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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Milestone Park

Milestone Park in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn is the site of New York City's oldest surviving milestone, a relic from 1741 now at the Brooklyn Historical Society for safekeeping. A marker explains that the post "stood at the juncture of two colonial roads[,] Kings Highway and Old New Utrecht-Flatbush Road (now 18th Avenue). It also served as a gauge to determine postal rates."

milestone park bensonhurst brooklyn nyc

The milestone indicated distances to "N York Ferry" (8 1/4 or 10 1/2 miles depending on which road you took), "Deny's Ferry" (2 1/2 miles), and Jamaica (15 miles). Today it's all one big fat city, of course. But it's easy to imagine the time when today's Queens neighborhood of Jamaica was a village hours away through farms and forests, and it was a long hike to get a ferry to Manhattan.

Near the marker an old water fountain caught my eye. I thought it might be some kind of historic post as well – it looks like it could have been here since 1741 too – until I saw a man bend over it and take a drink.

milestone park bensonhurst brooklyn nyc

The Chinese immigrants gathered around a gaming table reminded me of Columbus Park in Manhattan, where you can find similar scenes.

milestone park bensonhurst brooklyn nyc

Hexagons, cobblestones. Hexagons, cobblestones.

milestone park bensonhurst brooklyn nyc

On the next block: the New Utrecht Reformed Church.

new utrecht reformed church bensonhurst brooklyn nyc

In front of the church, the New Utrecht Liberty Pole "marks the spot over which the American flag first waved in the town of New Utrecht. The original pole was erected by our forefathers at the Evacuation of the British, November 1783, amid the firing of cannons and demonstration of joy."

new utrecht liberty pole bensonhurst brooklyn nyc

I only learned why 84th Street also carries the name Liberty Pole Boulevard while doing research after my visit to Milestone Park. While there I failed to notice the tall flagpole topped with an American flag and with the original eagle and weathervane from the 1783 pole. The Friends of Historic New Utrecht website has plenty of photos.

Another historical note: the park is also the site of the 17th century Van Pelt Manor House, which lasted the better part of three centuries before succumbing to history's onward rush. Wikipedia has a capsule history.

van pelt house bensonhurst brooklyn nyc

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