Discover hidden treasures, natural wonders and little-known tales on these interactive guided tours of Prospect Park in the heart of Brooklyn, presented by Turnstile Tours in partnership with Prospect Park Alliance. While taking in the beauty of this iconic park’s woodlands, waterways, wildlife, and landmarks, explore the fascinating layers of natural and human history, from the flora and geology, to the architectural eras visible in the built environment, to the past and present of recreation and play. Explore how use of the park has changed over time, from the original vision of designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, to projects underway today that support environmental conservation, historic preservation, and recreational and cultural access for Brooklynites and visitors from around the world.
There is always more to explore of Prospect Park, and this tour focuses on the park’s little-known corners and hidden treasures. The park is a living, constantly changing place, and as public interests have changed over the past 150 years – in sports, food, music, entertainment – the park has had to adapt to provide new amenities to continue to be, as Olmsted put it, “a means of ready escape” for Brooklynites. This tour will visit many areas of the park that were once prime attractions but are now quiet corners, look at the history of sports and recreation in the park, and examine the layers of history still visible in the landscape. We will also learn how the Prospect Park Alliance restores and stewards the park today, with a focus on current projects to revitalize the park’s east side, including the Vale, Children’s Pool and Lakeside.
For over 150 years, Prospect Park has been a showcase for beautiful public buildings and artwork, with representations from architectural movements including Beaux-Arts, City Beautiful, New Deal Modernism, and contemporary LEED-certified projects. Beginning at Grand Army Plaza, and making our way through the Long Meadow and several of the park’s iconic archways, we will examine the original plans and structures of Olmsted and Vaux, contrasting them with additions and alterations made by McKim, Mead and White 20 years later. The tour will also visit the award-winning LeFrak Center, and see how the $74 million project has transformed this corner of the park, and step inside the Prospect Park Zoo, built in 1935 and now managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society. As we make our way through the 585-acre park, we will closely examine many fine architectural details, highlight construction and restoration projects, and learn about public art in the park, past and present.
Prospect Park is an engineering marvel, designed to encapsulate many different landscapes and ecosystems within a relatively small area. Yet with 10 million annual visitors, the park requires constant care and maintenance of its forests, waterways and meadows. This tour will focus on the natural landscape of the park, and the manmade systems that support this hotspot of biodiversity. We will look closely at the ingenious drainage system and chain of manmade streams and ponds that terminate in Brooklyn’s largest lake, follow the park’s scenic watercourse, and go behind the scenes at one of the most unique features of the park: the 1869 Wellhouse, the park’s last remaining building by park designer Calvert Vaux, which once housed the machinery that fueled the watercourse and was recently restored by the Alliance and converted into the first composting restrooms in a NYC park. We will also learn about management of the park’s forest and how it is impacted by climate change, see projects to improve water quality such as the innovative ecoWEIR filtration system that is being piloted, and learn how the Alliance monitors and protects the plants and wildlife of the park.