Prospect Park Milestone Celebrations
In 1866, ground was broken in Brooklyn to create Prospect Park. Led by Brooklyn Park Commission president James S. T. Stranahan, and designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, work commenced on the digging, planting, seeding and building of the beloved landmark considered by many to be Brooklyn’s Backyard.
Stranahan was instrumental in securing financial and political support for the project, and proclaimed that Prospect Park "would become a favorite resort for all classes of our community, enabling thousands to enjoy pure air, with healthful exercise, at all seasons of the year…"
The Park was first opened to the public in October 1867, before work had been completed. “The public were formally invited on Saturday, to visit Prospect Park to see how the work was getting on,” says an article in the Brooklyn Eagle, dated October 21, 1867. “The weather being remarkably fine for the season, and inviting out door exercise, the visitors to the Park were numerous... it is safe to estimate the number of visitors at ten thousand.” Even though construction continued for another seven years, this first opening day was an unparalleled success.
In 1966, the Park celebrated its centennial with great fanfare. A parade through the Park included antique cars, high-wheeled bicycles, horse-drawn carriages and many participants in period costumes. The Music Pagoda served as a reviewing stand, and Miss Prospect Park cut a mammoth birthday cake.
The centennial celebration came during a period of decline in the Park, and the organizers hoped to that the revelry would stimulate interest in reviving the Park.
"Anyone who walks the Park can’t help but notice signs of neglect, of wear and tear, of erosion and decay," read a promotional pamphlet. "This centennial celebration would certainty be a hollow one, if it did not result in improvements, repairs and restorations."
The centennial celebration continued all summer, with concerts, operas and dance performances, but the festivities did little to reverse the ongoing decline of the Park.
Image: Brooklyn Historical Society
In the intervening decades, much has changed in the Park. In 1987, Prospect Park Alliance was founded to restore the Park after the long period of steady deterioration and decline.
Today, the Alliance provides a majority of the staff and operating budget that preserves the natural environment, restores historic design and provides public programs and amenities for the Park, which now receives more than 10 million visits each year.
Photo Credit: Martin Seck
In 2017, Prospect Park Alliance celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Park with a full season of exciting events.
Festivities kick off on April 1 and 2, with an Opening Weekend celebration. All weekend long, enjoy the start of the spring season with an Opening Day Parade and Fair, an exhibition 1860s ballgame, running and walking tours, and the first Smorgasburg of the season.