The Brooklyn Mirador - Sources of Information

 
The Empire State Building is framed by 
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, New York

From Prospect Park's Mirador, Brooklyn (Jan 2008)
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The Empire State Building (1931) bisects the Arch (1892) in Grand Army Plaza (1867) Brooklyn

This view from Prospect Park should be protected as a National Art Treasure or as a continuing 150-year work-in-progress historic visual corridor.

 

The purpose of the following pages is to support the protection of this unique and beautiful view of the alignment of three of New York City's most notable landmarks.  Today's view has evolved atop the original framework planned by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead.  In creating Brooklyn's Civil War Memorial, Vaux and Olmsted not only honored the Union victory, but targeted the Manhattan clubhouse of their political and philosophical opponents and condemned these enemies of Abraham Lincoln.  Neither the original alignment (planned in 1865) nor the placement of the Mirador (the perfect vantage point planned in 1969) was coincidence.  Today's alignment is the result of a continuing 150-year work-in-progress.  The 'View from the Brooklyn Mirador' is the Civil War Legacy of Vaux and Olmslead and should be protected as either an 'Historic Visual Corridor' or a 'National Art Treasure.'  Please, if you find the following information relevant please sign the petition to preseve this continuing gift from our greatest artists.

“What artist, so noble…directs the shadows of a picture so great that Nature shall be employed upon it for generations, before the work he has arranged for her shall realize his intentions.” Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England - Olmsted 1852

 “It is a common error to regard a park as something to be produced complete in itself, as a picture to be painted on a canvas. It should rather be planned as one to be done in fresco, with constant consideration of exterior objects, some of them quite at a distance and even existing as yet only in the imagination of the painter.” – Olmsted, Feb. 1870.

 Calvert Vaux was hired to design Prospect Park in January 1865, before the Civil War ended, he contacted his Central Park partner, Frederick Law Olmsted, to join him: 

03/12/1865 Olmsted to Vaux (The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted – 5: 324)

“I have received your letters of 1/9 and 1/10 and map of Brooklyn Park as designed by General Viele. My heart really bounds (if you don’t mind poetry) to your suggestion that we might work together about it. …I can’t tell you how I abhor the squabbles with the Central Park Commission and politicians. It was a passion thwarted and my whole life is really embittered with it very much and I think I shall feel it more as I grow older. I think a good deal how I should like to show you what I really am and could do with a perfectly free and fair understanding from the start and a moderate degree of freedom from the necessity of accommodating myself to infernal scoundrels

…Your plans are excellent, you go at once to the essential starting points, and I hope the commissioners are wise enough to comprehend it.”

05/12/1865 Vaux to Olmsted (The Papers of FLO – 5:362-3)

“We are both supposed to be dead and buried two years ago [they had resigned from Central Park in 1863]…They [the CPCommissioners] have been living on what they found in the houses of the murdered men but the day for that ceases and the cloven foot appears.

Now comes our opportunity.…The Brooklyn Park is all our own.

I shall tell them that I intend to ask you to go into it with me… Our right unquestionably is to control matters from Washington Heights to the other side of Brooklyn…I value these affairs as opportunities to develop the earnest convictions of my life… It was right that this work should help artists to take a true position. It has not yet, but it is planned to achieve that result. I want to make a ‘frightful’ example of the Commrs…so that in the end all the dirt we have had to eat may result in something tangible and these moneyed men may find that artists are their masters. For this, patience is necessary….The country wants artists.”

The excerpted Olmsted quotes below can be read in full in ‘The Papers of FLO – Volume V.’

Pages 555-6 - 06/29/1866 (one year before Prospect Park opened). He speaks of houses near a proposed Berkeley campus. Prospect Park is considered a loved extension of their home by many Brooklyn families. “It is desirable to be able to look out from the house itself upon an interesting distant scene…It is not desirable to have such a scene constantly before one.  It should be held only where it can be enjoyed under circumstances favorable to sympathetic contemplation. The distant scene should be natural and tranquil, but in the details there should be something of human interest…The view from the window or balcony should... form a symmetrical, harmonious and complete landscape composition.”

