Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour - Part 2

Today's post is Part Two of Tony Muia's The Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour.
Click here if you missed Part One of the tour.

After we left Juniors Restaurant, we got back on the bus and drove down Flatbush Avenue toward Grand Army Plaza. Grand Army Plaza is an 11-acre oval plaza that forms the main entrance to Prospect Park. It was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1867. The Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument received landmark designation in 1973; in 1975, all of Grand Army Plaza became a New York City historic landmark.

The Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch, is Brooklyn’s version of the Arc de Triomphe. Conceived as a memorial to the defenders of the Union in the Civil War, the elaborately carved Arch designed by John H. Duncan, was completed by 1892 and then adorned with its striking Quadriga and other statuary by sculptor Frederick MacMonnies.

Spirit of the Army Sculptures

The Quadriga - Columbia in her chariot

Spirit of the Navy sculptures

Bailey Fountain, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, New York, by sculptor Eugene Francis Savage, 1932

Named after Brooklyn-based financier and philanthropist Frank Bailey (1865-1953), he funded it as a memorial to his wife Mary Louise. It features an elaborate grouping of allegorical and mythical figures that includes the god of water Neptune and a pair of nudes, one male, one female, representing Wisdom and Felicity.

The Brooklyn Public Library's Central Library is located on the southeast corner of the plaza. Opened on February 1, 1941, the Central Library is the major reference center for BPL's 60-location system. The library's notable architecture was created to resemble an open book, with the spine on Grand Army Plaza and the building's two wings opening like pages onto Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue. Containing more than 1.5 million books, magazines, and multimedia materials, it provides services to all ages, free Internet access throughout the building, and, since September of 1997, a Multilingual Center for non-English speakers and those interested in linguistics.

We then drove around the perimeter of Prospect Park ,a 585-acre urban oasis located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough. The masterpiece of famed landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park, Prospect Park features the 90-acre Long Meadow, the 60-acre Lake and Brooklyn’s only forest. The nation’s first urban Audubon Center, and the Prospect Park Zoo. It attracts over eight million visitors a year.
We also passed The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, a 52-acre garden which includes a number of specialty gardens, diverse plant collections, and the Steinhardt Conservatory, which houses the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum, three climate-themed plant pavilions, a white cast-iron and glass aquatic house, and an art gallery. Founded in 1910, the Garden holds over 10,000 species of plants and each year welcomes over 700,000 visitors from around the world.

Next, we drove down Eastern Parkway, and at Washington Avenue we passed The Brooklyn Museum, housed in a 560,000-square-foot, Beaux-Arts building, is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country. Its world-renowned permanent collections range from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art, and represent a wide range of cultures. I realized it has been too long since I paid a visit to the museum, and I hope to return soon.

The Brooklyn Museum is well-known for its expansive collections of Egyptian and African art, in addition to 17th, 18th, and 19th century paintings, throughout a wide range of schools, and it's ongoing special exhibits.

At this point in the tour, Tony spoke about the legendary Brooklyn baseball team The Brooklyn Dodgers. Brooklyn helped make baseball commercial, as it was the locale of the first paid admission games, a series of three all star contests matching New York and Brooklyn in 1858. A new era begins for Brooklyn baseball on April 9th, 1913 as Ebbets Field opens with a game of the newly named Dodgers against the Philadelphia Phillies. As a team they had their ups and downs but were always followed by ardent Brooklyn fans until 1957, when the President of the club, Walter O'Malley, decided to move the team to the city of Los Angeles because the city planner of New York, Robert Moses, refused to build him a new ballpark in Brooklyn. It was a heartbreak that Brooklynites have yet to get over.

Ebbets Field was the ballpark the Brooklyn Dodgers played in from 1913 to 1957, and after the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles, the field was torn down and replaced with the Ebbets Field apartments, as seen in the photo above.

