Extant is actually a stretch. The retaining wall pictured above is the last standing vestige of Washington Park, home to the NL’s Brooklyn franchise from 1898 to 1913. That wall, which now encloses a Con-Ed facility, runs along Third avanue between Third and Fourth streets in Gowanus, an amorphous industrial neigborhood sandwiched between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. The ballpark that once occupied the site was a lovely affair, with a covered grandstand and seating for nearly 20,000. A previous Washington Park, just a block away, had been home to that same Brooklyn team in its earlier affiliations; the boys were occassionally referred to as “Gowanucians.” Fans came from the surrounding neigborhoods—the area was known generally as “South Brooklyn” back then—and from Manhattan, an easy commute across the then-new Brooklyn Bridge. A few more shots of that beautiful old wall:
Here’s the park as it was in its heyday:
The view is from the southwest, as in the middle picture above, but from the interior. On big crowd days, it was a commonplace for fans to sit in roped-off stretches at the back of the outfield.
The Spalding World Tourists are here pictured at the first Washington Park. In the center, arms crossed, is Hall of Famer John Ward, the Derek Jeter of the 19th century—a tabloid fixture as the star shortstop of the New York Giants, and the founder of the first players’ union.
Today, Gowanus is rapidly gentrifying, but it’s still a bit raw. Here’s some of what you’ll find if you come out for a peek at what remains of the old park:
Across Fourth street from the great old yard there’s at least some sign of athletics.
You can also get your car washed and quick lubed.
Two blocks away is the “Bat Cave,” a former Con-Ed power station that has become a squatters’ haven. It’s slated for development into condos.
The Gowanus Canal, perhaps an unlikely spot for a lovers’ stroll. No, it’s not Venice, but the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower makes for a nice view off in the distance.
Need a door?
Signs around here can be kind of confusing!
But we always find our way home.