Ridgewood Reservoir / Highland Park

Ridgewood Reservoir was completed on the Queens/Brooklyn line in the 19th century to distribute water from various points on Long Island for use by the citizens of Brooklyn. Ground was broken for the reservoir on July 11, 1856 and water was first raised on November 18, 1858.

Initially the reservoir had two basins and was filled with water that passed from Baisley Pond through an aqueduct (on what is now Conduit Avenue) to steam pumping stations at Atlantic Avenue and Chestnut Street. Those pumping stations pushed the water through a tube (running down what is now Force Tube Avenue) into Ridgewood Reservoir at the top of the hill. A third basin was added in 1863 and by 1868 the Ridgewood Reservoir held an average of 154.4 million gallons daily, enough to supply the City of Brooklyn for ten days at that time. Growing demand necessitated the expansion of the Brooklyn Water Works further west with wells and collection reservoirs up to 30 miles away. Further westward growth was halted by legislation enacteded to protect the water of Suffolk County.

The merger of the city of Brooklyn with New York City in 1898 lead to the integration of Brooklyn's water infrastructure with New York City's growing Catskill and Delaware water systems. Ridgewood Reservoir became increasingly obsolete and the need for pumping stations (in contrast to the gravity-fed Catskill system) made it expensive to operate. The Reservior was relegated to backup status in 1959. The basins became havens for illegal swimming (and associated drownings) and were finally decommissioned and drained in 1989.

With its draining and abandonment, the reservoir basins effectively returned to a natural state with the outer basins becoming home to a birch forest and the central basin becoming a grassy marsh. Despite being encompassed on all sides by urban development, the reservoir also became a sanctuary for diverse animal life, including 137 different documented species of birds.

The reservoir is bordered on the south and west by Highland Park, which was created on the land immediately surrounding Ridgewood Reservior that was purchased by the City of Brooklyn in 1891 under the jurisdiction of the Highland Park Society. Between 1901 and 1905 the Brooklyn Department of Parks began improving the area with several structures, a rustic bridge, roads, footpaths, a flower garden and a new lake and fountain. In 1905, the City expanded the park by purchasing the Shenck estate just to the south of the Reservoir. The final expansion occurred in 1906 with purchase of a third parcel to the west from the Department of Water.

The park sits on the border between Queens and Brookly and in its early days became a recreational haven for residents of both boroughs. The park ultimately included football fields, baseball fields, tennis courts and (in the winter) a frozen pond for skating. An aquatic garden was added in 1907 and a children's farm garden in 1915. In 1991 the western section of the park was renamed the Vito P. Battista Playground in memory of a local educator and community leader.

The maintenance of the park has ebbed and flowed over the years, with many of the fields receiving only minimal care. Despite this, in 2004 the reservoir was turned over to the Parks Department for integration into the park. In October of 2007, the Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe quietly unveiled a contract to breach one of the reservoir basins and clear 20 acres for additional ball fields. However, on June 26, 2008, NYC City Controller William C. Thompson, Jr. rejected the initial contract for the new development, citing concerns about the environmental impact, increased truck traffic, and the vendor selection process.

Links

Battista Playground

Entering Highland Park from the west brings you through a portion of the park that was the last parcel of land added to Highland Park. At the time of purchase in 1906 it was home to a small reservoir. The playground built on top of the filled-in reservoir was renamed the Vito P. Battista Playground in memory of a local educator and community leader.

Map in upper park on Highland Blvd.
5/6/2008 01:39 PM
Map in upper park on Highland Blvd.
Map in upper park on Highland Blvd.
5/6/2008 01:39 PM
Map in upper park on Highland Blvd.
Park benches in upper park
5/6/2008 01:40 PM
Park benches in upper park
Highland Park sign
5/6/2008 01:40 PM
Highland Park sign
Looking south at Battista Playground
5/6/2008 01:47 PM
Looking south at Battista Playground
Upper park pathway
5/6/2008 01:47 PM
Upper park pathway
Golf ball
5/6/2008 01:50 PM
Golf ball

Upper Highland Park

This was the original part of Highland Park constructed to the west of Ridgewood Reservoir between 1901 and 1905. It is separated from the lower park by Highland Boulevard.

