Prospect Park is one of the most beloved of New York City’s parks, rivaling Central Park in splendor. Indeed, Prospect Park is often seen as the park where designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux perfected their art, having learned from their mistakes in Manhattan. The park officially opened in 1867, though construction continued for years after, spanning an entire three decades from 1865 to 1895. Within Prospect Park’s 526 acres, you will find a zoo, the first urban-area Audubon Center in the nation, an ice rink, a band shell, a carousel, and athletic and recreational facilities scattered throughout Olmsted and Vaux’s naturalistic design of intricate manmade wetlands, indigenous forest, and rolling green meadows. You will also find an abundance of secrets waiting to be revealed. Here we explore the top ten secrets of Prospect Park, from hidden cemeteries and never-built structures to remnants of the Revolutionary War.
1. There’s a Quaker Cemetery in Prospect Park
Off 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 within the bounds of the park. 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.