As we circled Prospect Park we passed The Lefferts Historic House Museum. The Lefferts family was among the earliest European settlers in Brooklyn. They trace their roots to Dutch colonist Pieter Janse Hagewout (1621-1661), a farmer and cobbler who emigrated from Holland with his family in 1660, and settled in the farming village of Vlacke Bos (meaning "wooded plain"), or Flatbush as it came to be known. In 1687, Hagewout’s son Leffert Pietersen bought 58 acres of land in the area now known as Prospect Lefferts Gardens. He built the original Lefferts Homestead. It is a fine example of the Dutch roots of much of Brooklyn's early history.

We then drove up and down some of the beautiful streets of the neighborhood know as Park Slope. Park Slope got its name from the huge 526-acre Prospect Park which it borders. Many of its fine mansions, brownstone and limestone homes were built during the 1880s and 1890s.
Today many of these structures are within the Park Slope Historic District, one of New York's largest landmarked neighborhoods.

Here are close up photographs of the unique architectural details of some of the residences.
(right click on the photos to enlarge)
These photos were taken of homes on 3rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue.

During the 1850s, the neighborhood of Park Slope was situated on land that was virtually completely owned by Edwin C. Litchfield.

Litchfield Villa was originally built as a residence for the Litchfield family in 1857. Edwin Litchfield, a railroad magnate and real estate developer, purchased nearly a square mile of meadow and swampland for his estate in 1852 which extended down to the Gowanus Canal. He hired Alexander Jackson Davis, a prominent architect of the time, to design his hilltop home. The mansion was named Grace Hill for his wife, Grace Hill Hubbard.
However Olmsted and Vaux’s design for the new Prospect Park included Grace Hill and its surrounding property, and in 1868 Litchfield was forced to sell his land to the Brooklyn Parks Commission.
After Litchfield’s death in 1885 the Villa was occupied by park administrative offices and park police. It currently houses the Brooklyn headquarters of the NYC Department of Parks and offices of the Prospect Park Alliance.

At this point we traveled along Prospect Park West and passed Farrell's Bar & Grill at 16th Street. A favorite neighborhood bar since 1933. Among its many famous patrons in the 1970s was Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine, who broke the tradition of being chaperoned by a male and became a well-known customer. Famous newsmen Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill were also frequent patrons. Tony also pointed out that it was used as a location shot for the 1997 movie "As Good As It Gets" starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, as he played those scenes on the video screen.

In my next blog post I'll bring you part three of The Slice Of Brooklyn Neighborhood Tour, where we entered Green-Wood Cemetery to see some of the famous and infamous people buried there, plus seeing some of its outstanding scenery. We will then continue to the conclusion of the tour in the very elegant Victorian Flatbush neighborhood of Ditmas Park.

Hope you'll drop by and come along for the ride!

23 comments: said...

your tour is amazing! I've always wanted to see more of Brooklyn. Thank you. said...

PS, I'm putting you on my sidebar too!
; )

Willow said...

Pat, Someday, someday, I'm going to drive all the way east and visit New York!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Pat, you need to get a job as a tour guide! You are MARVELOUS at making me feel like I'm right there. Thanks so much...


Sheila :-)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Wow, there's so much to see in Brooklyn. That Leffert's House is not what you'd expect in a borough so large as Brooklyn. Can you be my guide when I come to revisit Brooklyn?

Andrea said...

You know my short little trip to New York City was way too short for my liking and I'm finding myself "itching" to go back. But, your posts - part I and part II - are almost as if I'm there. And the background information you give is just wonderful - thanks!

aliceinparis said...

Lovely!!! Thanks I'm enjoying this :)

Vee said...

Another great tour. I was most impressed with the homes. For some reason, I'm never too impressed with statues. My niece would like to wring my neck since she graduated with a degree in sculpture.

The poor Dodgers' true that they have suffered a heartbreak.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Leffert's House Museum. I love the porch. Grace Hill villa is similar in style and age to a lot of the Victorian villas built in Southport at the same time. I think the links between Liverpool and New York may have contributed to the sharing of architecture styles.

