08 November 2012

Carroll Park Suffers a Loss

Carroll Gardens weathered Hurricane Sandy fairly well. Compared the ravages suffered by Red Hook, in fact, if got off pretty much scot free. But it did suffer one major loss which will be felt by the whole community.

Carroll Park is the beating, green heart of the Brooklyn neighborhood. The small park takes up only one square block, but it has deep roots. It's actually the third oldest park in the city. A sign of its age can be seen in the height and width of its mammoth trees. Four very large trees adorn the park's central circle, and two enormous ones interrupt the pavement on the nearby basketball courts and baseball diamonds. Most are London plain trees, and they are beautiful.

There was another tree in a fenced off green area. Kids frequently played around it when they climbed on the nearby "Clinton Rock," a boulder that was dug up on Clinton Street a decade ago and placed in the park. It came down during Sandy and smashed a good section of chain link fence. The park is closed for now, until the mess can be cleared. Another large, wonderfully gnarled tree on President Street, just outside the border of the park, also toppled and was carved up and taken away.

I don't know exactly how old the fallen trees are, but they were big and tall in the 1930s, as these photos attest. So I'm guessing at least a century old.

Carroll Park was created around 1843. Though the name Carroll Gardens is new, dating from the 1960s, the park has always been called Carroll Park, named Charles Carroll, a Maryland delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Why him? Because fighting a pivotal battle in the early Revolutionary War skirmish, the Battle of Brooklyn, was done by the valiant Maryland Boys, who kept the British at bay while Washington and his army decamped for Manhattan.

The land where the park sits began as a private property. The idea for a park was put forth in 1851, and paid for by assessment of local property owners. The land was acquired by the city in 1853. When it opened it was called the "nonpareil of parks." In 1859, is was described as "a block of ground planted with ornamental trees and intersected by gavelled walks." But it was "let to take care of itself." Iron fence eight-feet tall were erected, and asphalt walks. Baseball was played here as early as 1870.

Renovations in 1870 were done by Olmstead and Vaux, of Central Park and Prospect Park fame. At this point, gas lamps were installed, and the corners of the park were curved. In the 1890s came electric lights, "handsome serpentine paths," and a big circular basin in the middle, with a fountain stocked with fish, surrounded to two smaller fountains. (The fountains became a problem. Local kids would cast lines and try to catch the fish.)

It was around the time of this renovation that trees were planted. I'm guessing these trees. They grew during three separate centuries.

1 comment:

upstate johnny g said...