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Prospect Park's Bizarre Bygone Attraction

October 17, 2018

Prospect Park has seen many attractions come and go over its more than 150 year history. One of the more unusual—at least by today’s standards—is the Rotary Yacht.

In the summer of 1878, Park Commissioners gave the green light to inventor David Smith to operate a 225-foot circular water ride called the Rotary Yacht in the Upper Pool (today, nearby to the popular Dog Beach). Hailed by The Brooklyn Eagle as an “ingenious and useful contrivance,” and a “queer looking craft,” the Rotary Yacht was a spectacular sight. Floating in the water just off the Long Meadow, the boat was lit with colorful lanterns and adorned with the “flags of all nations.”

The yacht was powered by nine sails, which could hold up to 220 riders for a spin around the yacht's center post every 90 seconds. The newspaper described the summer of 1878 to be particularly hot, and there was “not a breath of air stirring.” Most of Brooklyn had gone to Coney Island to escape the heat, leaving Prospect Park rather desolate. For the people who lived nearby, the Rotary Yacht was a fantastic amusement.

While the yacht was a pleasant attraction for most, stories have been told of some falling  into the water and one death was associated with the structure. Today, it is unclear what happened to the yacht—the Prospect Park archives hold no clues as to when the attraction was demolished or why. For now, this bygone boat remains mostly a park mystery.

Learn more about the park’s past in the Prospect Park Archives.

 

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