Lost Structures of Prospect Park
Over the course of its 150-year history, Prospect Park has seen considerable change. While the work of Park designers Olmsted and Vaux is still very much intact, many buildings of their era and later are gone. Take a look at some of these lost structures, as captured in the Prospect Park Alliance Archives. Today, Prospect Park Alliance works to sustain and advance Prospect Park—preserving the natural environment, restoring historic design and providing public programs and amenities for the Park, which receives more than 10 million visits each year.
The Dairy, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux as part of the original design of the Park, was located on Sullivan Hill, just across from the Long Meadow. This cozy farmhouse attracted Park picnickers who stopped by to purchase sandwiches and glasses of fresh milk provided by the half-dozen cows that grazed on Long Meadow grasses. Pre-pasteurization, fresh milk was a near-delicacy for Brooklyn residents, accustomed to a gray, watery variety of milk produced by most city cows. In 1935, the Dairy, in disrepair, was removed by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses.
Strange as it may seem, a replica of George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, was erected on the Prospect Park Peninsula in 1932 to commemorate the bicentennial of his birth, complete with a Presidential impersonator. From then until 1934, when it was taken down, crowds lined up to pay admission to see the elaborate gardens and meticulously recreated interiors.
The Park’s first carousel was erected in 1874 in the northeast corner of the Park. A small, 24-horse structure, it was propelled by an old, blind horse, and cost three cents per ride. The present day Carousel in the Park's Children’s Corner was brought to the Park in 1952 from Coney Island, and is over 100 years old.
The fanciful fountain behind the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch in Grand Army Plaza is the fourth fountain in that location. Earlier models were installed in 1873 and 1897. The former featured 24 stained-glass windows lit by gas jets, and the latter boasted electric lights and dancing jets of water controlled by a subterranean operator. That fountain was demolished during the construction of the subway, and was replaced with Bailey Fountain in 1932.
Long before the Prospect Park Zoo was constructed, the Park was home to its own menagerie. Located near the Long Meadow, the menagerie opened in 1890 with a bear pit, and quickly grew to include deer, lions, monkeys and birds, housed in cages and pens. The menagerie was inadequately funded and generally in a dilapidated state. When the official Prospect Park Zoo was constructed in 1935, the Park’s animals were moved and menagerie was demolished.
The Thatched Shelter was built 1874 on a low hill at the north end of Long Meadow, just inside the Grand Army Plaza entrance. This Adirondack-style rustic shelter was visually in keeping with the many rustic bridges, platforms and arbors designed by Calvert Vaux for the Park. These thatched and rough-hewn features made of gnarled birch, locust or oak were visual respites from the brick and stone that accompanied city-life. A fire destroyed this structure in 1937.