Thursday, August 9, 2018


This is a neighborhood gem, hidden enough so that I lived a few blocks away for years before I got to know it. It's a park, not huge and famous like  nearby Prospect Park, but not a little sliver of green slipped between two buildings, either. It is a full city block, which is room for a lot of variety

The side along the main avenue is a lively and popular playground. It has a special place in our family lore: our oldest grandchild, having just mastered walking, one day decided the action on the sidewalk along the avenue was more exciting than the park. With the confidence of a linebacker she walked right through the gates and made her way up the street. (No worries. We were right behind.)

But wait!  What is this behind the playground? An old stone house with large red shutters and a charming garden? Could it be what it seems, an actual farmhouse from the days of the Dutch in New York? Or is it a Disney-like reproduction? The answer is yes. And yes.

In fact, it was built in 1699 and stayed in the hands of Dutch descendants for more than two centuries. By the early 20th century it was buried under 15'of landfill. Eventually a movement began to rebuild the house using stones retrieved from the original site. And it became part of Washington Park. Why? Partly because this was the site of part of the  Battle of Brooklyn. Yes, Washington was right here.  The end result of the Battle was the loss of New York to the British. Let the park tell you:

Now the Old Stone House, its official name, is a small Revolutionary War museum  and location for all kinds of cultural activities from cider tastings to theater to gardening for children.

Come on Sunday and you will find a small, friendly farmer's market. too.  I even wrote a mystery story set there, "The Greenmarket Violinist."

Finally. This very spot was - maybe - the original home to what was a soon-to-be famous baseball team. While there is some disagreement about exactly which team was here, and exactly where their headquarters actually  stood, the story goes that a man names Ebbets was involved - yes that Ebbets- and they eventually became known as the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. Yes, those Dodgers.

That's a lot of history for just one square block in Brooklyn. If you are in the neighborhood - it's called Park Slope - come  sit in the shade, listen to the children's laughter, take a quick look around the museum, admire the garden. You might hear some music or - if it's Sunday - buy a pastry. And listen for a few ghosts.

Details:  Washington Park/ JJ Byrne Playground/


Ginger said...

Thanks for writing about this wonderful space. I became better acquainted with it while my son was a student at neighboring MS 51. The park also serves as space for many of their events.

Triss said...

Thanks for writing, Ginger. Glad you enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

I grew up in the Bronx, which is different from Brooklyn, but the same in some ways as both boroughs are part of the dynamic called New York. I have not lived there since 1974, but I think about all the many, many times I walked across the Bronx at night with no worries. Something I would never do now. As teens my friends and I would go walking all over during the first nighttime snowfall. We didn't have cellphones in the 60's and so there were no "keep in touch" orders from parents! Yet we were never stopped from meandering. We rode the subways at all hours and just never gave it a second thought. I read a story last year about a woman who let her nine year old travel the subway alone to school and thought, is she crazy?! It is a different time for sure. Thank you for teaching me about Brooklyn. It is fascinating. I once had a boyfriend who lived in Brooklyn and I broke up with him after he was accosted on the subway going home one night. I couldn't take the guilt! I once went to a New Year's Eve party in Sheepshead Bay somewhere, and the Transit strike hit!! A bunch of us had to cram into a taxi to go home. Adventures never heard of in Florida!!! Keep telling Erica's story please, I know she has many more adventures to come.