Parks of Downtown West

Washington Square Park

Fifth Avenue, between Waverly Place, West 4th and MacDougal Streets

Nearby Zip Codes: 10003, 10011, 10012

Nearby Neighborhoods: Greenwich Village, Village, East Village, Gramercy Park, Flatiron District, and Soho

Washington Square Park is named for George Washington (1732-1799), who served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. On April 30, 1789, six years after the victory of the colonists, Washington was inaugurated in New York City as the first President of the United States. He served for two four-year terms.

The parkland was once a marsh fed by Minetta Brook. It was located near an Indian village known as Sapokanikan or “Tobacco Field.” In 1797 the Common Council acquired the land for use as a Potter’s Field or common burial ground. The field was also used for public executions, giving rise to the tale of the Hangman’s Elm which stands in the northwest corner of the park.

The site was used as the Washington Military Parade Ground in 1826, and became a public park in 1827. Following this designation, a number of wealthy and prominent families, escaping the disease and congestion of downtown Manhattan, moved into the area and built the distinguished Greek revival mansions that still line the square’s north side. One of these provided the setting for Henry James’ 1880 novel, Washington Square. In 1835, the park also hosted the first public demonstration of the telegraph by Samuel F.B. Morse, a professor at New York University, which is adjacent to the park.

Soon after the creation of the Department of Public Parks in 1870, the square was redesigned and improved by M.A. Kellogg, Engineer-in-Chief, and I.A. Pilat, Chief Landscape Gardener. The marble Washington Arch was built between the years 1890 and 1892 to replace the popular wooden arch erected in 1889 to commemorate the centennial of Washington’s inauguration. The architect Stanford White modeled both structures on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Two statues of Washington were installed on the north face of the arch in 1918, Washington as Commander-in-Chief, Accompanied by Fame and Valor by Hermon MacNeil, and Washington as President, Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice by Alexander Stirling Calder.

Other monuments in this park are J.Q.A. Ward’s bust of steel manufacturer Alexander

Lyman Holley (1890), Giovanni Turini’s statue of Italian nationalist leader Giuseppe Garibaldi (1888), a World War I flagpole, and the central fountain which was moved here from Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in the mid-1870s.

Use of public space in Washington Square Park has also been redefined throughout the 20th century. Fifth Avenue ran through the arch until 1964 when the park was redesigned and closed to traffic at the insistence of Village residents. With the addition of bocce courts, game tables, and playgrounds, the park has become an internationally known meeting ground for students, local residents, tourists, chess players, and performers. A $900,000 renovation was completed in 1995.

Memorial Arch

  • Alexander Lyman Holley Monument
  • In Honor of Alexander Lyman Holley
  • Foremost Among Those Whose Genius and Energy
  • Established in America and Improved Throughout the World
  • The Manufacture of Bessemer Steel
  • This Memorial is erected by Engineers of Two Hemispheres

Alexander Lyman Holley (1832-1882) was born in Lakeville, Connecticut. His capacity for careful and discriminating observation and his notable drawing talents marked him as an engineer very early in his life. Holley was the first student to graduate from Brown University in engineering, receiving his bachelor of philosophy in 1853. He received fifteen patents and wrote several books and hundreds of articles. Known best for adapting the Bessemer process of steel-making to U.S. needs, Holley had a brilliant and versatile mind. His work immediately brought rapid production to ironworks and rolling mills, along with a high standard of excellence, and his efforts significantly reduced steel prices and enabled unprecedented growth in the industries that moved America forward, including railroads, bridges, and ships.

Among engineers, Holley’s enthusiasm was contagious, his eloquence captivating, and his character commanding. He was practical, aiming to simplify, to facilitate, to save labor, and to economize. Acknowledged as an authority by mechanical, mining, and civil engineers alike, Holley developed ideas and concepts that directly influenced both education and industry for decades beyond his death. Mechanical engineer Charles T. Porter (1826-1910) eulogized his character: “That beaming countenance with sparkling eyes, upon which it was such a joy to look. …was the outward manifestation of a great soul, instinct with every feeling that, in the appropriate words of another, can ennoble or can adorn our nature.”

