Monday, May 26, 2014

PROSPECT PARK - setting the tone

When I arrived in New York, all I knew about Brooklyn was what I'd read about in the novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Prospect Park
That novel takes place in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in the north part of the borough near Queens, and of course. I intended to scout the neighborhood described in that novel, and eventually I did.  But before living in Brooklyn, I had no idea how multi-textured nor how historic it was. That awareness began with my first visit to Prospect Park.

I lived directly across the street from the park, 300 acres of idyllic landscape, meadows, trees, and waterways designed by Frederick Olmstead and Calvert Vaux who also designed Central Park.  [Olmstead was also on the board of the Yellowstone Park Committee when it was being designated a national park.]

When I first moved to Brooklyn, before I had a bike, I took long walks -- by that I mean 5-10 miles at a stretch.  It was only when I got planta fasciitis that I got the bike and started riding everywhere.  At any rate, there is a drive encompasses Prospect Park.  On my second day in Brooklyn,  I walked around it.  My dad's farm was 300 acres and that walk was the first time I had a handle on the size of his land.

About a quarter mile along East Drive, I noticed a sign and walked over to read it. 

At this point the Old Porte Road or Valley Grove Road
intersected the line of hills separating Flatbush [Village] from
Brooklyn and Gowanus, in the Battle of Long Island,
August 27, 1776...

Suddenly, all that American history I'd studied in high school was made real as I fully comprehended that I was standing on ground where a battle in the Revolutionary War had taken place.  This battle was the first to take place after the Declaration of Independence was declared and the largest of the Revolutionary War.  Around me was hundreds of years of history of the beginning of my country. Where had the revolutionary soldiers camped?  Where had they crouched to aim? Where had they died and been buried?

Doing some immediate research that day on the Internet, I learned that the Hessian (German mercenary) troops and British troops had approach Battle Pass from where they'd landed at Gravesend Bay to the south.  They traveled through Flatbush Village and crossed over the land where the house I was living in now stood.  For all I knew, British troops had camped in what was now the yard.

I stood at the window of my living quarters thinking, the Revolutionary War happened right here, where I am, where I am looking.

There was history everywhere in Brooklyn, and I was determined to find it.

You can read more about the history of Prospect Park here: 

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