Harmony Playground celebrates the tradition of music and entertainment at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Aymar Embury II (1880-1966) designed the bandshell, located on Prospect Park West between Ninth Street and 11th Street. Embury served as an architect of the Triborough Bridge and the Henry Hudson Bridge in 1936, the Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos in 1937, and the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and the New York City Building in 1939. The bandshell was constructed under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) and lies on the former estate of the nearby Litchfield Villa. The land was originally designated a zoological site but served as an archery and hockey field until the construction of the bandshell in 1939.
Park designers Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) and Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) planned Prospect Park with great consideration for music performance spaces. They created the Music Pagoda and the Concert Grove, on the other side of the park, and designed a series of terraces and arcades for open-air concerts and a restaurant in the area below Lookout Hill. The plan was never implemented, but the Terrace Bridge on Wellhouse Drive takes its name from the original intent of Vaux and Olmsted. In 1968, the Congo Square Dancers began the tradition of informal percussion at the site of the Drummer’s Grove, near the Ocean Avenue entrance. The Picnic House holds performances on the Long Meadow, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera perform in Prospect Park during the summer.
Having deteriorated in the 1960s, the Prospect Park Bandshell has undergone a series of renovations over the last three decades. Since 1979, the Celebrate Brooklyn! Performing Arts Festival has been held at the bandshell every summer. The festival includes a diverse selection of music, film, dance, and spoken-word performances.
In 2000, the bandshell, surrounding landscape, and Harmony playground underwent reconstruction. The playground was given a music theme to celebrate the bandshell and the long tradition of music in Prospect Park. With completion anticipated in 2021, the Prospect Park Alliance is restoring and enhancing Harmony Playground. The design includes an adult fitness area with playground-style exercise equipment for senior citizens and the less able-bodied, a shade structure over the existing sandbox, and new playground equipment.
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