Brooklyn has its fair share of Revolutionary War monuments, most commemorating battles fought and those that died in the conflict. The Dongan Oak Marker is unusual in that it marks the loss of a tree in the service of the patriots.
In 1776, the Dongan Oak was one of the tallest trees in the area and at least 100 years old. The tree had been previously noted by Governor Dongan as a border marker between the villages of Brooklyn and Flatbush in 1685. It stood at the entrance of what was known as The Porte or Flatbush Pass, a former Native American path that allowed easier passage through the hills of Brooklyn.
It’s for that reason that American forces set up a redoubt just above the pass. This was designed to guard the passage when British forces tried to pass through on their way to Brooklyn proper. During the Battle of Long Island, the oak was cut down (supposedly by a local farmer) to block off a group of Hessians led by General Philip de Heister.
The Americans managed to hold out for a few hours, only retreating when attacked from the rear by British troops. The Porte is now known as the “Battle Pass,” and there are several monuments dedicated to the Battle of Long Island in the area.
The Dongan Oak Marker, with an eagle sculpted by Frederick Wellington Ruckstull, was dedicated in 1922. The eagle was later stolen in 1974. It was replaced by the Prospect Park Alliance in 1991, only to be stolen once again. However, a new replacement was quickly put in and has fared much better than its predecessors.
Know Before You Go
The monument is located just north of the Prospect Park Zoo. If heading north, just step off East Drive after the zoo and you'll find it at the split in the pedestrian path.