Brooklyn’s rolling, woodsy Prospect Park first opened in October 1867, while still under construction. The 585-acre park arises from an original 1861 design by Egbert Viele, after a New York State Legislative act in 1859 created a commission to find park sites in what was then the City of Brooklyn.
After design delays due to the Civil War, President of the Brooklyn Board of Park Commissioners James Stranahan submitted Viele’s plan for review to architect Calvert Vaux, who with Frederick Law Olmstead had designed Manhattan’s Central Park. Vaux brought in Olmstead to the Prospect Park review. Their formal 1865 redesign expanded Viele’s plan southward, creating Prospect Park's final dimensions, between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West, with Grand Army Plaza at the top and Windsor Terrace at the southern border. Construction began in 1865, and the first phase was mostly complete by 1873, costing over $5 million (further development continued to 1895). The land had been purchased for $4 million.
Through the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, numerous Neoclassical structures and designs were added to Prospect Park. When the City of Brooklyn merged with New York City in 1898, the park was absorbed into the latter's park system. Park Commissioner Robert Moses tapped New Deal funds during the FDR administration to employee workers in all New York parks, resulting in the construction of the Prospect Park Zoo and Bandshell, among other improvements, in the late 1930s.
Lack up upkeep and funding through the 1960s and 1970s triggered various restoration efforts beginning in the 1980s. The creation of the Prospect Park Alliance in 1987, a non-profit organization dedicated to public-private partnerships, was a crucial step in further conservation of the park through the 1990s to today. The Alliance continues to oversee numerous improvements to the park, and manages a budget of nearly $10 million that it raises from foundations, and private and corporate donors, spending 80% of its revenue on park projects.
The Wildlife Conservation Society took over operation of the Prospect Park Zoo in 1993. The famous Prospect Park Boathouse, which was almost town down in 1964, became the Audubon Center in 2000, the only urban Audubon Society center in the country. The continuing restoration of the Ravine District, a central part of Vaux’s and Olmstead’s design, has brought back Brooklyn’s only true forest. The Vale of Kashmere, in the north of the Park, is one of the most beautifully secluded spots in the entire city. Fishing in Prospect Park Lake can be surprisingly successful, and you can get out on the Lullwater with a paddle boat or electric boat. A 3.5-mile bridle trail allows for horseback riding (horses are available from nearby stables). The Bandshell, near the 9th St. entrance, is a site of a very popular summer concert and film series.