Located in the heart of Crown Heights, Brower Park has been an outstanding educational and recreational resource for children for over a century. The City of Brooklyn purchased what is now the southern portion of the park in 1892 and improved the property within two years. The 1894 Annual Report of the Brooklyn Department of Parks boasted that “[The site’s] natural advantages were many, and it is now one of the prettiest small parks in the City.” Rolling terrain, dense shrubs, robust native trees, curving walks, and an iron ornamental fence contributed to the beauty of what was then called Bedford Park.
Originally founded by Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the Brooklyn Museum), the Brooklyn Children’s Museum opened in the William Newton Adams House in 1899. With hands-on exhibits, demonstrations, field trips, workshops, and school visits—all specifically arranged for children—this museum was the first of its kind in the world. A parcel to the north of the park was acquired in 1923, and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum expanded into the L.C. Smith House by the late 1920s. An elegant, classically-inspired comfort station was erected in 1905, and a World War I memorial was dedicated in Bedford Park in 1919.
In 1923, the Board of Aldermen renamed the park for Brooklyn Parks Commissioner George V. Brower (c. 1839-1921). Although he was born in Paterson, New Jersey, Brower was a member of an old Brooklyn family. He served as an apprentice to a Pennsylvania judge and moved to Brooklyn in 1867 to practice law. Brower was General Appraiser of the Port of New York from 1880 to 1884, and he was a Parks Commissioner from 1889 to 1894 and from 1898 to 1901. He was instrumental in acquiring Red Hook, Fort Hamilton, and Sunset Parks in Brooklyn and “Brooklyn Forest”, now Forest Park in Queens. Brower died in his home, at 1084 Park Place directly south of the park, in 1921.
Brower Park continued to progress. Reconstruction activity in 1936 reconfigured the paths, and added drinking fountains, benches, and a playground. Additional parkland was purchased in 1947, the George V. Brower School (P.S. 289) opened its doors in 1958, and Prospect Place was closed between Brooklyn and Kingston Avenues, uniting the north and south portions of the park. In the 1950s, a new playground and handball courts were constructed.
Meanwhile, plans were made to build a new facility for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. From 1967 to 1977 a temporary “neighborhood museum” (the MUSE) operated out of a former automobile showroom in nearby Bedford-Stuyvesant. The old museum buildings were torn down, and a remarkable new museum sprang to life in the northwest corner of the park in 1977. Designed by the architectural firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, the playful building used structures and signage from industry, agriculture, and transportation. Upon entering the museum through a c. 1909 trolley kiosk, visitors descended in a tubular ramp through four underground levels. The rooftop gardens and amphitheater integrated the museum’s architecture with the park’s landscape.
In 2008, a two-story building clad in yellow ceramic tiles designed by Rafael Vinoly was built to enclose Pfeiffer’s underground structure. The construction doubled the museum’s space and is the first “green” museum in New York City.
Brower Park remains a respite for Brooklynites but continues to evolve. With the assistance of the Friends of Brower Park, the community built a Monarch Butterfly Garden in 2014, and in 2016 dedicated Shirley Chisholm Circle. The paved, circular terrace along Kingston Avenue was named after Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (1924–2005), educator, social rights advocate, and US Congresswoman. The Shirley Chisholm commemorative stone with plaque sits on the west side of the circular terrace alongside a tree planted in her honor. Benches and planters were added to the plaza to provide a space for both contemplation and active programming in the park year-round.
Directions to Brower Park
- Brower Park
- Shirley Chisholm Circle