Makeshift soccer field
5/6/2008 01:54 PM
Makeshift soccer field
Walkway just to the east of the glen
5/6/2008 02:06 PM
Walkway just to the east of the glen
Picnic tables just to the east of the glen
5/6/2008 02:03 PM
Picnic tables just to the east of the glen
Homes on the southern edge of upper Highland Park
5/6/2008 02:04 PM
Homes on the southern edge of upper Highland Park
Baseball field in upper Highland Park
5/6/2008 02:11 PM
Baseball field in upper Highland Park
Developers on the prowl
5/6/2008 01:36 PM
Developers on the prowl

Boulder Bridge

40.68465,-72.8919

This bridge was designed by William J. Zartmann and built in 1901 as a feature of the original Highland Park. It initially was part of a road that connected Highland Boulevard with a winding road that went around the back of the park. It carried the road over a walkway from the western part of the park through a natural glen into the woods on the other side. While the glen may have contained a pond, historic photos do not show the bridge crossing any kind of body of water, although water may drain under this bridge during heavy rains. ( 1902 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article on construction of the Boulder Bridge)

Boulder Bridge
5/6/2008 01:43 PM
Boulder Bridge
Boulder Bridge
5/6/2008 01:44 PM
Boulder Bridge
Boulder Bridge
5/6/2008 01:44 PM
Boulder Bridge
Boulder Bridge
5/6/2008 01:45 PM
Boulder Bridge
Boulder Bridge
5/6/2008 01:45 PM
Boulder Bridge

The Glen

40.6851,-73.8922

This naturally-occuring glen in the western part of the upper park has a paved walkway around its upper rim and a surprisingly ornate scenic overlook ("the fort"). From inconclusive historic photos, this glen may have contained a pond during the early years of the park (which would explain the overlook) but no trace remains. The glen is now well overgrown with trees and small plants and does not appear to be very carefully maintained or used by local residents.

Eestern path into the glen
5/6/2008 01:54 PM
Eestern path into the glen
Stairway on eastern rim into the glen
5/6/2008 01:56 PM
Stairway on eastern rim into the glen
Stairway on eastern rim into the glen
5/6/2008 01:55 PM
Stairway on eastern rim into the glen
Walkway on eastern rim of the glen
5/6/2008 01:55 PM
Walkway on eastern rim of the glen
Walkway on northern rim of the glen
5/6/2008 01:55 PM
Walkway on northern rim of the glen
Scenic overlook (the fort) on northern rim of the glen
5/6/2008 01:57 PM
Scenic overlook (the fort) on northern rim of the glen
Scenic overlook (the fort) on northern rim of the glen
5/6/2008 01:57 PM
Scenic overlook (the fort) on northern rim of the glen
The glen
5/6/2008 01:59 PM
The glen
The glen
5/6/2008 02:00 PM
The glen
Lamppost in the glen
5/6/2008 02:02 PM
Lamppost in the glen
Looking down into the glen from the northeast rim
5/6/2008 02:15 PM
Looking down into the glen from the northeast rim
Looking into the glen from the southern rim
5/6/2008 02:04 PM
Looking into the glen from the southern rim
Your humble photographer
5/6/2008 02:15 PM
Your humble photographer

The Pavillion

40.6864,-73.8924

This derelict pavillion sits on the northern edge of upper Highland Park right next to the Jackie Robinson Parkway. It obviously dates from the construction of the upper park in 1901-1905 but I'm not sure exactly what its purpose was. It is not the music pavillion, which was a bit further south and is no longer extant.

The Pavillion
5/6/2008 01:50 PM
The Pavillion
The Pavillion
5/6/2008 01:51 PM
The Pavillion
The Pavillion
5/6/2008 01:52 PM
The Pavillion
The Pavillion
5/6/2008 01:53 PM
The Pavillion
The Pavillion
5/6/2008 01:53 PM
The Pavillion
The Pavillion
5/6/2008 02:06 PM
The Pavillion
The Pavillion
5/6/2008 02:08 PM
The Pavillion

Ridgewood Reservoir

The reservoir itself is actually a bit difficult to photograph legally. While there are numerous (and obviously well-used) breaches in the fence, concerns for personal safety (and legal status) trump my interest in getting the perfect picture. Pictures have to be taken over or through a 10-foot chain link fence and the view is often obscured by vegetation or the older, delapidated chain-link fence that was left in place when the new fence was erected.

