Lefferts Ribbon Cutting
June 6, 2023
Prospect Park Alliance President Morgan Monaco and NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue joined elected officials, civic leaders and other community members to celebrate the restoration and reopening of Lefferts Historic House, Prospect Park’s 18th-century Flatbush farmhouse museum, which is jointly operated by the Alliance, the nonprofit that sustains the park, and the Historic House Trust.
Through $2.5 million in funding from the Speaker and Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council, Prospect Park Alliance undertook a major restoration of Lefferts Historic House. In timing with the restoration, the Alliance launched ReImagine Lefferts, an initiative funded through a Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation that is re-envisioning the mission and programming of the museum to explore the stories of resistance and resilience by the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the park and house rests upon, and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family.
Lefferts Historic House is one of the most visited historic house museums in New York City, and features a working garden, historic artifacts, and indoor and outdoor exhibits. To celebrate the reopening of the house, Prospect Park Alliance presented a Pinkster Celebration on Sunday, May 21, with Chief Baba Neil Clarke and the Pinkster Players and friends featuring musical performances, storytelling, games and food related to this historic celebration of Africans in New York dating back to the time of slavery.
Pinkster Celebration in Prospect Park at the Lefferts Historic House. c. Obed Obwoge
“Prospect Park Alliance is grateful to the City and the Mellon Foundation for providing us with the funding to restore and reinvent our historic house museum,” said Morgan Monaco, Prospect Park Alliance President and Park Administrator. “Through ReImagine Lefferts, we are engaging the public around the ongoing legacies of dispossession and enslavement in Brooklyn and beyond, and I’m honored to be ushering in this new era of recognition and celebration of the narratives and histories that have been ignored for centuries. I am looking forward to working with our partners to make the museum a place for healing and a forum for thoughtful dialogue for our community.”
“By exploring the realities of expropriation and enslavement, the restoration of the Lefferts Historic House opens up avenues for dialogue, reflection, and a deeper understanding of the uncomfortable truths embedded within this site’s history. Prospect Park Alliance and the Historic House Trust’s unwavering dedication to the restoration and revitalization of this iconic landmark strengthens our connection to the past, enriches our present, and shapes a more inclusive and culturally vibrant future for Prospect Park and beyond,” said Comptroller Brad Lander, who helped to advocate for funding for the restoration while serving in the New York City Council.
“Thanks to our partners at Prospect Park Alliance and Historic House Trust, Lefferts Historic House has undergone a tremendous renovation, while honoring its historic past,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “New Yorkers will benefit immensely from this preserved site and its greater mission, which through ReImagine Lefferts, places the stories of those previously untold on center stage. Visitors have so much to learn from our historic sites and how their legacies continue to impact and resonate with our world today.”
“In order to meaningfully address the legacy of slavery, and its indelible impact on our society, we must invest in opportunities to learn about our history,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “I’m proud to have secured significant funding to restore the Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park. New Yorkers will now be able to visit the historic house museum to learn about the history of the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose ancestral land Prospect Park is sited on, and the people who were enslaved by the Lefferts family. Our progress as a society is contingent upon us knowing our history, and I look forward to our continued work with the Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks to create more educational opportunities for all.”
“As one of the most visited historic house museums in our City, the story Lefferts Historic House tells is important. Now, the museum will tell the full story of our borough’s ugly and painful underbelly. This truth-telling begins the process of restoring dignity to the communities our city has long glazed over— our Indigenous and Black sisters and brothers who have never received proper acknowledgement or apology for the deep injustices inflicted upon them,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m happy that the Lefferts Historic House is beginning this retelling of history and hope it will spark conversation over how we as a borough can continue to account for our past. Thank you to the Prospect Park Alliance and NYC Parks for making this reimagining possible.”
“Today, as we gather beneath the historic roof of Lefferts House, we celebrate the power of preservation and community,” said Council Member Rita Joseph. In this moment of restoration’s completion, let us honor the rich heritage of our past, embrace the beauty of our present, and build a future that cherishes our shared history and diverse traditions. Together, we create a tapestry of unity, resilience, and joy that will continue to inspire generations to come.”