When Holley died in Brooklyn at age 49, he was engaged in bringing the engineers of the world together by shaping the foundations for several professional societies. Three of these societies jointly raised funds and commissioned this memorial: the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) of which he was the “leading spirit” in its founding; the Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME) of which he was a past president; and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) of which he was a past vice president. Dedicated on October 2, 1890, Holley’s memorial was given to the City of New York by “the engineers of two hemispheres” and was witnessed by an international group including societies from Germany and France.

John Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910) sculpted the bronze portrait of Holley, which was cast by the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company of New York in 1889. The bust is mounted on the central pillar of an elaborately carved tripartite pedestal made of Indiana limestone. The pedestal was designed by architect Thomas Hastings (1860-1929). This unusual monument combines the architecture, sculpture, and ornament of the BeauxArts style.

In 1999 the Holley monument was conserved and a maintenance endowment established through the Adopt-A-Monument Program. The project was managed as a joint venture of the Municipal Art Society, the City Parks Foundation, Parks & Recreation and the Art Commission of the City of New York. The work was sponsored through contributions from the ASME Council on Public Affairs and ASME Metropolitan Section, AIME, ASCE, and the Steel Service Center Institute. Matching funds were received from Save Outdoor Sculpture! (SOS!), a program jointly sponsored by Heritage Preservation and the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and underwritten by Target Stores and the National Endowment for the Arts.

George Washington, Accompanied by Fame and Valor, and by Wisdom and Justice

Designed by Stanford White (1853-1906), Washington Square Arch was dedicated on May 4, 1895. White’s initial, elaborate plans included a pier sculpture abutting the arch, but these designs were never completed. His spandrel panels depicting War, Peace, Fame and Posterity remained unadorned for more than twenty years. In 1916, Washington as Commander-in-Chief Accompanied by Fame and Valor was installed at the Arch. Washington as President, Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice, sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder, was installed at the site two years later.

This marble statue depicts a resolute George Washington (1732–1799) as Commanderin-Chief. Standing in repose on the northern face of Washington Square Arch’s eastern pier before human personifications of fame and valor, the 16-foot marble figure with hands resting on the pommel of an unsheathed sword was sculpted by Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947).

Born in College Point, Queens, Hermon MacNeil studied art in both Rome and Paris. He rose to prominence in this country with his large-scale figurative sculptures, including the McKinley Memorial in Columbus, Ohio. MacNeil’s work graces all five boroughs in New York City. From a cast of his Sun Vow in the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to the Flushing

War Memorial in Queens, as well as four busts in the Hall of Fame of Great Americans at Bronx Community College, MacNeil’s artistic mark is strong throughout the city. Other notable works include the figures on the eastern pediment of the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Macneil was also the first American to receive the Prix de Rome, and he designed the “Standing Liberty” quarter, minted from 1916 to 1930, and one of the most heavily collected coins in the world.

This elaborate marble statue depicts American Revolutionary War General and President George Washington (1732–1799). Standing in stately repose before human personifications of wisdom and justice, the 16-foot marble figure in high relief on integral plinth was sculpted by Alexander Stirling Calder (1870-1945).

Alexander Calder came from a family of sculptors and artisans. Educated both at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (1886-90) and in Paris (1890), he was well-known for his public works. He also sculpted the Swann Memorial in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, monumental archways in Pasadena, California, and the Depew Memorial Fountain in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Though Washington Square Arch has been cleaned and maintained several times over the past few decades, the marble sculptures continue to show signs of erosion. On August 16, 2001, Mayor Giuliani announced that he would allocate $1.5 million to the restoration of Washington Square Arch. The City Council, the Manhattan Borough President, and several private sponsors have also contributed funds to the project.

Memorial Arch, northwest façade

Giuseppe Garibaldi Monument

This monument is dedicated to General Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807–1882), the 19th century Italian patriot who crusaded for a unified Italy during the European era of state building.

Known as the “Sword of Italian Unification,” in 1834, Giuseppe Garibaldi joined the Young Italy Society organized by Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872). They fought in the first republican uprising for independence in Genoa, Italy, but after the movement was crushed Garibaldi fled to South America where he remained in exile from 1836 to 1848. While there, he fought against Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas in the Uruguayan Civil War from 1842 to 1846.

Garibaldi returned to Italy in 1849 to support Mazzini and his short-lived Roman Republic. After Mazzini’s regime capitulated to French forces, Garibaldi fled Italy for New York where he met inventor and fellow Italian exile Antonio Meucci (1808–1889), who’s patent for telephone technology predated Alexander Graham Bell. Meucci invited Garibaldi to stay at his cottage in Clifton, Staten Island. There, Garibaldi worked as a candle maker as he recovered from the war and planned his next military campaign. Today, the cottage on Tompkins Avenue is the home of the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum.

In 1854, Garibaldi returned to Italy to fight for a united Italian nation. In 1860, Garibaldi’s volunteer forces seized Sicily and Naples. The successful campaign led to the unification of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II, and solidified Garibaldi’s international reputation as a military leader. President Abraham Lincoln offered Garibaldi a command in the Union Army at the beginning of the Civil War, which Garibaldi declined so that he could continue to fight for the fledgling nation.

The sculptor, Giovanni Turini (1841–1899), who also designed the bronze bust of Mazzini unveiled in Central Park in 1878, was a volunteer member of Garibaldi’s Fourth Regiment during the war between Italy and Austria in 1866. Donated by New York’s ItalianAmerican community, the bronze statue on a granite pedestal was dedicated in 1888, the sixth anniversary of Garibaldi’s death.

By the 1960s, a good-luck ritual developed among New York University Finance students in which each new student in the School of Finance tossed a penny at the base of the Garibaldi Monument at the start of the school year. Acknowledging this tradition and reinforcing its commitment to the community, the university sponsored a wreath-laying ceremony in 1961 to honor the centennial anniversary of Italy’s unification.

In 1970, the Garibaldi monument was moved about 15 feet to the east to allow for construction of a promenade in Washington Square. A glass vessel containing documents from the 1880s was found under the original base of the statue. The documents included newspaper accounts of Garibaldi’s death, a history of the Committee for the Monument of Garibaldi, the organization that helped place the statue, and a poster for and news clippings about the monument’s 1888 dedication.

In 1998, the monument was conserved by the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program. The treatment included cleaning, repatining, and applying a protective coating to the bronze sculpture, as well as cleaning and repairing the stone pedestal. In September 2000, Garibaldi’s scabbard, vandalized and long in storage, was reinstalled and unified with his sword. The project was funded in part by The American Express Company, the Florence Gould Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Shirley Hayes and the Preservation of Washington Square Park

In the early 1950s, the City of New York proposed running a four-lane, partially sunken roadway through the middle of Washington Square Park. In February 1952, Mrs. Shirley Hayes, a young mother of four sons (Dennis, Timothy, Christopher, Kerry) living in Greenwich Village, discovered the city¡¦s plans to link Fifth Avenue¡Xwhich at the time ran through the park¡Xwith West Broadway in an attempt to alleviate downtown traffic congestion. The measure, approved by the City Planning Board and then Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, would have removed the park¡¦s fountain and allowed cars and buses to cut right through the heart of the park.

Established as a public park in 1827, Washington Square Park is a historic open space and the home of many monuments including the marble Washington Arch, a statue of Italian nationalist leader Giuseppe Garibaldi, and an authentic World War I flagpole. Mrs. Hayes and many others believed the plan to run a new major artery through the park would compromise the historic character of the Village and deny thousands of local residents and visitors the only large green space in their neighborhood. Pitted against opposition from City Hall, the Board of Estimate, New York University, and elected officials, Mrs. Hayes began a fight to ¡Save the Square¡¨ that lasted for seven years. In addition to being appointed to the Manhattan Borough President¡¦s Greenwich Village Community Planning Board to help find an alternate plan for the park, she founded the Washington Square Park Committee, composed of 36 community groups including property owners, civic organizations, parent-teacher associations, and churches. As the leader of this effort, she was said at the time to be the ¡true Village Voice.¡¨ She spoke out against the city¡¦s plan and urged the community to remember that ¡some provision for healthy family living and some vestige of quiet and beauty must be allowed to survive.

