Prospect Park

Harry’s Wall

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

Harry’s Wall honors Harry Murphy (1914-1993), co-founder of the Prospect Park Track Club. Murphy, along with other local running enthusiasts Bob Muller, Jack Stetch, Phil Heitz, Mark Greenblatt, and Norm Feldman, established the track club in 1970. Harry’s Wall, located in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, commemorates Murphy’s influence on organized running in Brooklyn. The wall was built in 1874 as an equestrian wall used to fasten carriages. Now the wall is often used as the start and finish line for park races, ensuring that Harry Murphy will be remembered by runners for generations to come.

Harry Murphy was born and raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East Flatbush, and attended Erasmus High School. He and his brother Thomas grew up flying airplanes at their family’s small Farmingdale, Long Island airport, and his brother went on to become a musician in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. They often attended concerts together in the park at the Concert Grove located near this wall.

Harry Murphy became a Postal Service printer, and was known as a renaissance man who was a skilled artist and an expert on local history. He designed the Prospect Park Track Club logo, a hand-drawn depiction of the Brooklyn Bridge. He also hand-painted the first yellow and black shirts for the club. A nationally ranked runner and one-time national champion, Murphy served as mentor and coach to club members of all abilities, and was known for his positive feedback and generous spirit. In July of 1977, the club started an annual race called “Harry’s Handicap,” and he was the subject of the popular “I Run With Harry” T-shirts. He remained committed to running and encouraging others throughout his later years. He died in January of 1993.

The Prospect Park Alliance, the New York Road Runners Club, and friends of Harry Murphy funded and designed Harry’s Wall in 1995. The Prospect Park Track Club also established the Harry Murphy Road Running Series Patch, an award established in memory of Murphy to encourage participation in New York City races.

Harry’s Wall is located along East Lake Drive, below the Concert Grove. Prospect Park planners Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) and Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) designed the Concert Grove in 1870. Vaux and Olmsted wanted a place for promenade concerts, and designed the grove with terraces and a radial arrangement of walkways, punctuated by lineally arranged trees, lavish floral beds and elaborate decorative carvings in New Brunswick sandstone. At the north end stood the Concert Grove House, demolished in 1949, and at the south end Vaux designed the Concert Grove Pavilion, along with the wall, both completed in 1874.

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