c. Elizabeth Keegin Colley

Mellon Grant Awarded to ReImagine Lefferts

January 18, 2023

Prospect Park Alliance, the non-profit that sustains the park in partnership with the City, has received a prestigious $275,000 Humanities in Place grant from the Mellon Foundation to advance its ReImagine Lefferts initiative, which seeks to re-envision the mission and programming at the park’s historic house museum to recognize its role as a site of dispossession and enslavement, and explore the stories of the Indigenous people of Lenapehoking whose unceded ancestral lands the house rests upon and the Africans who were enslaved by the Lefferts family.

The Alliance will engage the public around this initiative with a Community Conversation on Saturday, February 11, 2023, from 1-4 pm, at the Prospect Park Boathouse.

Learn more and RSVP for this free event.

“ReImagine Lefferts is a critical initiative for the Alliance, and we are greatly appreciative of the Mellon Foundation for recognizing the importance of this work, and providing the funding to bring this project to fruition,” said Morgan Monaco, Prospect Park Alliance President. “This project is an important step of many to help to heal deep-seated wounds from our nation’s past, and help anchor the narratives of those who have traditionally been silenced. The work we are undertaking at the museum would not be possible without those who came before us, and we look forward to partnering with and supporting the many civic leaders and organizations who have led the way in the Brooklyn community over the past many years.”

Lefferts Historic House is an 18th-century Flatbush farmhouse and New York City landmark, jointly operated by Prospect Park Alliance and the Historic House Trust. The farmhouse was originally located just blocks from the park (563 Flatbush Avenue near Maple Street) and moved in 1918 to its current site in the park’s Children’s Corner, home of the Prospect Park Zoo and Carousel. The museum features period rooms, indoor and outdoor exhibits, historic artifacts, historical object reproductions and working farm plots. Through hands-on experiences, cultural performances and imaginative play, visitors learn about the rich history of Brooklyn and also celebrate the diversity of our community today.

The Alliance is currently restoring the museum through $2.5 million in funding from the Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council to make vital capital upgrades essential to maintaining this historic structure, which is more than 200 years old. The project has enabled the Alliance to replace the roof, restore the exterior of the building, and repair paths and drainage around the house.

When the museum reopens in mid-2023, the Alliance will present free pilot exhibits and programs that engage with the legacies of Indigenous dispossession and African enslavement in Brooklyn. By centering the interpretation on these foundational narratives, which are often underrepresented in the telling of American history, the Alliance seeks to create opportunities for civic engagement and open dialogues about contemporary issues around race and human rights.

The one-year, $275,000 Mellon grant will support the planning, development and execution of pilot exhibits and program materials for the museum’s new focus, and enable the Alliance to engage culture bearers, scholars, community leaders, educators, artists and museum professionals.

The grant builds upon work the Alliance has conducted over the past two years to research the history of enslavement at the Lefferts house and farm, develop partnerships with Indigenous groups, cultural and local history organizations, and pilot new programming on site. To date, the Alliance has identified the names of 25 people enslaved at the site between 1783 and 1827: some inherited, some born at the house, and some purchased by the Lefferts family. The Mellon Foundation’s support will enable the Alliance to further its research about the lives of these people and their descendants.

ReImagine Lefferts programming and partnerships to date include: the creation of Juneteenth Way, a partnership with NYC Parks; two exhibitions with the renowned photographer Jamel Shabazz and the non-profit Photoville; Writing the Land, a collaboration between poets and land trusts, that commissioned Black and Indigenous poets to produce work about Prospect Park; and other projects.

Learn more at prospectpark.org/reimagine-lefferts.

About Prospect Park Alliance
Prospect Park Alliance is the non-profit organization that sustains, restores and advances Prospect Park, “Brooklyn’s Backyard,” in partnership with the City of New York. The Alliance provides critical staff and resources that keep the Park green and vibrant for the diverse communities that call Brooklyn home. The Alliance cares for the woodlands and natural areas; restores the park’s buildings and landscapes; creates innovative park destinations; and provides free or low-cost volunteer, education and recreation programs. Today, Prospect Park is an international model for the care of urban parks, and one of the premier green spaces in the United States. Learn more at prospectpark.org.

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at mellon.org.