As neighborhood support for Mrs. Hayes¡¦s campaign grew, a number of alternate plans were proposed. In 1955, Manhattan Borough President Hulan E. Jack unveiled a plan to build a depressed roadway through the park, while community leaders including Anthony Dapolito tried to negotiate with the city, suggesting alternatives including the construction of a tunnel beneath the park. Raymond S. Rubinow, Chairman of the Joint Emergency Committee to Close Washington Square Park to Traffic, formulated a turn-around compromise plan endorsed by Tammany Hall¡¦s Democratic party leader Carmine DeSapio that would allow only Fifth Avenue Coach Company buses to use a traffic lane around the Washington Arch.

Mrs. Hayes and her community allies rejected these proposals, saying that only one alternative would ¡best serve the needs of children and adults of this family community.¡¨ Mrs. Hayes proposed that Washington Square Park be forever closed to all motor vehicles. Her plan, calling for one and three-fourths acres of existing roadways to be transferred to parkland and a paved area to be used for emergency use only, received widespread support from community members, including then Congressman John V. Lindsay (Mayor 1966-1973) and Charles McGuinness of the Village Independent Democrats. She believed the unification of the park would create a better venue for cultural and recreational activities such as the Shakespeare Festival, outdoor concerts, and art exhibits.

In 1958, a public hearing was held to discuss the roadway through the park. Bus loads of supporters, including Eleanor Roosevelt, a resident of 29 Washington Square Park West crowded into City Hall to support Mrs. Hayes. With Assemblyman William F. Passannante, Manhattan Borough President Hulan E. Jack, and other community leaders in attendance, a ¡ribbon tying¡¨ ceremony was held on November 1, 1958, to celebrate the start of a trial period by Traffic Commissioner T. T. Wiley to close the park to all vehicles except buses. Months later, the experiment was extended to prohibit buses from the park altogether, and after a period of evaluation, a final decision on the park was to be made. In August 1959, Mrs. Hayes and her supporters were victorious in their battle at last, and the Board of Estimate closed the park to vehicular traffic for good. Today, this sign and a unified Washington Square Park stand as a testament to Shirley Hayes and her heartfelt dedication that brought the entire Greenwich Village community together in a true grassroots movement to ¡Save the Square.

High Line

Nearby Zip Codes: 10011, 10001, 10014, 10018

Nearby Neighborhoods: Village, West Village, Meatpacking District, Chelsea, North Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen

Gansevoort to West 30th Streets, between Washington Street and 11th Avenue

The High Line is a complete reuse and transformation of an abandoned industrial structure into a verdant public park 30 feet above the ground. The design hearkens back to the era when the West Side of Manhattan was America’s premier working waterfront.

Park Hours—

High Line is open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. daily during the winter months. Last entrance to the park is at 7:45 PM.

Beginning Friday, April 2, 2010, High Line has been open daily from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM with last entry at 9:45 p.m.

The park rules are no:

  • Walking on rail tracks, gravel, or plants
  • Picking flowers or plants
  • Throwing objects
  • Sitting on railings or climbing on any part of the High Line
  • Bicycles, skateboards, skates and scooters
  • Performances or amplified sound, except by permit
  • Solicitation
  • Commercial activity, except by permit
  • Littering
  • Glass bottles
  • Obstructing entrances or paths
  • Drinking alcohol, except in designated concession areas
  • Feeding birds or squirrels
  • Dogs (dogs are currently not allowed on the High Line due to the limited area of the pathways and the fragility of the new plantings).

