by Nora Bosworth
New Yorkers who have walked around Prospect Park of late probably noticed that long construction sign curving around the Southern part of the pedestrian loop, advertising the soon-to-be “Lakeside” site. What they likely didn’t know about was Music Island, nestled quietly in a cove off the lake’s southeastern shore, waiting to be resurrected.
The island only spans a quarter of an acre, but has been around since the 19th century, when architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux created it. Back then, musicians used to take boats out to the island and play music for park-goers, according to the New York Times. The only glitch in the venue was that it was too remote for people to hear the performances properly. As its use waned, flora replaced the musicians, until finally the Prospect Park Alliance covered the entire area with the Kate Wollman Memorial Rink, in 1959. More than 50 years later, the Wollman Rink was dilapidated and the park demolished it, in preparation for the Lakeside Center.
While the island’s land was now exposed, one could see that Music Island had fused with the nearby shore, its original shape lost. The former President of the Prospect Park Alliance, Tupper Thomas, decided it was worth reconstruction. In 2011, the new president, Emily Lloyd, oversaw a large restoration project that involved relocating various turtles, building an artificial dam, and excavating about 9,800 cubic yards of rubble, the Times reports.
While the construction site remains closed to the public, at present one can spot the island through a fence. Lakeside Center will open in fall 2013, for ice skating. The center will have two rinks, and a recreation area fit for all seasons. There will be a dedication ceremony on Friday, October 19 for Music Island and the Esplanade. The island will no longer host concerts, but will be a small nature preserve. Its history has surfaced along with its form, however, and it will continue to be known as Music Island.
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