At first glance looks like it has been there forever, a serenely beautiful composition
of lakes, ponds and streams, greenswards and groves of magnificent trees. But to
restore the park, it is critical to understand that it is a cultural, designed landscape
where art and nature intersect.
Much of the damp, shallow valley of the Branch Brook was too poor or wet to be farmed
or developed more productively. At the southern end, its seeps and springs filled
the abandoned sandstone quarries that had supplied much of New York City with its
“brownstones.” These became a series of holding ponds for the Newark Aqueduct Company’s
huge circular reservoir and would be shaped and molded into what is now Branch Brook
To the north, pre-park photographs show a hummocky morass know as Blue Jay Swamp.
At the dawn of the 20th century, by enlisting the help of squadrons of immigrant
laborers and acres of clay tile drains, this vague landscape was clearly defined
and transformed into what we now recognize as Branch Brook Park, a landscape work
of art and a major achievement in the Olmstedian tradition.