Brooklyn’s secret garden?

I love learning about Brooklyn through the BHS Map Collection. Looking at early 19th century maps reveals a very different landscape from our modern Brooklyn, one filled with farms and streets that have long since disappeared. My favorite discovery from this period is Brooklyn’s first botanic garden, which was located at the junction of the Jamaica and Flatbush Turnpikes,  in what is now the Fort Greene/Prospect Heights area. The garden was created by Andre Parmentier in 1825 and consisted of twenty-four acres, featuring fruit trees and bushes, flowers, and other plants.

The following map shows the layout of Parmentier’s Garden ca. 1825.

Map of Mr. Andrew Parmentier's Horticultural & Botanical Garden, at Brooklyn, Long Island, two miles from the city of New-York, containing 24 acres. ca. 1825. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Detail from the map shows the various types of fruits in the garden, from quinces to gooseberries. Parmentier’s skill was well-known in the field of horticulture, and he published a catalog of his garden in 1828. As a writer from the New England Farmer stated, “The landscape garden of Mr. Parmentier, in the town of Brooklyn, was full of all promise that taste and skill, enterprise and enthusiasm, could bestow.”

Map of Mr. Andrew Parmentier's Horticultural & Botanical Garden, at Brooklyn, Long Island, two miles from the city of New-York, containing 24 acres. ca. 1825. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Parmentier’s Garden is also featured on more general maps of Brooklyn and New York City. This can be interpreted in different ways; one one hand, it may suggest that the garden was a well-known attraction whose fame warranted including it on the map, or it may be that Parmentier (or an associate) paid the mapmakers to include the garden on the maps as a form of advertising.

First, an example from 1827:

Detail from: Hooker's map of the village of Brooklyn in the year 1827. 1861. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Followed by an example from 1828:

Detail from: Map of the country thirty miles round the City of New York. John H. Eddy. 1828.Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

And finally, an example from 1834:

Map of Brooklyn, Kings County, Long Island : from an entire new survey. Alexander Martin. 1834. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

In 1830, Parmentier died, and the garden closed. Although the New York Horticultural Society attempted to purchase the garden’s lease, they were unsuccessful and the property was divided into lots and sold at auction. Below are two auction maps featuring the property.

Map of Parmentier's Garden, Brooklyn, to be sold at auction on Wednesday, Novr. 13th, 1833, at 12 o'clock at the Merchant's Exchange by Pine & Van Antwerp. Prosper Desobry. 1833. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Map of the ground formerly Parmentier's Garden in the 9th Ward of the city of Brooklyn. Prosper Desobry. ca. 1840. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

As the writer from the New England Farmer lamented in 1834, “Let death but hurl another dart, and the Parmentier garden may sink into pristine insignificance — the place of the rose, the olive, and the grape, be usurped by the thistle.” Thankfully, Parmentier’s Garden lives on in historical documents like BHS’ maps, as well as a plaque honoring Parmentier at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Carolyn

About Carolyn

Carolyn is the Project Map Cataloger on a grant-funded project until May 2012. When not reveling in all things cartographic, she enjoys knitting and exploring Brooklyn.
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