Bike path on west edge of west basin
5/6/2008 02:22 PM
Bike path on west edge of west basin
Bike path on northern edge of west basin
5/6/2008 02:22 PM
Bike path on northern edge of west basin
Birch forest in the west basin
5/6/2008 02:22 PM
Birch forest in the west basin
Sign on gate of west basin
5/6/2008 02:23 PM
Sign on gate of west basin
Bike path on northwest corner of west basin
5/6/2008 02:24 PM
Bike path on northwest corner of west basin
'No dogs' sign on north fence of west basin
5/6/2008 02:26 PM
'No dogs' sign on north fence of west basin
Gate house on north edge of West basin
5/6/2008 02:25 PM
Gate house on north edge of West basin
Gate house on north edge of West basin
5/6/2008 02:26 PM
Gate house on north edge of West basin
Gate house on north edge of west basin
5/6/2008 02:26 PM
Gate house on north edge of west basin
Gate house on north edge of west basin
5/6/2008 02:27 PM
Gate house on north edge of west basin
Bike path on north edge of center basin
5/6/2008 02:28 PM
Bike path on north edge of center basin
Eastern wall of the west basin
5/6/2008 02:29 PM
Eastern wall of the west basin
Walking path between the west and center basins
5/6/2008 02:30 PM
Walking path between the west and center basins
Highland Park-ridgewood Reservoir
5/6/2008 02:30 PM
Center basin marsh - one of the few good views of the reservoir from the bike path
5/6/2008 02:30 PM
Center basin marsh - one of the few good views of the reservoir from the bike path
Leaves of three, leave 'em be (poison ivy)
5/6/2008 02:32 PM
Leaves of three, leave 'em be (poison ivy)
Gate house on north edge of center basin
5/6/2008 02:33 PM
Gate house on north edge of center basin
Gate house on north edge of center basin
5/6/2008 02:33 PM
Gate house on north edge of center basin
Gate controller valves
5/6/2008 02:34 PM
Gate controller valves
Gate house on north edge of center basin
5/6/2008 02:35 PM
Gate house on north edge of center basin
Gate house on north edge of center basin
5/6/2008 02:35 PM
Gate house on north edge of center basin
Stone wall on north edge of east basin
5/6/2008 02:37 PM
Stone wall on north edge of east basin
East basin vegetation
5/6/2008 02:37 PM
East basin vegetation
Staircase warning sign
5/6/2008 02:38 PM
Staircase warning sign
Bike path around northeast corner of the east basin
5/6/2008 02:38 PM
Bike path around northeast corner of the east basin
Bike path along the east side of the east basin looking south
5/6/2008 02:39 PM
Bike path along the east side of the east basin looking south
Stone wall on east side of east basin
5/6/2008 02:39 PM
Stone wall on east side of east basin
Stone wall on east side of east basin
5/6/2008 02:43 PM
Stone wall on east side of east basin
Bike path along the east side of the east basin looking south
5/6/2008 02:43 PM
Bike path along the east side of the east basin looking south
Cypress Hills Memorial Cemetery viewed from bike path on east side of the east basin
5/6/2008 02:45 PM
Cypress Hills Memorial Cemetery viewed from bike path on east side of the east basin
Bike path along the east side of the east basin looking north
5/6/2008 02:46 PM
Bike path along the east side of the east basin looking north
Cypress Hills Memorial Cemetery viewed from bike path on east side of the east basin
5/6/2008 02:46 PM
Cypress Hills Memorial Cemetery viewed from bike path on east side of the east basin
Cypress Hills Memorial Cemetery viewed from bike path on east side of the east basin
5/6/2008 02:46 PM
Cypress Hills Memorial Cemetery viewed from bike path on east side of the east basin
Stairwell down to Highland Park from the southeast corner of the reservoir
5/6/2008 02:47 PM
Stairwell down to Highland Park from the southeast corner of the reservoir
ATV paths on hillside just south of the east basin
5/6/2008 02:47 PM
ATV paths on hillside just south of the east basin
Bike path on south side of east basin
5/6/2008 02:48 PM
Bike path on south side of east basin
Walkway between center and east basins - oh, so tempting, but what if you get caught?
5/6/2008 02:48 PM
Walkway between center and east basins - oh, so tempting, but what if you get caught?
Walkway between center and east basins
5/6/2008 02:48 PM
Walkway between center and east basins
Stone gate structure on south edge of center basin - where water came in from the force tube?
5/6/2008 02:49 PM
Stone gate structure on south edge of center basin - where water came in from the force tube?
Stone gate structure on south edge of center basin
5/6/2008 02:54 PM
Stone gate structure on south edge of center basin
ATV paths on hillside just south of the center basin
5/6/2008 02:49 PM
ATV paths on hillside just south of the center basin
Walkway between center and west basins
5/6/2008 02:50 PM
Walkway between center and west basins
Walkway between center and west basins
5/6/2008 02:50 PM
Walkway between center and west basins
Bike path on south edge of center basin
5/6/2008 02:54 PM
Bike path on south edge of center basin
Center basin gate house viewed from across the basin
5/6/2008 02:55 PM
Center basin gate house viewed from across the basin
Stairwell down from center basin to lower Highland Park
5/6/2008 02:56 PM
Stairwell down from center basin to lower Highland Park
Stairwell down from center basin to lower Highland Park
5/6/2008 02:59 PM
Stairwell down from center basin to lower Highland Park
Stairwell down from center basin to lower Highland Park
5/6/2008 03:00 PM
Stairwell down from center basin to lower Highland Park
Force Tube Avenue - location of pipe connecting the pump station on Atlantic Avenue to the reservoir up the hill
5/6/2008 03:40 PM
Force Tube Avenue - location of pipe connecting the pump station on Atlantic Avenue to the reservoir up the hill