Before Prospect Park, while still in California, in August 1865 Olmsted expressed his views on the preservation of the vistas of Yosemite Valley. Apply this to his vision for urban parks. Pages 502-5 – “It is the main duty of government, if it is not the sole duty of government, to provide means of protection for all its citizens in the pursuit of happiness against theobstacles, otherwise insurmountable, which the selfishness of individuals or combinations of individuals is liable to interpose to that pursuit. It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character…increases the subsequent capacity for happiness and the means of securing happiness…It is for itself and at the moment it is enjoyed. The attention is aroused and the mind occupied without purpose, without a thought or perception to some future end…The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it…. Men who are rich enough provide places of this needed recreation for themselves.” In Olmsted’s time, in Great Britain and Ireland “these owners with their families number less than one in six thousand of the whole population…. It has always been the conviction of the governing classes of the old world that it is necessary that the large mass of all human communities should spend their lives in almost constant labor and that the power of enjoying beauty either of nature or art…is impossible to these humble toilers.”

Page 426 – Aug 4, 1865 Letter to Editor of SF Bulletin on the need for a SF park, Olmsted speaks of Central Park: “It is beyond all question that the influence of the park is exceedingly favorable to moral as well as physical health, and that it exerts a highly civilizing effect upon the population of the city. Not only its popularity with all classes, but the degree of propriety, civility, good order and decorum with which all classes meet and enjoy themselves in it.”

“Preliminary Report to the Commissioners for laying out of a Park in Brooklyn

“A scene in nature is made up of various parts; each part has its individual character and its possible ideal.  It is unlikely that accident should group a number of these possible ideals in such a way that not only one or two but that all should be harmoniously related one to the other.” – Olmsted, 1866
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Viewed from the median of the principal entrance into Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Mirador (1970), Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch (1892). Bailey Fountain (1932) are precisely aligned with the Tower (1931).  Twenty years before the Arch three other structures had already defined this line.  The Plaza was the first element of Prospect Park completed and opened to the public.  The axis of this elliptical plaza was the essential starting point, the frame on which all future alignments would be based.

 "THE PARK THROUGHOUT IS A SINGLE WORK OF ART, AND AS SUCH, SUBJECT TO THE PRIMARY LAW OF EVERY WORK OF ART, NAMELY,THAT IT SHALL BE FRAMED UPON A SINGLE, NOBLE MOTIVE, TO WHICH THE DESIGN OF ALL ITS PARTS…SHALL BE CONFLUENT.”  --- Frederick Law Olmsted

The Plaza opened in 1867 with a simple fountain, a lone jet of water, planned as its centerpiece.  Named "The Fountain of the Golden Spray", this was a subtle message aimed at the enemies of the assassinated President.  In 1869, the first statue dedicated to Abraham Lincoln was positioned at the northern end of the plaza's axis.  He holds the Emancipation Proclamation and points to the words 'shall be forever free.'  Facing north, he confronts his enemies.  Four months later Olmsted, speaking at the Lowell Institute indicated that this positioning was intentional:
“It is a common error to regard a park as something to be produced complete in itself, as a picture to be painted on a canvas. It should rather be planned as one to be done in fresco, with constant consideration of exterior objects, some of them quite at a distance and even existing as yet only in the imagination of the painter.” – Olmsted, Feb. 1870.
The 1869 alignment of the Lincoln statue along the axis of Grand Army Plaza and the  site of the future Empire State Building is the same line aligning the Mirador, Arch and Tower.
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April 2011 - The Lincoln statue is returning to the Plaza.
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As its original location is occupied by a bust of JFK, and the area north of the site
is now traversed by multiple lanes of roadway no longer presenting a meeting ground, 
the statue should be placed between the Arch and Bailey Fountain, facing north,
along the Plaza's axis, overlooking the fountain's large open-air public gathering area.
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After 115 years of neglect, the Lincoln statue should not be hidden in yet another  
remote corner and face south, across six lanes of traffic, looking at "his" Plaza .
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From the large public area surrounding the Bailey Fountain basin, 
you would see, atop the steps, Lincoln silhouetted before Defenders Arch.
Grand Army Plaza has been transformed into  THE Civil War Memorial . 
Class trips. Political speeches.  After dinner strolls. 
Decoration Day ceremonies.
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From the JFK Memorial, you see Lincoln through the fountain mist..
From Prospect Park, looking north through the Arch,
you see Lincoln confronting the Empire State Building.
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This respects and conforms to the 1865 reasons Vaux, Olmsted and Stranahan
planned that Lincoln would face north in Brooklyn's Civil War Memorial Plaza.

