From the Archives: The Vale of Cashmere

June 2, 2014

The story of the Vale of Cashmere, which occupies the northeast corner of the Park, actually started about 17,000 years ago when a buried chunk of the Wisconsin glacier began to melt, collapsing the soil and leaving a divot surrounded by steep walls of earth.

Park designers Olmsted and Vaux were attracted to the dramatic terrain. They designed a small pool and gardens, and outfitted the space with parallel bars, swings and a seesaw. Children sailed miniature boats and played in the underbrush while their parents escaped the summer’s heat in the Rustic Arbor on the hillside above.

In the 1890s, the firm of McKim, Mead and White, recently hired to design the nearby Grand Army Plaza, were asked to redesign the Children’s Playground. They replaced the pool’s soft edge with a granite balustrade in the Beaux-Arts style and installed a fountain. The wife of Brooklyn Mayor Alfred Chapin nicknamed the area the “Vale of Cashmere,” inspired by the Thomas Moore poem “Lalla Roohk, an Oriental Romance.”

The Vale eventually lost its sweeping views of the surrounding landscape to maturing trees and overgrown shrubs. Today, the Vale is on the list of projects that the Prospect Park Alliance hopes to tackle in the coming years. The creation of the Zucker Natural Exploration Area was a first step in this process.

Learn how you can help support the Alliance’s work to restore and maintain Prospect Park. Help take care of the Vale by volunteering with the Alliance’s East Side Revival.