One of the reasons for staying in Brooklyn was to facilitate easier exploration of the area. I don’t think I realised quite how big the area is, so there may be a few posts as we explore.
We had a day with no particular aims so thought we’d spend a bit more time in Prospect Park and then move on to the Museum and Botanic Gardens. Sounded like a good plan!
We approached the park from a different direction and immediately noticed this house. It is the Litchfield Villa, standing atop a hill and it definitely invited investigation. Sadly it was locked up, but that didn’t stop Mark peering in the window!
This was once a family home, which was condemned to make way for the park to be built. Thankfully it was saved and now houses administrative offices.
We couldn’t help admiring the 19th-century romantic Italian facade, which includes ornate towers and cupolas and I tried to capture the whole thing, but, as usual, the sun wasn’t cooperating.
We had a lovely long walk through the park and then headed back to the Army Plaza entrance, which is the main entrance. It’s pretty special.
We both love library buildings and the Brooklyn Public Library is spectacular. It has a breathtaking portal, grand lobby and vast collections. Construction was begun in 1912 and design based on the Beaux-Arts movement, but building languished during WWI and the Great Depression. One wing sat unfinished for more than twenty years.
However, it was eventually finished and is truly worth a visit. The design evokes an open book, with the spine on Grand Army Plaza and two wings emulating pages opening onto the two major roads nearby.
The dramatic 50 foot high entrance doors feature fifteen golden figures taken from American literature, and the gold etchings on the columns depict the evolution of art and science through the ages. Mark and I did try to identify the figures on the door, but didn’t do too well as obviously our knowledge of American literature is slightly lacking. We found Meg from Little Women, Hiawatha, Rip Van Winkle, Moby Dick and Tom Sawyer. It was fun trying to solve the puzzle, and I was surprised I didn’t recognise Brer Rabbit, except I hadn’t realised it was American!
We trotted round to the Brooklyn Museum, another beautiful building, and to my delight I discovered that there was a Pierre Cardin Exhibition showing.
A little known fact is that behind the museum in the car park is a replica of the Statue of Liberty. It seemed a bit tacky to us, but it’s history is interesting. It was commissioned in 1902 by a Russian immigrant who owned a warehouse and wanted the replica on top. It was created to scale, and is 17m high and the torch was real and the light from it was seen for quite a distance. At some point it was taken to the museum where it is on display as part of the collection.
Whilst we were viewing the statue we noticed activity in the car park and discovered a Caribbean Carnival, which was such fun. Lots of colour, dancing and food!
We spent some time admiring the clothing in the stalls (me) and the food (Mark) and then moved on to the Botanic Gardens next door.
I always love Japanese gardens and this one had carp AND turtles swimming around.
This garden fascinated me. It’s the world’s first sensory garden designed for visitors who are visually impaired. Most of the plants are scented and visitors are invited to guess what they are. Such a cool concept.
The orchids were splendid, and many of them drew moisture from the air and weren’t planted in soil.
We then ducked over to the Green-Wood cemetery as it had a couple of things I wanted to see. The main entrance was enough to satisfy me. These large gothic-revival style arches have panels depicting biblical scenes and hidden ladders inside the arch.
I understand that there is a colony of monk parakeets nesting in the spires. These birds are native to Argentina and escaped when their crate broke at the airport in the 1960s. They found their way to the highest point in Brooklyn and have lived there ever since!
The cemetery is one of the first cemeteries which is not attached to a church. It was founded in 1838 and was the burial ground of choice for the wealthy citizens of New York.
I read that it became so famous that its visitor numbers were only surpassed by Niagara Falls as the nation’s greatest tourist attraction. Seems rather incredible!
It has a hilly landscape which is the result of the Laurentide ice sheet. As the glacier melted it dumped rocks and gravel, which is how Battle Hill was formed and as a result, the gorgeous views over Manhattan and the New York harbour.
There are many famous people buried in this cemetery, many of whom would make great dinner party guests, the toymaker F A O Schwarz, Samual Morse, Leonard Bernstein (whose grave we failed to find), Louis Tiffany of the Tiffany lamp fame, and the Steinway family who are resting in the cemetery’s largest mausoleum. There are also victims of the Brooklyn Theatre Fire, the Titanic, and those who perished when two planes collided over Brooklyn. I think there may also be some animals interred here and there.
I really wanted to see this mausoleum – the Van Ness-Parsons pyramid with the sphinx and Virgin Mary in close proximity. Parsons was a pianist and head of the piano department at the Metropolitan Conservatory of Music. He was also an Egyptologist. His wife was Alice Schuyler Van Ness.
I was also quite interested to see the Civic Virtue statue. This marble statue has a somewhat checkered history.
It was originally installed in the City Hall Park in Manhattan, but it wasn’t loved (half naked men were not welcome) and was banished to Queens where it fell into disrepair. It depicts “Virtue”, or Hercules, trampling two sirens – Vice and Corruption. This was seen as sexist and so the statue was further banished, this time to the Green-Wood Cemetery. I have to say that it doesn’t appeal to me – on so many levels.
After viewing this statue in its final resting place we thought we might head out of the cemetery. We arrived at the gates to find that they had been locked ten minutes earlier. We were locked in! My worst fear! We scurried off to the main entrance, contemplating various scenarios. Mark promised me he’d jump the fence (I was in a skirt and therefore thought leaping over spiked railings was beyond me) and come back with dinner and a pillow, which he would pass over the fence. In other words – he was going to leave me there! We walked faster, with cars driving past, so we figured they were heading out of the main entrance. I was seriously contemplating flagging one of them down. You cannot know my relief when the gates at the main entrance were still open and I don’t think I breathed until we were out.
That evening we headed over to Manhattan to have dinner with Archie and had a walk along the waterfront afterwards. It was a beautiful night and I love the lights reflecting off the water.
We saw this light tribute to 9/11.
These two beams reflect the exact location of the twin towers and reach high into the sky. We all paused in quiet contemplation…