Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Census Report: Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza

On Wednesday, my U.S. Census Bureau supervisor O and I, along with co-workers T and G, left the office with a major mission: to cart materials (thankfully, via car) to a NRFU crew working at the magnificent main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, along Flatbush Avenue at Grand Army Plaza (above).

I discovered the area while finally trolling around my now-beloved borough last fall, pre-Census, and marveled at its grandeur, built in a time where attention to architectural detail was designed to serve the ages. And how.

The original plaza and Arch at Grand Army Plaza were conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1867, as the entrance to Prospect Park, while uniting five streets. Nine years later, sculptor Frederick MacMonnies was brought in to add three iron statues to the Arch: Quadriga, The Spirit of the Army and Spirit of the Navy. It is also the site of the spooky Bailey Fountain (pictured at right) and a monument to John F. Kennedy, as well as statues of northern Civil War generals.

I learned a lot about the library, ironically watching a PBS special on Flatbush Avenue this morning. Ground was broken for the main branch in 1912, with the intention to create a four-story Beaux Arts building. But because of the Depression (the 1929 one, not the 2009 version) and World War I, construction ceased until 1938, when a new Art Deco design commenced. It was completed and opened in 1941; and today, stands tall and proud as a stunning achievement of iron will.Inside, the art deco design thankfully remains.