The JFK Memorial, dwarfed by the size of the statue, could be enhanced by

busts of  General  Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson - three Presidents 

who joined Lincoln and Grant in the struggle for Civil Liberties
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Rededication ceremonies should conclude with

John Howard Payne's  "Home Sweet Home" (twice).

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Imagine the brightly lit Tower through the illuminated Arch at Night. 

Night View - Wisdom and Felicity at the Mirador
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Through the Arch, the Tower floats above the Fountain

Unfortunately, the glare from one street light blots the view.

Grand Army Plaza Feb 1, 2009
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Fountain View Blocked by Signs

The light pole that supports the glaring light is set directly in the middle of the very narrow and obliquly angled only crosswalk between the park entrance and Plaza. 

Two traffic signs block the street level view of the the Plaza, Arch and Bailey Fountain while hindering access to the already blocked crosswalk to the Plaza.

Physical and visual blockades discourage passage to the Plaza. 

The signs, poles and glaring light should be repositioned. 

The crosswalk should be widened and squared to the Plaza's axis.

Street Level
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February 1, 2009 - Bailey Fountain
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Wisdom and Felicity

Felicity and Wisdom, atop Bailey Fountain, are also bisected by the Tower.

The Empire State Building was completed in 1931.

In 1932, Bailey Fountain was unveiled.

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The 1869 statue of Lincoln should return to the Plaza

1869 Statue of Lincoln
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H.K.Brown - Sculptor

The 1867 Fountain of the Golden Spray
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Feb 2009 - See the back of the Lincoln Statue facing Rink

Link - June 20 1867 Brooklyn Eagle reports on Plaza's progress.

October 19 1867  the Plaza opened, a simple jet of water planned as its centerpiece.

October 21 1869 the Lincoln Statue is unveiled at the northern end of the Plaza's axis.
"Shall be Forever Free" 

Today the two original elements face the skating rink south of the Concert Grove.

In 1873, the Vaux Fountain replaced the simple fountain.

In 1892, Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch was dedicated

 

The alignment between 1892 and 1895
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Arch 1892, Vaux Fountain 1873, Lincoln Statue 1869

In 1895 the Lincoln Statue was turned around and moved into the park.

In 1896 the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation Constitutional.

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The location of Lincoln Statue in Grand Army Plaza has significance.

'The park is a single work of art framed upon a single, noble motive to which the design of all its parts shall be confluent'   Olmsted

Link - Feb 4 2009 -BrooklynPaper reports Lincoln Statue to return

April 2008 - Sullivan Hill
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Tyler's Grave

In 1823 Payne wrote the words to 'Home Sweet Home' ("There's no place like home") while sharing a Paris apartment with Washington Irving.

In 1842 President Tyler appointed Irving Ambassador to Spain, Payne Consul to Tunis.

In 1862 'Home Sweet Home' was sung at the White House as the Lincolns mourned the loss of their 11 year old son Willie.

Looking for the John Howard Payne Monument on Sullivan Hill, as a southern  extention of the axis into the park, I found only the grave of a family feline "Tyler".

Bibliography - Quotes

The Complete Illustrated Guidebook to

Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Berenson and deMause      q917.4723B

...pg 43 - "...times change and memories fade..."

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Prospect Park Handbook

Lancaster                          974.723 L241P

...pg 99 - "THE PARK THROUGHOUT IS A SINGLE WORK OF ART, AND AS SUCH, SUBJECT TO THE PRIMARY LAW OF EVERY WORK OF ART, NAMELY, THAT IT SHALL BE FRAMED UPON A SINGLE, NOBLE MOTIVE, TO WHICH THE DESIGN OF ALL ITS PARTS, IN SOME MORE OR LESS SUBTLE WAY, SHALL BE CONFLUENT AND HELPFUL...Olmsted

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FLO – A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted

Roper                                 B Olmsted

...pg 280 - 'It [The Nation Magazine] should advocate measures and tendencies that

                 ...educate Americans slowly from the brutal cconditions of pioneers.

