Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere, With its roses the brightest that earth ever gave, Its temples, and grottos, and fountain as clear As the love-lighted eyes that hang over the wave.
Moore wrote these lines about a valley in Kashmir. Lalla-Rookh, the poem in which they feature, was a celebration of the botany and romance of the Mughal imperial court. Towards the end of the 19th century however Moore's words were adopted by Brooklyn NY, and Prospect Park's very own Vale of Cashmere was born.
Brooklyn's Vale Of Cashmere
Designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead, the famed architects of Central Park, the Vale of Cashmere is a divot of land in the NE corner of Brooklyn's Prospect Park. It was carved out 17,000 years ago by a melting glacier, and then, much later, transformed into a naturalistic park by Vaux and Olmstead.
To begin with, it featured a pool, gardens and a playground, but it was later redesigned. The pool was replaced with a fountain full of water lilies big enough for children to sit on; the playground was turned into a rose garden complete with three fountains. Almost 20 years before Brooklyn got its own garden, the Vale of Cashmere was populated with rare plants from around the world. It was at this time that it was given its nickname.
The Vale Of Cashmere In Decline
All this was expensive to maintain however and, during the economic turmoil of the 1960s, the Vale fell into disrepair. The lily pool became overgrown, the fountains ran dry and the rare plants were removed as they could not be properly looked after.
As bleak as this sounds it was in many ways positive. As the Vale grew less and less popular, it became a safe haven for New York inhabitants in need of a place to go away from discriminating eyes. Between 2008-11, it was a favourite meeting spot for gay men, particularly gay men of colour.
The Vale Of Cashmere Today
In October 2019, the Parks Department vowed to restore the Vale. Since then, $40m has been pledged towards these ends, two new entrances have been built, paths and lights have been put in place. The project is expected to continue for the next 4 years.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Scavenger Hunts around NYC - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of NYC.
Read more about hidden gardens with fascinating stories to tell in our posts on London's St Dunstan-in-the-East, Melbourne's Alfred Nicholas Gardens and Manchester's Fletcher Moss Park.