Pass the sprawling construction site on Prospect Park's East Drive, where the lavish new Lakeside skating complex draws closer to its public unveiling, and climb a slight hill. There, in the old Concert Grove, is a fading but magical structure, empty except for the scuttling of fallen leaves. It's called the Oriental Pavilion, a name from another age when "oriental" was a signifier of all things exotic.
It's a delightful folly, with an amazing history. Built in 1874, according to the Parks Department's site, it is "made of eight cast-iron posts modeled after Hindu columns of the medieval period (8th to 12th centuries), and supporting an elaborately painted hipped roof with stained-glass cupola." Here it is in 1908; the structure to its right was the Dairy, a restaurant demolished in the 1930s.
Originally serving as a tea house and shelter for patrons of the concerts in the grove and on Music Island (now restored), the pavilion suffered a series of indignities in later decades. With hallmark sensitivity, Robert Moses installed a brick snack bar in it, which caught fire; apparently, little remained for years but the columns. (I can find no pictures from this dark age.)
The whole was restored in 1987, but 26 years later, that restoration has sadly gone unmaintained. Hey, I get it; we bought our house about then, and it's infuriating to discover that "renovation 1.0" is now as blighted as the original blight it replaced.
About the only thing that looks okay is the lovely skylight. As I stood looking up at it, the sound of saws and hammers floated over from Lakeside, where the multi-million-dollar new LEED-certified showplace is getting its finishing touches. My heart ached for the pavilion, soon to be overshadowed forever by the glitzy spaceship that has landed next door. How I wish I were filthy rich, and could endow another restoration--of a folly so Victorian, quaint, and obsolete that its very name is politically incorrect.
And the pavilion, by the way, has still "got it"; it was used as the location for an al fresco wedding luncheon in the movie "Julie and Julia" (thanks to the Lawrence/Julie&Julia Project for the only picture I could find of that scene on the entire web). I would hold catered luncheons in it, with recipes of Ms. Child's.