Chelsea, High Line, south terminus

The park entrances are spaced every 2-3 blocks. Entrances are located at:

  • Gansevoort Street and Washington Street (stairs)
  • 14th Street, east of West Street (stairs and elevator available)
  • 16th Street, east of 10th Avenue (stairs and elevator available)
  • 18th Street, west of 10th Avenue (stairs)
  • 20th Street, west of 10th Avenue (stairs)

High Line may be limited at peak times. At peak occupant capacity, visitors are requested to enter at Gansevoort Street (or 16th Street if elevator service is required). All access points will be open for egress.

Accessible entrances and features—

There are elevators at 14th Street and 16th Street. Future elevator sites include 23rd

Street, 30th Street and, in 2012, Gansevoort Street. Other accessible amenities on the High Line include benches with armrests, benches with a wheelchair spot next to them, accessible water fountains, and ramps to every area including the Northern Spur Overlook.

Pocket Parks and Squares

Abingdon Square, West Village

Abingdon Square Park shares its lineage with some of Greenwich Village’s earliest European landowners and social figures. Sir Peter Warren entered the British Navy as a volunteer in 1717 and rose to the rank of vice-admiral of the New York Fleet after the French and Indian War. By 1744, Warren had purchased a three-hundred-acre farm in the area known as Greenwich. Sir Peter and his wife Susannah De Lancey lived in a manor house with a large formal garden in the area now bounded by West 4th, Bleecker, Charles, and Perry Streets.

Their eldest daughter Charlotte married Willoughby Bertie, the Fourth Earl of Abingdon, and a share of the Warren estate was part of her dowry. Her portion included the land that came to be known as Abingdon Square. The Goodrich Plan of Manhattan drawn in 1827 depicts Abingdon Square as a trapezoidal parcel between Eighth Avenue and Bank, Hudson, and Troy (later West 12th) Streets. On March 4, 1831, the Common Council resolved that the ground called Abingdon Square should be “enclosed as a public park” and appropriated $3000 “for the expense thereof.” The City acquired the parcel on April 22 and enclosed it with a cast iron fence in 1836. About fifty years later, Mayor Abram S. Hewitt promoted a citywide effort to improve public access to green spaces.

Sheridan Square Viewing Garden, Village

This small triangle at the intersection of Washington Place, West 4th Street, Barrow Street and Seventh Avenue South was named for Civil War General Philip Sheridan, in 1896. Sheridan Square served as a traffic-safety island, and then in 1982, the area went from a paved triangle to its present peaceful viewing garden on a busy traffic triangle in the heart of the Village.

Jackson Square, West Village

One of New York City’s oldest parks, Jackson Square Park has a long and rather obscure history. The triangular shape of the park is a result of the diagonal route of Greenwich Avenue, the oldest known road in Greenwich Village. Greenwich Avenue originated as an Indian trail and was called the Strand Road by Dutch colonists.

When and why the site came to be called Jackson Square is unclear. Most likely it was named after Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), the seventh President of the United States. The city acquired the land in 1826. The following improvements were made by May 1872: “5,900 square feet walks graded/103 cubic yards masonry in foundations/460 feet railing/462 feet coping/6 lamp-posts furnished and set.”

In 1913, Parks gardeners planted a new school garden plot at Jackson Square and left its upkeep to the “little farmers” in the neighborhood. The park underwent renovations in the 1930s when seventeen pin oaks were planted on the perimeter, the shower basin was replaced by a new wading pool, and new benches were installed.

Gardens of St. Luke’s in the Fields, Barrow and Christopher, at Hudson Street

The history of the church is not well known. One of the founding wardens was Clement Clarke Moore, a gentleman scholar of biblical Hebrew and Greek. He also penned, “T’was the Night before Christmas. Moore was the son of the Rector of Trinity Church, and Chasity Clarke, heiress of Chelsea Manor. He also donated the land for the General Theological Seminary, founded in 1817. The landscaping of the area maintains the beautiful look of the garden. The egress paths strive to keep as many of the garden’s original trees and shrubs as possible. In addition, the design involves replacing the chain link fencing along Barrow Street garden with St. Luke’s customary black wrought iron fence – keeping an attractive and consistent look to the church property.