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Music Island

posted Oct 13, 2012, 10:43 AM by Steven Vaughan
In the original 19th-century design of Prospect Park by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, (the same team that designed NYC’s Central Park) a small quarter-acre island rose out of a tranquil cove along the southeastern shore of the lake.  They named it Music Island, and musicians would row out to it in warm weather and perform to the parasol-toting masses gathered across the water on a formal esplanade of carved granite posts, iron railings and busts of famous composers, known as Concert Grove. 

The idea was romantic, but impractical, and poor acoustics eventually prompted concerts to be moved to the Music Pavilion near the Nethermead.  Then in 1959, the cove was filled with hundreds of pilings.  The elegant shoreline esplanade was chopped to pieces and dumped in as fill.  And a 12-inch concrete-and-rebar slab was set on top to accommodate the Kate Wollman Memorial Rink. 

In the last decade, it became clear Wollman Rink needed to be reconstructed or replaced.   But the Prospect Park Alliance decided it wanted to revive the formal Olmsted and Vaux shoreline.  So Music Island has been recreated – as a nature preserve, not a concert venue – with 13,100 cubic yards of soil and 330 cubic yards of granite boulders under a redevelopment plan known as Lakeside.  (That’s about 524 truckloads!)  Lakeside’s new year-round recreational center with two rinks is now under construction, with plans to open for the 2013 season.

But beginning this Saturday, October 20th, the esplanade will be open weekends from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, once again providing a view of Chaim Baier Music Island.  Its name has been enhanced to honor the father of Shelby White, a trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation, which made a $10 million grant to finance the shoreline and island reclamation.  Ms. White recalled going to the area as a child with her father, and believed it should be restored. 
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