Bay Ridge

Take a walk through historic Owl’s Head Park

August 21, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Millionaire Eliphalet W. Bliss left his sprawling estate to New York City in his will for use as a park. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas

Summer vacation season is winding down and as Labor Day approaches, families are gearing up for the start of the new school year. But there is still time for some outdoor fun before classes begin.

For example, you can stop and smell the roses and learn a thing or two about Bay Ridge history if you take a walking tour of Owl’s Head Park on Sept. 9. 

Sponsored by the Owl’s Head Park Horticulture Group of the Shore Road Parks Conservancy, the tour will be led by local historian Henry Stewart.  The tour is free and Stewart will meet the group at the park’s entrance on Colonial Road and 67th Street at noon.

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Susan Frances, president of the Owl’s Head Horticulture Group, said the tour will last for approximately one hour. “I did not give Henry any directions about what to include in the tour so I am leaving it entirely up to him about what he wants to discuss,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in an email.

Stewart, who is the first vice president of the Bay Ridge Historical Society, is expected to offer lots of fascinating facts about Owl’s Head Park.

Frances and her fellow horticulture group members volunteer their time on weekends to look after the flowers and plant life inside the park. The group is eager to share their knowledge of the park, Frances said. 

Owl’s Head Park offers rolling hills, meandering pathways and breathtaking views of the New York City skyline, along with playgrounds, a basketball court, a skateboard park and a dog run.

But the 24-acre park also has a storied history, according to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. 


It’s not clear how the park got the name Owl’s Head Park. One theory is that the land on which it sits was shaped like an owl’s head. 

In the 19th century, Henry Murphy (1810-1882), who would gain fame as the mayor of Brooklyn, built his grand estate on the land where Owl’s Head Park sits now. Murphy later became a New York state senator and Senator Street, a street located near the park, is named after him. 

State Sen. Murphy drafted the legislation authorizing the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 1886, the Murphy Estate was purchased by Eliphalet W. Bliss (1836-1903), a wealthy manufacturer. Bliss added to the beauty of the property by building an observatory tower, a greenhouse and a horse stable. 

Bliss left his estate to New York City in his will with the stipulation that the land be maintained as a public park. 

To this day, there are many Bay Ridge residents who refer to Owl’s Head Park as Bliss Park. 

There are still signs of the influence Bliss had on Bay Ridge. The gate at the park’s main entrance contains an iron plate with the initials E, W and B for “Eliphalet W. Bliss.”

The rain date for the walking tour is Sunday, Sept. 10. For more information, email [email protected].

 


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