Bird’s eye view: Take a tour of Owl’s Head Park

Bird’s eye view: Take a tour of Owl’s Head Park
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

It will be a hoot!

A Bay Ridge history buff will lead an educational expedition through Owl’s Head Park on Sept. 9, showing off one of the borough’s most gorgeous green spaces.

“I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of land in Brooklyn,” said Henry Stewart, who writes about Kings County history.

During the tour, Stewart will uncover the history of the diamond-shaped piece of land, bought up during the 1850s by Henry Murphy, one of Brooklyn’s founding fathers. Murphy sold the parcel to manufacturer Eliphalet W. Bliss, who died in 1903. In his will, Bliss offered to sell the land to the city for a reduced price on the condition it be turned into a public park. The city eventually agreed, but had no money left over to maintain the green space, according to Stewart, and the land fell into disrepair until 1940, when parks commissioner Robert Moses invested the cash to create the park that exists today.

Steward said there is plenty to learn about the meadow — including the mysterious, nonsensical origin of its name. A different piece of land, shaped like an owl’s head with wings, once jutted into the water at Shore Road and 81st Street, but nobody knows why Murphy gave his plot of land the same name. Stewart thinks he was just misinformed, and then tried to cover up his mistake with nonsense stories.

“They stole the name,” he said. “After that Murphy kind of bent over backwards to create myths as to why it’s called Owl’s Head. All of that is b——-.”

Stewart will also delve into the park’s grisly past, which was the site of a murder in 1974, and may have been a dumping spot for a mob murder in the 1960s.

Those who take the tour will also learn to better appreciate the hard work that goes into creating a spot for people to relax, said Stewart.

“I think it’s important to understand our history, especially with parks — because they didn’t just happen,” he said. “No benevolent overseer decided ‘This is your open space.’ People fought over long periods of time to make sure these things happen.”

He also offers a tip for locals hoping to catch a stellar view.

“I really like sitting on the back of the hill that faces the 69th Street Pier. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in all of Brooklyn to watch the sunset,” he said.

Historical Tour at Owl’s Head Park (67th Street at Colonial Road in Bay Ridge, meet at Horticulture Group’s table in front of sprinkler plaza, www.facebook.com/owlsheadvolunteers). Sept. 9 at noon. $5 suggested donation.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill