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Machate Circle

Police Officer Robert Machate Circle

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

In 1989, this plot of land, which had been known as Park Circle, was renamed by Parks for Police Officer Robert Machate (1964-1989), who worked as an anti-crime officer near the Circle at the Brooklyn South Task Force. Machate was shot and killed while in pursuit of a suspect on March 3, 1989, on East 23rd Street in Flatbush. Machate left behind his wife, Grace Ann, who gave birth to their daughter, Nicole Marie, on June 6, 1989, just a few months after Machate died.

The circle named for Machate is part of larger historical trend in landscape architecture. When Fredrick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed nearby Prospect Park in 1865 they intended to offer park goers a pastoral escape from the congestion of city life. Consequently, the park's entrances, most of which are set back from the street, were designed as places of transition between New York's urban bustle and the park's natural tranquility.

Machate Circle exemplifies this space of transition, diverting the traffic from Ocean Parkway, Coney Island Avenue, Parkside Avenue, and Prospect Park Southwest around a central tree-lined grass plot, and filtering vehicles into the park. When Machate Circle opened in 1867, it managed the traffic of trolleys, carriages, and pedestrians. Trolley tracks intersected the circular island, and pedestrian walkways and bridle paths surrounded the circle. While cars have replaced carriages and trolleys, horses and riders continue to frequent the entrance, and a bridle path still connects Machate Circle to the southwest corner of Long Meadow.

Until the 1890s, this circle and other Prospect Park entrances were marked only by trees that bordered the sidewalks. The architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White lent drama to these entrances by adding elaborate neoclassical architectural features and sculptures. In 1896, a year after the completion of Grand Army Plaza, architect Stanford White designed the entrance to Machate Circle. White added rectangular stone shelters to either side of the entrance for people waiting for horse-cars on Parkside or Coney Island Avenues. Stone walls and benches connected the shelters to the pedestrian entrances, which were adorned with granite urns. In 1894, White also commissioned a pair of bronze equestrian statues, the Horse Tamers, to set on top of tall pedestals at the vehicle entrance.

Sculpted by Brooklyn native Fredrick MacMonnies, the Horse Tamers was completed in 1898 in MacMonnies's Paris studio. The struggle between the frenzied horses and the nude youth was intended, as the sculpture's original title suggests, to illustrate "The Triumph of Mind over Brute Force". The sculptures also appear to reflect on the contest between the park's peaceful landscape and the city's urban fervor. The sculptures were restored in 1998 as part of the City Parks Foundation's Monuments Conservation Program.

Recently, Police Officer Robert Machate Circle and Prospect Park have undergone a round of renovations. In 1996, the sidewalks on the park perimeter were reconstructed with $845,00, authorized by Council Member Stephen DiBrienza. Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden authorized $2 million in 1999 for the reconstruction of Prospect Park's entrance ensemble and new landscaping for Machate Circle.

Park Information

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