Gravesend Triangle

Gravesend Triangle

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

This triangle is named for the first English settlement in New York, Gravesend. Founded in 1645 by Lady Deborah Moody (c.1583-1659), neighbor to Brooklyn’s five Dutch towns, Gravesend developed an air of self-sufficiency that lasted until 1894 when it was finally annexed by the City of Brooklyn.

Lady Deborah Moody, a wealthy protestant widow, left England for America in 1639. She and her assemblage of Anabaptists landed in New England, but received a cold welcome from the Puritans who controlled the region. In 1643, she moved to New Amsterdam and, on December 19, 1645, the Dutch governor granted Moody the first town charter written in English in the New World. With that charter, she founded the first English settlement in New York, at the southern end of Brooklyn. An innovative city planner, Moody designed the town after Kent, England, founding its town hall government, starting its first school, and establishing the first church. Gravesend’s design was one of the earliest in the New World to employ a block grid system. The crossroads of the old foursquare town (16 acres) lies just a few blocks to the west, at Gravesend Neck Road and McDonald Avenue. Lady Moody died in 1659. Her grave is located on Gravesend Neck Road between Van Sicklen Street and McDonald Avenue.

For 200 years after Moody’s death, the town remained largely rural. Gravesend Avenue (renamed McDonald Avenue in 1933) ran from the heart of town to the City of Brooklyn, providing residents of Gravesend with a route for trade and travel though Kings County. Towards the end of the 19th century, Dutch and German farmers joined the established English population, and, in 1894, Gravesend was incorporated into the City of Brooklyn. The rail lines built at the end of the century spelled the end of old English town’s bucolic years.

The City acquired this triangle in 1926, and a local law named it for the town of Gravesend in 1941. In October of 2000, Parks completed a $72,450 renovation of this triangle funded by Mayor Giuliani. The project included repaving the walkways with new concrete and lining the center green with Belgian paving stones. Parks also enhanced the greenery by planting three pin oak trees (Quercus palustris), dozens of inkberry plants (Ilex glabra), summersweet clethras (Clethra alnifolia) and other small shrubs, complimenting the triangle’s four mature London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia ).

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