1. There’s a Quaker Cemetery in Prospect ParkOff of Center Drive, there are 2,000 gravestones and buried bodies, many older than the park itself. This property, the only private property in the park, is a cemetery owned by the Religious Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers. Established in 1849, though it is believed there are graves that date to the 1820s, the 10-acre Quaker cemetery remains active to this day. In the original plan for the park by civil engineer Egbert Viele, which would have made the park about 55% smaller, the cemetery wasn’t even within the bounds. It is easy to miss as it is in a fenced off area of woods and the stones are small and simple. Buried inside are a few famous Quakers such as Raymond Ingersoll, a former Brooklyn Borough President, and actor Montgomery Clift.
2. Secret Tunnels UndergroundOlmsted was one of those quintessential creative, explorer types. Turning down Yale, he wandered around the countryside, traveling like a modern-day backpacker. He signed up as a seaman aboard a ship going to China, and lived as a farmer for seven years in Connecticut. It was this combination of experiences, particularly the latter, which gave him a keen understanding of the importance of the drainage systems in parks. The system Olmsted designed for Prospect Park was ahead of its time. It used runoff to refill the bodies of water throughout the park rather than adding that water into the municipal sewer system, which was frequently overrun as is. Prospect Park: Olmsted and Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece deems the system “an invisible web” of clay drainpipes that run the length of Long Meadow, connected by smaller pipes and a series of “vaulted retention basins.” Separately, it is said that a tunnel once ran from below the Park Slope Armory into Prospect Park. If you join us on our upcoming Insiders tour of the Park Slope Armory and its abandoned tunnels, you will see the bricked off entrance to this tunnel. You can feel a breeze from the removed bricks on top of the entranceway. It is believed that large portions of the the tunnel collapsed due to the construction of the subway and from residential expansion in Park Slope.
3. Remnants of the Revolutionary War
Though the Battle of Brooklyn (or the Battle of Long Island) was a deadly battle for the Americans, and included a panicked retreat across Long Meadow, the Maryland Regiment, only 400 strong, led by Major Mordecai Gist held out against 2,000 Scottish and Hessians in what is now Park Slope around the Old Stone House, allowing Washington’s Army to cross the East River into Manhattan.When Prospect Park was built, the remains of many soldiers left behind as well as fortifications and pits were discovered. At the base of Lookout Hill, a Stanford White-designed monument was erected to commemorate the heroic stand of “The Maryland 400” and dedicated on the 119th anniversary of the battle in 1895. The Maryland Monument is made up of a 12-foot tall polished granite column topped with a marble orb. It is similar in form to White’s Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene Park. The wrought iron fence was added later.
In addition to the Maryland Monument, there are more spots in the park where traces of the Revolution can be found from the Donogan Oak Monument (a monument to a felled tree used to block a path into the park) to the Battle Pass Rock which marks one of the former points of entry along the American defense line. Battle Pass was also near the site of the now lost Valley Grove Tavern run by Hicks Post who affectionately called it his “little snuggery.” It was a popular stop for those en route to Coney Island. Even the centuries old trees may hold within them remnants of the Revolution. There has been talk of x-raying the trees in Nethermead to see if there are Revolutionary War bullets embedded inside. Another route with deep history which runs through the park is the path of East Drive which partially follows an old Native American trail which according to Prospect Park: Olmsted and Vaux’s Brooklyn Masterpiece, “branched off a larger path that ran between what is now Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.”