James S. T. Stranahan
Prospect Park entrance, between East Drive and Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn
This statue of James Samuel Thomas Stranahan, the prominent Brooklyn statesman and a man who is generally regarded as the father of Prospect Park, sits inside that park on the edge of Grand Army Plaza. Stranahan serves as a delightful Dickensian counterpoint to the stern martial melange (the statues of Gens. Warren and Slocum and, of course, the arch) that faces him from inside the plaza.
It was sculpted by Frederick William MacMonnies.
The idea for the statue kindled into a flame in December of 1889 when The New York Times reported rather laboriously that “a number of prominent Brooklyn men have inaugurated a movement having for its object the erection of a statue of Jame S. T. Stranahan in Prospect Park.” Stranahan’s popularity and his integral role in the construction of Prospect Park made him a natural candidate for a monument.
The model of the statue was complete in early 1891, and a committee of parks commissioners dithered over an appropriate site inside Prospect Park for the monument. A report in the Feb. 5, 1891, Brooklyn Eagle spends nearly 10 column inches outlining the shortcomings of alternatives before settling on a treatment of the final location.
Interestingly, Stranahan was present at the statue’s dedication, June, 6, 1891. He was 83, and was ill from the flu. But he was there.
The festivities began with music, played by the 23rd Regiment band. John Gibb, a prominent Brooklyn businessman, was the master of ceremonies. After the blah, blah, blah, Stranahan and MacMonnies were feted that evening at the Oxford Club.
The figure is in bronze, and the pedestal is Knoxville marble and pink granite. All told, it’s about 15 feet tall.
On the base are several inscriptions. On the front is says:
JAMES S T STRANAHAN A CITIZEN OF BROOKLYN HONORED FOR MANY NOBLE SERVICES, MOST GRATEFULLY AS CHIEF FOUNDER OF PROSPECT PARK
On the back it says:
ERECTED BY HIS FELLOW CITIZENS DURING HIS LIFETIME AND UNVEILED IN HIS PRESENCE JUNE VI MDCCCXCI
Stranahan was born April 25, 1808, in Peterboro, N.Y. He was a prominent businessman who served in several public offices, including a term in Congress. He also was the head of Brooklyn’s parks commission at the time that Prospect Park was planned and constructed. He died in Saratoga Springs on Sept. 3, 1898.
A few days before his statue’s dedication, the Brooklyn Eagle sent a reporter to Stranahan’s house, seeking an interview. Stranahan, though ill, didn’t disappoint. After discussing (in rather distressing detail) his recent illness, Stranahan got to the heart of the matter:
I spent 22 years of the best part of my life in planning, constructing and laying out the park. I have done no more than my duty to the city where I have lived so long and where I expect to leave my family when I am gone. The first park commission with which I was connected was made up of a noble set of men, but they all have concluded their life’s work and are resting in Greenwood. Brooklyn should never forget the men who toiled for the benefit of the city in the laying out of Prospect Park.