rustic bridges and waterfalls — reminiscent of the Adirondack Mountains. By the mid 20th century, erosion had devastated much of the area.
The slopes were stabilized with thousands of yards of topsoil and native plants beginning in the mid-1990s.
The Parade Grounds, which first opened in 1869 for military exercises, have a long history as a spot for recreational gatherings. By 2000, the years of use and the rough times of the 1970s had taken their toll.
Restoration of the 40-acre Parade Grounds was completed in 2004.
One of Prospect Park’s oldest structures, the Wellhouse was once part of an elaborate pumping system that kept water flowing in the park’s artificial waterways. By the early 20th century, it was no longer needed and sat vacant.
The Wellhouse was restored this year and now houses a public restroom and the first compostable toilets in a New York City public park.
- The Grecian Folly of Prospect Park
- The Gleaming Beaux Arts Boathouse of Prospect Park
- Boating About in Prospect Park (Photos)