Lower Highland Park

This area of Highland Park to the south of the reservoir (and at a lower altitude) was added to the park in 1905 when the city purchased the former estate of Johannes Schenck. Schenck emigrated from Holland to the colony of New York in 1683 and worked as a teacher and town clerk in Flatbush, New York, and Bushwick. A Dutch-style farmhouse was included in the sale and was used as a park facility until being demolished in 1940.

Lower Highland Park sign
5/6/2008 03:41 PM
Lower Highland Park sign
Lower Highland Park ballfields
5/6/2008 03:00 PM
Lower Highland Park ballfields
Lower Highland Park ballfields
5/6/2008 03:02 PM
Lower Highland Park ballfields
No visit to Highland Park is complete without a trip to Crown Fried Chicken on Fulton Street
5/6/2008 03:52 PM
No visit to Highland Park is complete without a trip to Crown Fried Chicken on Fulton Street
Mmmm...
5/6/2008 03:56 PM
Mmmm...

Cypress Hills National Cemetery

The reservoir is bordered on the eastern side by Cypress Hills National Cemetery, which was carved out of the private Cypress Hills Cemetery (established 1848) in 1862 to accomodate casualties of the War Between the States. Originally known as the "Union Grounds" it was deeded to the federal government in 1870 and given its current name. In 1884, additional land was purchased to expand to 15 acres. It residents include veterans and family members from all major conflicts since the American Revolutionary War.

Front gate
5/6/2008 03:08 PM
Front gate
Front gate post
5/6/2008 03:09 PM
Front gate post
Cemetery map
5/6/2008 03:09 PM
Cemetery map
Grave listing book
5/6/2008 03:12 PM
Grave listing book
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:05 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:06 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:17 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:21 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:22 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:24 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:27 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
5/6/2008 03:31 PM
Cypress Hills National Cemetery

Evergreens Cemetery

Evergreens Cemetery sits on the northwest border of Highland Park on the opposite side of the Jackie Robinson Parkway. It was organized in 1849 as a non-sectarian cemetery, under the Rural Cemetery Act of 1847 and has over a half-million residents on 225 acres.

Entry gate
5/6/2008 12:36 PM
Entry gate
Evergreen Cemetery
5/6/2008 12:52 PM
Evergreen Cemetery
Evergreen Cemetery
5/6/2008 12:54 PM
Evergreen Cemetery
Evergreen Cemetery
5/6/2008 12:56 PM
Evergreen Cemetery
Evergreen Cemetery
5/6/2008 01:02 PM
Evergreen Cemetery
Evergreen Cemetery
5/6/2008 01:02 PM
Evergreen Cemetery
Bushwick Avenue retaining wall
5/6/2008 12:43 PM
Bushwick Avenue retaining wall
Bushwick Avenue retaining wall
5/6/2008 12:45 PM
Bushwick Avenue retaining wall