Junie Moon said...

If I ever make it back to your part of the world, I'm going to beg, borrow, and otherwise bribe you to take me on a personal tour. You're the best as featuring all the wonders to be offered there. You ought to be writing for the Chamber of Commerce, the NY Tourist Department (or whatever they call themselves), and the local travel section of the newspapers.

Judy said...

Always so fun to tour with you a our guide! I can't imagine how long it takes you to do these 'tour guide' posts. Thanks...we learn a lot over here. You'll soon have a side business as a tour guide for those of us who manage to make it to NYC.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Thanks everyone for your kind comments. I learned a lot by going on Tony's tour! NYC is a big city and there is always things to learn about it.

I'm really not a tour guide ... I'm more of a tour participant. I love to learn new things, and there is nothing better than being taken around in a comfortable bus with no worries about dealing with traffic or finding parking or paying high parking fees. When you add that all up the price of going on a professional tour is so worth it!

I hope you'll consider A Slice of Brooklyn bus tours if you do visit NYC. In Manhattan there are the Big Apple Tour buses which are hop on and off and Greyhound Tours among many others.

jeanne said...

Pat, part two of your tour is lovely.. I have a dear friend from Brooklyn that moved to FL. She has many ties there as that's where she grew up. I will find out where and see if she knows all of the lovely places you have shared. Olmstead designed all the forests and gardens at the Biltmore. He was a family friend of the Biltmore family. There is a life size painting of him at the residence. He was very innovative when he planned the grounds at the Biltmore and they are gorgeous.

Thank you for your lovely compliments on our anniversary post. You made me smile. Your post is wonderful and it makes me want to visit there. Someday.


Tara said...

Ah, Pat...I spent so much of my childhood here since, as you know, my parents are from Park Slope and our family still has the original brownstone from early last century!I don't know if I ever mentioned this, but friends will say when I talk to my parents I have a Brooklyn accent and not a Long island one! haha!

PS--my Dad was in the servcie wehn the Didgers moved and is heartbroken still! Jumiors cheescake is the best, my Uncle Cookie mails them to us (can you believe you can mail a cheesecake?? But it's worth it!)

steviewren said...

Hi Pat! I've late at work tonight so I could visit all my favorite blogspots. I hope I get my computer fixed soon. I'm missing everyone.

While I was reading about your tour of Brooklyn it occurred to me to many square miles does Brooklyn cover? There is such a huge variety of neighborhoods. I am amazed...and obviously a small town girl.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Brooklyn in big! 2.5 million people and about 73 square miles....bigger than Manhattan! The tour only took us to a small part of it. The pizza tour goes to some other areas.

Just A Girl said...

So much wonderful architecture in your neck of the woods!
I hope you have a lovely weekend Pat!

xoxo Cori

Joyce said...

This is so much fun to see and read about your Slice of Brooklyn. It doesn't get better then this except if I had an Italian Pastry while reading this:) Thanks again for sharing. Now I am really home sick for New York:)

Proud Italian Cook said...

Hi Pat, I just went on tour 1 and 2with you. Brooklyn is amazing!!! I've learned so much from your great narration of it all! I WILL get there one day!

Betsy Brock said...

I always enjoy your tours! You live in a place with such rich history...always so interesting! I especially like the carvings and statues...gorgeous!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Pat, I was looking at this again, and I have to say I love those townhouses! I want one!



dana said...

I just get goose bumps reading these posts of yours, Pat. I find your part of the country to be so intriguing and exciting. I can't imagine living with all of that history! How wonderful! Another fantastic and informative post! Dana

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

You'll probably laugh if you see this comment come up. My husband went to a 'new resident orientation' meeting (to speak) and talked to a lady from Brooklyn. And he remembered your post about the park and Botanical Gardens in the heart of Brooklyn. He came home and said, it was a post by one of your blog friends. Amazing! heehee!