“As Executive Director of the Historic House Trust of New York City and Director of Historic Houses at NYC Parks, I have the great privilege of working with community partners like Prospect Park Alliance who are doing groundbreaking work to shed light on previously undertold stories and accurately reflect the history and culture of our diverse city,” said Meredith Sorin Horsford, Executive Director, Historic House Trust. “The Historic House Trust and our 23 partner historic sites have an opportunity to focus on deepening our collective understanding of history. ReImagine Lefferts is an initiative that exemplifies the strength of community dialogue, and the impact of listening, engaging, and responding.”
In June, the Alliance will host Caribbean-American Heritage Month and Juneteenth celebrations, and will open for regular operating hours starting in July. Learn more about Lefferts events and programs.
Background on Restoration
Lefferts Historic House, which is almost 250 years old, was originally located just blocks from the Prospect Park on Flatbush Avenue (near Maple Street), and moved to its current site in 1917. After three centuries, and much wear and tear, the 1783 Dutch-American-style house was in need of critical restoration. Peeling paint and poor drainage had contributed to damage of the exterior wood shingles, windows, trim, columns and ornamental details. Gutters and rainwater leaders were displaced and not functionally draining. The cedar shingle roof was damaged and covered in moss, and the house’s three chimneys were crumbling. Structural elements of the porch and first floor were no longer able to support the load of visitors. Restoration included replacing the historic cedar-shingled roof, a meticulous process of craftsmanship due to the steep eaves of the roof (Lefferts is one of last remaining examples of an h-frame house with a gambrel roof); renovating the wood-shingled exterior, making structural improvements to the interior, replacing the house’s mechanical systems, and improving surrounding lighting and paths. The Alliance was recognized with a 2023 Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award for this restoration project, the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s highest honor for outstanding preservation.
“I want to congratulate Prospect Park Alliance on their work to restore the Lefferts Historic House not only as a point of important history, but also to ensure we tell the stories of Brooklyn’s – and America’s – indigenous and enslaved people more accurately and more completely,” said Congressman Dan Goldman. “Black and Indigenous history is American history, and they are Brooklyn’s history as well. I was excited to get a preview of this historic restoration last month and I look forward to visiting the site now that it is fully open to the public. Prospect Park is a national treasure and I am grateful for the important work of the Prospect Park Alliance.”
“The reopening of Lefferts Historic House marks a significant milestone and paves the way for dialogue, reflection, and a more inclusive future for Prospect Park and beyond,” said Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie. “The restoration efforts, coupled with the ReImagine Lefferts initiative, demonstrate Prospect Park Alliance’s commitment to honoring the stories of resistance and resilience of the Indigenous people and the enslaved Africans who called this part of Brooklyn home. I’m honored to represent Brooklyn’s Backyard in Albany and am proud of this collaboration that reflects the diversity and strength of our community.”
Work will continue on the house in the coming years thanks to Assembly Members Bobby Carroll and Brian Cunningham, who have allocated funding to restore the Lefferts grounds and make critical structural improvements to the house’s second floor.
“I am proud to dedicate $500,000 in capital funding from the New York State Assembly to help complete the restoration of the grounds at Lefferts Historic House Museum,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll. “This vital restoration is critical to preserving an important part of Brooklyn’s history and to help tell the complete story of the Lefferts Historic House. That story unfortunately includes previously untold stories of dispossession and enslavement.”
“Prospect Park is the premiere outdoor space of Brooklyn, and the Lefferts Historic House is one of its defining features,” said Assembly Member Brian A. Cunningham. “The re-opening of this historical landmark in partnership with the launch of ReImagine Lefferts ensures a more accurate historical accounting of the Lefferts family legacy and illuminates untold stories of the relationship between the Lenapehoking people and early European Settlers. This project is a testament to the power of public-private partnerships that not only restore a piece of American history, but ensure it tells a more truthful, accurate story about our past, so that we may all learn how to create a more just, equitable future.”
Prospect Park Alliance has launched ReImagine Lefferts through a prestigious Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation. ReImagine Lefferts will re-envision the mission and programming of the museum to explore the stories of resistance and resilience by the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking, whose unceded ancestral lands the park and house rests upon, and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family. Through this initiative, the Alliance seeks to engage the public in thoughtful dialogue about the ongoing legacies of dispossession and enslavement in Brooklyn and beyond.