A cyclist Parkway’s A circa 1940s postcard shows Eastern Parkway. Acacia Card Company, collection of Susan De Vries.
LIVING THE GOOD LIFE
ON EASTERN PARKWAY
The elegant and bucolic approach to the heart of Brooklyn is a panorama of grand apartment buildings.
story by SUZANNE SPELLEN (AKA MONTROSE MORRIS)
photography by SUSAN DE VRIES
eveloped in the early twentieth century, a time
when the apartment house was coming into its
own, Eastern Parkway is a panorama of grand
This was something of an accident. The area was originally
intended by the city of Brooklyn to become Prospect Park
and then, when that didn’t pan out, a Parisian-style boulevard
lined with mansions on spacious grounds. But litigation
prevented development in the area until World War I.
THE PARK THAT WASN’T
In 1858, the new Brooklyn parks commissioner, James
Stranahan, hired engineer Egbert Viele to design a public
park that would surpass Manhattan’s new Central Park in
every way. Viele, who was muscled out of designing Central
Park by the superior talents of Frederick Law Olmsted and
Calvert Vaux, was eager to prove himself in Brooklyn. He
envisioned a large park bisected by Flatbush Avenue that
included Mount Prospect and its city reservoir to the east
and the Revolutionary War’s Battle Pass to the west, both
the highest points in Brooklyn.
The city bought the land needed, but before work could
begin, the Civil War started. Viele went off to design battlements
for the Union Army. While he was gone, Stranahan
had Olmsted and Vaux look over the plans. The pair totally
changed the placement and configuration of the park,
moving it completely to the other side of Flatbush Avenue.
When Viele came home, they had upstaged him again.
Changing the park’s location left the city with a lot of newly