BAY RIDGE – In Brooklyn, the turn of the 20th century was an era of parkways, when city planners built combined drives and parklands that would lead scenically from Prospect Park to outlying areas of the borough (e.g. Eastern Parkway, Ocean Parkway). Once such network of parks was to be called the Bay Ridge Parkway, not to be confused with present-day 75th Street. It would splinter off from Fort Hamilton Parkway between 66th and 67th streets, then run west all the way to First Avenue (now Colonial Road), curve around the old Bliss estate (now Owl’s Head Park) to Shore Road, extending then at least as far as the armybase—if not all the way to Ocean Parkway and back up to Prospect Park.
The city acquired the future Leif Ericson land in 1895–97, and the first completed leg of the Bay Ridge Parkway project opened a few years later, between 66th and 67th streets, from First Avenue to Fourth Avenue, which in the early 20th century became the showplace of Bay Ridge; the majority of old Bay Ridge postcards you can buy on eBay are various views of this narrow strip of parkland, highlighting its winding paths down sloping hills, its broad central drive and the several stone bridges that crossed it (and, sometimes, the elevated train tracks at Third Avenue, torn down ca. 1940).
But a lack of investment and political will caused the ambitious unified parks project to break off into separate elements. Plans for Owl’s Head Park went through years of back and forth, with the city and the landowners, before it finally opened to the public in 1928; Shore Road park as we know it today did not open its first segment until 1941, though various improvements had been made throughout the preceding decades.