Discover the History and Landscape of Prospect Park, Central Park’s Little Sister
Prospect Park is easily one of the most underrated New York City parks—just ask any Brooklyn resident.
Situated in the heart of Brooklyn, the 585-acre park is affectionately known as “Brooklyn’s backyard.” It draws an average of 8-10 million visitors per year from all around the world. Particularly during the summer months, locals and visitors alike can be found picnicking and barbecuing throughout its sprawling lawns.
The park invokes the picturesque and scenic ambiance of Central Park combined with the casual, neighborhood feel of a local green space.
Central Park’s Counterpart
Prospect Park was designed by the same visionaries who created Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, shortly after the Manhattan park’s completion. By 1834, Brooklyn had grown to be the nation’s third largest city within only 30 years. Due to this rapid development and growth in population, the community was desperate for a large green space. After all, the only significant one in the city at the time was Green-Wood Cemetery, which locals frequented for picnics and carriage rides.
The demand was heightened once Olmsted and Vaux completed Central Park in 1858. Following a local initiative spearheaded by prominent Brooklyn business leader James S. T. Stranahan, the duo was hired in 1866 to begin transforming the acres of farmland and forest in the center of Brooklyn into an outdoor sanctuary for locals.
It was a dream come true for Olmsted and Vaux, who were no longer bound by the politics of Manhattan urban planning and could now fully delve into the idea of creating a landscape that appeared uninterrupted and natural.
The land chosen for the park was at the center of what was then known as Mount Prospect—an elevation that also includes the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Greenwood Heights, and Sunset Park.
The outbreak of the Civil War delayed the park’s construction, but it eventually opened in 1867—though foundational construction would continue for another seven years. Nevertheless, the park was an instant success, attracting as many as 100,000 visitors per month from the onset. Real estate around the park began to boom as a result, leading to much of the classic, brownstone and limestone Brooklyn architecture that is still visible in the area today.
Things to Do and See
Much like Central Park, Prospect Park’s landscape is dynamic, offering numerous lawns, lakes, ponds, event spaces, and even waterfalls!
Extending over a mile long, Long Meadow is, to this day, the largest stretch of unbroken meadow in any U.S. park. With plenty of hills and trees, it is a great spot for picnicking, barbecuing, and relaxing during the warm months.
The Prospect Park Boathouse, built in 1905, was one of the first buildings in New York City to be designated as a national landmark. A popular venue for weddings and major events, the Boathouse overlooks the Lullwater, a scenic waterway that runs through the southeast portion of the park and connects to Prospect Park Lake.
Brooklyn’s only forest, the Ravine comprises nearly 150 acres of preserved woodlands and waterways. With dense vegetation and tree cover, visiting the Ravine transports you to a lush sanctuary that provides a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn. Always popular for photo ops, the Ravine is home to several waterfalls that connect to the 60-acre Prospect Park Lake via a network of streams and canals.
The Lena Horne Bandshell
Recently renamed in honor of the legendary singer, actress, and dancer, the Lena Horne Bandshell is home to BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! — New York’s longest-running, free outdoor concert series. From indie bands and jazz artists to A-list singers and performers, the festival has showcased diverse talent and genres for over 40 years.
A Commitment to Conservation
Prospect Park as it is known today would not be possible without the Prospect Park Alliance. Much like other parts of New York City, the park fell into decline during the 1970s and '80s. As a result, members of the community banded together in 1987 to form the Alliance, which has since worked tirelessly (and successfully) to restore and conserve the park’s natural areas, buildings, and points of interest.
The organization offers several volunteer, educational, and recreational programs. From gardening activities to park cleanups, the programs provide involvement opportunities for people of all ages and are popular among local schools.
Thanks to the Alliance’s efforts, the park is now celebrated as a model for urban parks around the world.
Learn more about Prospect Park and ways to volunteer by visiting the Prospect Park Alliance website.
To search and explore available properties in neighborhoods surrounding the park, such as Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, click here.