...pg 282 - Olmsted regarded himself less as an artist than...an educator of hearts

                 whose function was to civilize men... and to raise the general level of

                 American society by exerting a beneficent influence on environment and by

                 modifying unfavorable surroundings through art.  

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The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted

David Schuyler and Jane Turner Censer           712.08     O

.He wrote Bigelow 02/09/1861: “Belmont and Fields have both been doing all the harm they could from the adoption of the plan.  They have thrown every possible obstruction in the way of business and this with direct and avowed intention.”   (James C. Fields was the sole vote opposing Olmsted’s 1857 appointment )

America’s First Millionaire

John Jacob Astor

Madsen                              B Astor M

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Gotham at War – New York City 1860-1865

Spann                                 974.7103 S

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The Last Mrs Astor

Kiernan                              B Astor K

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- 'Fifth Avenue - A Very Social History' by  Kate Simon.
"On the southwest corner of Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, part of the land that son Wiliam Backhouse had bought in 1827, William built a red brick house which he didn't use - the family stayed in the colonnaded row of Layfeyette Place - but later willed to his son, the second William Backhouse.  William's brother, John Jacob Astor III, placed his house on the northwest corner of Thirty-third Street and that one was inherited by his son, William Waldorf Astor."

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The New York City Draft Riots

Bernstein                            974.7103 B

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The Civil War and New York City

McKay                              974.7103

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Incredible New York

Morris                               974.7104M

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The Devils's Own Work

The Civil War Draft Riots and the

Fight to Reconstruct America

Schecter                           974.7103S

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Brooklyn Historical Society

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New York Historical Society

...Iconography of Manhattan Island

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Brooklyn Eagle Archives

http://eagle.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/Repository/getFiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:LowLevelEntityToSaveGifMSIE_BEAGLE&Type=text/html&Locale=english-skin-custom&Path=BEG/1867/06/20&ChunkNum=-1&ID=Ar00219

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Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

Transcribed and Annotated by the Lincoln Studies Center,

Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois.

(Letter from Olmsted to Preston King, July 9, 1862)

(Letter from Olmsted to John G. Nicolay, Oct 10, 1862)

http://www.mrlincolnandnewyork.org/inside.asp?ID=49&subjectID=3

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The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008

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Wikipedia

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Lecture of Hugh R King,

Director of "Home, Sweet, Home" Museum, 

6/13/2002, on John Howard Payne at East Hampton Library.

http://www.easthamptonlibrary.org/pdfs/history/lectures/20020613.pdf

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"Henry Kirke Brown and the Development of American Public Sculpture in New York City, 1846–1876” (City University of New York, 2005). Order No.  DA3169946.Lemmey, Karen Yvonne,

 

"Civilizing American Cities - Writings on City Lanscapes" Frederick Law Olmsted - Edited by S.B.Sutton

1895 Supreme Court - Income Tax Unconstitutional

Astor's Pine Street Meeting - Online References

LINK to National Association for Olmsted Parks - Online Reference

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A few words about myself.  An artist, I worked since age 18 as a computer programmer until  2003.  I connect dots and recognize patterns and know the 'aha' moment. 

I had noticed the Empire State Building through the Arch many years ago.  But in January 2008 I realized that the Tower definitely bisected the Arch at a 90 degree angle and I could not believe this was coincidence, regarless of what local historians told me.  Bailey Fountain, also bisected, was built at the same time as the Tower.  And the concrete base in Prospect Park where I came to this realization was on the line. 

Finding no documentation of this alignment I spent 2008 putting pieces together while making art at the Brooklyn Artists Gym near Gowanus Canal.  As new facts or my errors come to my attention, I will revise my related web sites and books already in print.  I consider everything to be works-in-progress.  I think there is important history here, and hope my efforts come to the attention of accredited and recognized authorities who may find a deeper revelvance in the works of Vaux and Olmsted.  Whatever happens, the view is great and it should be preserved.  Richard F Kessler.

Valley
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My Artwork

E-Mail

Link - Why Vaux and Olmsted planned this line of vision --->