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Herbert Von King Park

Herbert Von King Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This park, formerly known as Tompkins Park, is named for Herbert Von King (1912-1985). King was called the "Mayor of Bedford-Stuyvesant," and was an active community leader for over 50 years. After completing high school, the Virginia native attended New York University as well as Kingsborough Community College as an older student. He founded Boy Scout Troop 219 in 1933, and later received scouting’s highest honor, the Vigil award. Von King, a private building contractor by profession, served as a member of the local school board, Police Civilian Committee, and Magnolia Earth Tree Center. In 1983 he received awards from the State Senate, City Council, and 81st police precinct in recognition of his community service.

Acquired in 1857, this park was one of the first established by the City of Brooklyn. It was originally named for Daniel D. Tompkins, an abolitionist who served four terms as governor of New York (1807-17) and two terms as vice president of the United States under James Monroe (1817-25). It was not until 1871, however, that the plan for the park was submitted by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, the designers of Prospect and Central Parks. Like most small parks of the time, Tompkins Park was planned as a public square used for ceremonies and military reviews. The designers provided for little more than border plantings of flower and shrubs, claiming that trees and winding walks would result in the park being used, "for clandestine purposes by people of bad character."

Historical additions to Von King Park reflect changing uses of the site. Space was cleared in 1915 to accommodate the large crowds who turned out for concerts performed by regimental bands. A playground was built in 1927, and a public library, that dates to 1915, was housed in the shelter building until it burned down in 1969. The group now known as Tompkins Park Recreation and Cultural Association formed in the same year and mobilized to improve park facilities. Their efforts led to the 1973 opening of a new recreation center which houses the Eubie Blake Auditorium, a senior citizen and teen center, and an amphitheater.

The park was renamed for Von King in 1985 under a local law introduced by Councilmember Mary Pinkett and signed by Mayor Edward I. Koch.

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