It was hard to tell which looked more brilliant in Prospect Park this week, the bright pink of a cherry tree in full bloom or the glistening roof of the newly restored Concert Grove Pavilion. A ceremonial ribbon cutting was held on Tuesday, marking the end of a restoration project to make the historic open air picnic space accessible to park goers.
The particular significance of bringing back a sheltered space for Brooklynites to social distance out in the fresh air during the pandemic was touched on by a number of those who spoke before the wielding of scissors on ribbon.
It is a particularly stylish space in which to picnic. The dramatic roofline is covered in terne-coated stainless-steel roof shingles and colorfully painted cast iron columns adorn the interior. There is a mélange of ornamental elements, including wooden pendants, trim pierced with a trefoil pattern and delicate ironwork around the roof and at the crest. Those details have been hard for visitors to appreciate as access to the pavilion was blocked off in 2014.
The wood and iron structure was originally built in 1874 as an open air shelter for Concert Grove, a pastoral music experience complete with a restaurant planned by park designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The pavilion was designed by Vaux and an initial sketch appeared in an 1873 Brooklyn Park Commissioners annual report.
The structure, known simply as the Concert Grove Shelter or Pavilion when first constructed, took on a few different names over the years as musical performances shifted elsewhere in the park, including the Flower Garden Shelter, Teahouse and, late in the 20th century, Oriental Pavilion. The latter was a reference to the Victorian-era trend, part of what was later characterized as Orientalism, which scrambled together the distinct artistic cultures of the East, liberally borrowing motifs from Chinese, Moorish, Hindu and Egyptian architecture, among others.
While the original restaurant was demolished in the 1940s, the pavilion remained standing with the addition of a brick snack bar under its roof. That addition almost led to its demise when a fire broke out in 1974. When the debris was cleared all that remained were the cast iron columns.
A restored pavilion was unveiled in 1988 and that restoration gave the template for the recent work, albeit with more modern waterproofing materials. The Prospect Park Alliance Design and Construction team was behind the research and design of the restoration and supervised the construction, which kicked off in January 2020. Paint colors for the intricately detailed cast-iron columns were in their final testing stages when Brownstoner got a behind-the-scenes look at the restoration last August.
Park goers were already ambling through the space on Tuesday, stopping to look up and admire the surprise of a stained glass window on the inside of the dome. While the shelter is open for all to enjoy, picnickers can also reserve the atmospheric shelter. “It just takes a permit and you can use it,” Prospect Park Alliance President Sue Donoghue told those assembled for the event. Permits for small gatherings are just $25; guidelines and application information can be found online.
[Photos by Susan De Vries unless noted otherwise]
- Restoring the Colorful Delight of the Concert Grove Pavilion in Prospect Park
- A Delightfully Striped Interior Returns to Prospect Park’s Endale Arch
- Watch Sheep Stroll Through Prospect Park in a Rare Newsreel From the 1920s
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