This park honors 19th century inventor and Staten Island resident Antonio Meucci (1808-1889). Meucci developed the first working model of the telephone in 1857 after spending several years experimenting with sound transmission via electrically charged copper wire.
Antonio Meucci worked for 15 years as a superintendent of mechanics at the Tacon Opera House in Havana, Cuba before coming to New York in 1850. Here he engaged in several business ventures and scientific experiments, and he gave safe haven to the popularly supported Italian guerilla leader Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) in his home (which is now open to the public in Staten Island). In 1871, he obtained his first provisional patent for the telephone from the United States Patent Office. He renewed the patent twice more on the appropriate date, but in 1874, lacking the requisite $10 filing fee, failed to obtain a renewal.
Distracted by his wife’s sudden sickness, the seriousness of his own injuries obtained in a ferry explosion, the fraudulent activities of a former business partner, and several other business problems, Meucci fell behind in his work and was unable to mount a successful case when Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) patented a very similar version of Meucci’s telephone in 1876. After years of court proceedings, Antonio Meucci died in 1889, unrecognized and uncompensated for having invented a version of the telephone before his competitor.
One of Brooklyn’s six original towns, Gravesend is probably named after the English town of the same name at the mouth of the Thames River. The neighborhood began as a small agrarian community in 1643 by a group of British religious dissenters. In 1875, the area started to develop in tandem with nearby Coney Island and quickly became a destination point for summer beach-goers. The population swelled with the addition of aboveground, electrified trains and a new wave of European immigration of largely Italian origins.
Located at the intersection of 86th Street, Avenue U, and West 12th Street, the City acquired the site as part of the West 12th Street allotment in 1940. In April of 1989, a granite marker was donated to the site by the Italian Historical Society, which still promotes Meucci’s title as the father of the telephone. The A. Ottavino Corporation, restorers of the Brooklyn Borough Hall Building and the Columbus monument in Columbus Park, constructed the Meucci Memorial.