Spring is finally here and I could not be more excited. The beautiful weather will provide a perfect backdrop for today’s tour. Do you remember the places we visited during our first tour? We started our day at The River Café, spent some time downtown and ended at the new Barclays Arena on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. For more information, please refer to our first tour, A Brooklyn State of Mind, posted on March 4, 2013.
Since the Arena is close to all modes of transportation, this is the perfect point of departure for today’s tour. We will travel a little further into Brooklyn to the Prospect Park Zoo, the Historic Lefferts House, The Carousel and the Audubon Center at The Boathouse. To add to our day, I brought lunch from Juniors Restaurant, complete with cheesecake. There is a picnic area at the Zoo where we can enjoy our treats.
Let’s start by walking across Flatbush Avenue to the B41 bus stop, in front of Modell’s Sporting Goods Store. Depending upon traffic, the ride should take no more than 15 minutes. Along the way, we will see many new restaurants, sidewalk cafes, wine stores, pet shops and clothing boutiques, a true sign of Brooklyn’s rebirth. We can take the bus to the main entrance of the Zoo, but there are a few landmarks I want to show you. Instead, let’s exit at the Grand Army Plaza stop and walk the rest of the way.
We are going to walk across Flatbush Avenue for a closer look at the Brooklyn Public Library’s beautiful entrance.
Construction began in 1912, but the Library was not completed until 1941, after World War II and the Depression ended. Shaped to look like an open book, one of the building’s most recognizable features is its 50’ high entry portico, which is flanked by two enormous pylons, highlighted with beautiful gilded relief sculptures. Centered within the pylons are huge bronze gates with gilt figures of literary subjects including Tom Sawyer, from the novel by Mark Twain, and Moby-Dick, from the novel by Herman Melville. The Library, which contains over one million cataloged books, magazines, and multimedia materials, serves as the major reference center for BPL’s 60-location system. For more information about membership, public resources and special events, please click here.
Now, let’s walk back across Flatbush Avenue, where we exited the B41 bus. Before proceeding to the Zoo, I would like to take one last detour to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza, which is also considered to be the main entrance to Prospect Park. Here will you see four 35’ high Doric columns decorated with bronze eagles, pedestals that support 14 painted bronze urns and two 12-sided granite pavilions. What a majestic tribute to such an impressive park.
We are now ready for our walk to the Zoo. As we walk along Flatbush Avenue, which is the outer perimeter of Prospect Park, we will pass the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which is a tour for another day. We have arrived at our destination. Welcome to the Prospect Park Zoo.
The Zoo covers an impressive 12 acres. The present facility, which first opened in 1935, was operated as a City Zoo by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The Parks Department was responsible for managing the Zoo until 1988, when it was closed for a major reconstruction which took five years and cost $37 million. Every part of the Zoo, with the exception of the buildings’ exteriors, was replaced. The newly reconstructed facility was re-dedicated in October 1993 as a part of the Prospect Park Wildlife Conservation Center, and is still affectionately called the “Zoo.” First, let’s find a picnic bench and enjoy our lunch from Juniors.
We are ready to begin our tour. There are several exhibits and attractions to choose from: Animal Lifestyles, where we will meet the Zoo’s mascots, a troop of Himalayan baboons; Animals in our Lives, which is two exhibits, Animals in Art and Amazing Animals highlighting some of nature’s muses; Discovery Trails, where we will see planted pathways and marshes, red pandas, dingoes, prairie dogs and kangaroos; Barns and Gardens, home to baby-doll sheep, pygmy goats and alpacas and the Sea Lion Court, which is the heart of the Zoo and home to some amazing sea lions from California. While we are on a self-guided tour, please keep in mind animal keepers are around to answer questions. The Zoo also has a wildlife theater, educational programs to engage children and volunteer programs to engage the local community.
Here are some photos of some of the Zoo’s amazing residents:
To learn more about days of operation, special programs, membership and other ways to enjoy this Brooklyn treasure, please click here.
We will end our tour here to allow enough time to visit a few additional sites: the Historic Lefferts House, The Carousel and The Audubon Center at the Boathouse. Once outside the Zoo, we will make a quick right turn, bringing us closer to the interior of Prospect Park where the Historic Lefferts House stands ready to receive us. The former home of Continental Army Lieutenant Pieter Lefferts, this house was built in 1783 and originally located on Flatbush Avenue. In 1918 the Historic Lefferts House was moved to Prospect Park. In 1920 it opened as a museum with landmark status. The Historic Lefferts House is a part of the Historic House Trust, owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and operated by the Prospect Park Alliance.
The Prospect Park Carousel was one of 6,000 constructed in the United States in the early 20th century. It is one only 200 that exist today. The animals for this Carousel were carved in 1912 by Charles Carmel, who was trained in Coney Island by the most renowned carousel artists of the time. Upon completion, the Carousel was installed in Coney Island, where it remained until 1952, when it was moved to its current location. Once in Prospect Park, the Carousel was in operation until 1983, when it was closed for much needed-repairs and maintenance. This beloved attraction reopened in 1990 after undergoing extensive restoration. For more information about the Carousel, please click here.
After a quick ride, we are off to our final stop for today – The Audubon Center at the Boathouse. We will need to go further into Prospect Park but not too far. Once inside, the Center is a quick walk across the East Drive.
The Audubon Center is the result of a trailblazing partnership between the Prospect Park Alliance and Audubon New York. The first urban-area Audubon Center in the nation, it is a place of active discovery with hands-on exhibits and innovative programming for children and adults. This is also a good place to pick up information on future events from the Prospect Park Visitors Center, which is also located here. We cannot leave without visiting the Con Edison Discover Nature Theater and the Verizon Learning Lab. Remember this Center is a “living” museum filled with live animals. Like any museum space, the exhibits change frequently and provide a constant source of amazement. Let’s stop for a picture on the balcony overlooking the Lullwater to share with our friends and family. For more information about the Center, please click here.
We at Brooklyn Legends thank you for joining us for another walking tour. There is so much more to see in Prospect Park. I encourage you to plan another visit. Please remember to check back often for future tours of Brooklyn.
We will walk back to Flatbush Avenue where public transportation awaits. The B41 bus will take you downtown or to Kings Plaza Shopping Mall. The Prospect Park Subway Station is a couple of blocks away. Or, you can also take a taxi. Enjoy the rest of the day!
Brooklyn Public Library background information and photos – bklynpubliclibrary.org
Soldiers and Sailors Monument bacground information and photos – prospectpark.org
Prospect Park Zoo background information and photos – prospectparkzoo.com
Historic Lefferts House background information and photos – prospectpark.org