High up a winding set of stairs along a busy stretch of Eastern Parkway in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, sits Mount Prospect. It’s the second highest point in Brooklyn and was used by Washington’s Continental Army as a lookout point during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776.
Mount Prospect was named for the generous views it offered the troops—on a clear day, watchmen could stand at the top and see Manhattan, Brooklyn, New York harbor, New Jersey, Staten Island, and a good deal of Long Island. From this high point Washington’s troops protected the Heights of Guan, the series of hills near what is now the neighborhood of Gowanus.
Almost a hundred years later, what was then the city of Brooklyn built a reservoir at the top of Mount Prospect to supply water to the western half of the city. The reservoir held 20 million gallons of water, and in order to keep that precious supply clean, the original plans for Brooklyn’s Prospect Park included the reservoir. But that plan didn’t pass muster with Prospect Park’s famous landscape designers Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. They became concerned about the way Flatbush Avenue interrupted the dynamic landscape of their design. So they redrew the borders to create a more unified design, thereby excluding the reservoir and Mount Prospect.
When the city of Brooklyn became a part of New York City in 1898, Mount Prospect Reservoir went along with it, and ownership of the land and reservoir was transferred to the new city of New York. By the 1930s the reservoir was no longer needed thanks to alternative water supplies piped in from upstate and beyond. The reservoir was filled in, and the land converted to a park complete with playground, sweeping picnic lawns, and dog-friendly paths.
Mount Prospect Park is sandwiched between the Brooklyn Museum and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, just across Flatbush Avenue from its namesake Prospect Park. Today it is too buried by high-rise condos to be of much use to an army.
Submitted by Atlas Obscura contributor strictlyheather.
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