The origin of this park’s name is somewhat unclear. There are two possibilities. The name might have been chosen due to the site’s proximity to Washington Cemetery. In this sense it would literally imply that the park is at the grave’s end. It is also possible that this property is somehow named for the neighborhood of Gravesend, which today lies more than a mile to the south, or for Gravesend Avenue, present-day McDonald Avenue.
Gravesend was the first English settlement in New York. Founded by Lady Deborah Moody (c.1583-1659) in 1645, the solitary English town developed an air of self-sufficiency that lasted until 1894 when it was finally annexed by the City of Brooklyn. Over the centuries, Gravesend grew in importance and size. A map dating to 1850 indicates that this property was within the Gravesend town line. By 1890, however, it clearly belonged to New Utrecht. Gravesend Avenue was a key route though Kings County, connecting the City of Brooklyn, and all towns on its way, to Gravesend. In 1933, the thoroughfare was renamed to honor an Alderman (equivalent to a Council Member) who had died as a result of swallowing a chicken bone.
The City of Brooklyn first acquired this parcel in 1896 for construction of a disciplinary training school. The school closed in 1916 and parks acquired the property in 1917. Only 23 years had passed since Gravesend was its own town. McDonald Avenue, which lies a few blocks to the east, was still known as Gravesend Avenue, and parks were often named for nearby, major streets. While it is difficult to say absolutely, it seems likely that this park was named to honor Gravesend.
Discover the history of Gravesend Park
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