Windsor Terrace is in one of the nicest locations in the borough, wedged between the green oases of Prospect Park and Green-Wood Cemetery. A third obvious (and much less appealing) feature of Windsor Terrace is the Prospect Expressway, which more or less bisects the neighborhood. While the highway is a blight on the area, one of its few positives is that it alleviated pass-through traffic on the “normal” roads, allowing them to return to their previous quiet charm.
The name “Windsor Terrace” dates from around 1850. It was coined by Robert Bell, who held land in the area for a brief time. Bell soon sold his property to Edward Belknap, who divided his holding into 47 sub-plots on Seeley Street and Vanderbilt Street. The first mention of the neighborhood in The Brooklyn Eagle is on March 18, 1854, in an announcement of an auction of several tracts of land.
Living in Windsor Terrace had many perks. It was located at the extreme northwest of the town of Flatbush, just over the border from the city of Brooklyn. Residents could enjoy the convenience of the growing city while remaining “free from the city taxes and assessments”. It was adjacent to Green-Wood Cemetery, a very popular destination for tourism, picnicking, and leisure. Its position on a hill (which might have inspired the “Terrace” part of its name) offered views of Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Rockaways, and the Atlantic Ocean. And in the early 1860s, Prospect Park was proposed.
In the never-ending morphing of Brooklyn neighborhoods, Windsor Terrace has since expanded to incorporate a few blocks of what was formerly Brooklyn proper. Terrace Place approximates the boundary between Brooklyn and Flatbush.
The northernmost point of Windsor Terrace is Bartel-Pritchard Square, a popular access-point to Prospect Park. It is named for two residents, Emil Bartel and William Pritchard, who were killed in the final months of World War I. The two columns are replicas of an acanthus column dating from the 4th century B.C. that might have marked the center of the Greek world. (Maybe I should stop using them to stretch when I’m running.)
The first public transportation came to the area in 1871, when the Park Avenue Line of coach-drawn carriages was extended from Grand Army Plaza down 9th Avenue (now Prospect Park West) to Green-Wood Cemetery. (The entrance to the cemetery at that spot was built as a result.) The fare was five cents, and cars ran every four minutes. Signs were posted in English and German — perhaps I will learn why when I research a future neighborhood.
Connection to the south end of the county came in 1875 with the completion of the Culver Line, a surface railroad. Travelers could now get from Coney Island to downtown Brooklyn with a single connection at Green-Wood between the Culver Line and the Park Avenue Line. The new route also provided easy access to the Brooklyn Jockey Club, a horse-racing track. The line was named for Andrew Culver, the founder of the Prospect Park & Coney Island Railroad, which first operated the line.
Transportation-projects brought upheaval — literally — to the neighborhood twice in the 20th century. The first was the building of the second Culver Line, now home to the F and G trains. This was part of the new Independent Subway System (IND, today’s lines A-G), started by New York City in the 1920s to compete with the privately owned Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT, today’s numbered lines) and Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT, today’s other lettered lines).
The construction called for the “cut and cover” method, which required all buildings along the route to be destroyed, then rebuilt after the subway was completed. One of the casualties was a basement bowling-alley. Service between Church Av and Jay St began in 1933.
The second upheaval, in the 1950s, came courtesy of our favorite neighborhood-destroying villain. Windsor Terrace was a perfect spot for crossing into south Brooklyn between the Park and the Cemetery, and was used as such for many commuters every day, causing traffic issues on the streets of the neighborhood. Of course, Robert Moses couldn’t wait to get his grubby little hands on the space.
The Prospect Expressway connects the Gowanus Expressway with Ocean Parkway. Construction began in late 1953; the final section, between Greenwood Av and Church Av, was opened on June 12, 1962. To build the two-mile stretch, the city had to remove 1,252 tenants and to “condemn” hundreds of buildings.
For nearly a century, the neighborhood comprised mostly Irish immigrants and their descendants. This legacy remains in the identities of the neighborhood’s three main private educational institutions: Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School, Holy Name of Jesus School, and Immaculate Heart of Mary School. (P.S. 30 and P.S. 154 are also within the neighborhood’s confines.) Bishop Ford is named in honor of Francis X. Ford, a Catholic missionary who worked in China for 34 years before dying in prison in 1952, after two years of captivity and torture. (Disclosure: Bishop Ford also has a close relationship with my running-club, Prospect Park Track Club.)
Windsor Terrace has historically been much more affordable than “more-glamorous” areas like Park Slope; however, it, too, was subject to the rapid rise of housing-prices in the mid-2000s. The opportunity to sell proved too tempting for some long-time residents, resulting in a turnover in population. The neighborhood has seen some diversification, but apparently still maintains a close-knit feel.
I’ve heard a lot about Farrell’s, at Prospect Park West and 16 St. It was one of the first bars to open after the end of Prohibition. I look forward to visiting it later this week. The neighborhood is also home to Kensington Stables, the last stable in the area of Prospect Park.
Brooklyn’s Windsor Terrace, Kensington, & Parkville communities by Brian Merlis and Lee A Rosenzweig (Israelowitz Publishing, 2010). [The text of Liz Farrell’s history from that book is available here.]
The neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Kenneth T. Jackson, Ed. (Yale University Press, 2004).