Help protect and promote our city’s most unknown and historic visual corridor by raising our neighbor’s awareness of its existence, great beauty, and potential significance.  This visual corridor is threatened to be eclipsed by Building Six of Atlantic Yards.

 

No artists have so profoundly affected the daily lives of Americans for the past 150 years than Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the designers and architects of Central Park and Prospect Park.  Active between the 1850s and 1890s, they believed that social reform could be achieved through art.  Their activity spanned the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras and ended as these gains were formally reversed by the Supreme Court’s ruling that racial segregation was Constitutional in 1896.

 

Their design of Grand Army Plaza was both a celebration of the Union victory and an undocumented condemnation of the enemies of the assassinated President.

 

This is what I know.

 

From a concrete base supporting a lamp post inside Prospect Park, you can look through the Arch in Grand Army Plaza and see that it frames the Empire State Building.  The Tower precisely bisects the Arch, the Plaza’s Bailey Fountain and JFK Memorial. I named this vantage point the Brooklyn Mirador, a balcony with an impressive view.

 

The media, park officials, urban historians and politicos I have contacted over the past three years discount any conscious plan and attribute this juxtaposition as coincidence.  I have leafleted, created websites, printed t-shirts, self-published a short book, and continue to speak to passersby near the Plaza.

 

 http://www.rfkessler.com/coincidenceColor.pdf

 

I believe that Olmsted, Vaux and Brooklyn Parks Commissioner James Stranahan purposely aligned the Civil War Memorial Plaza’s axis with the Manhattan mansion of William Waldorf Astor, the site of the future Empire State Building.  Astor was a leader of the New York City Democrats and merchants opposed to Lincoln and the Civil War.

When the Plaza was dedicated in 1867, its centerpiece, a single jet of water on the axis, named “The Fountain of the Golden Spray” was a message to these enemies.  In 1869, the Lincoln Statue was dedicated at the north end of the Plaza’s axis, facing the mansion.  The Arch was dedicated in 1892 at the south end of the Plaza’s axis and framed, in stone, the message and invisible corridor to the mansion. 

But political tides had already turned. Three years later, in 1895, Olmsted retired, the Lincoln Statue was turned around, marched into Prospect Park, abandoned in the Concert Grove, and Vaux drowned in Gravesend Bay.  The Supreme Court acted six months later.

The 1931 Empire State Building exposed and/or enhanced the alignment.

The 1970 Mirador, a southern extension of the axis, provides the perfect vantage point.

The Tower, the JFK Memorial (where the Lincoln Statue stood), Bailey Fountain (the fourth fountain on that spot), the center of the Arch, and the Mirador are aligned.  This is a continuing work-in-progress, framed on the noble ideals of artists Vaux and Olmsted.

 

Please join the Grand Army Plaza Group in the Brooklyn Arts Project to discuss and help develop a means to bring the issue of preservation of this view to an appropriate forum.  Even if the way I have portrayed the history is not scholarly, the visual alignment is amazing and spectacular at night.  And even old-timers are not aware it exists.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/Arch_and_EmpireS...

 

Take care, Richard

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