Parks – All Neighborhoods

Nearby Neighborhoods: Chinatown, Tribeca, Civic Center, Waterfront, Financial District, and Battery Park City


Battery Park

Battery Park


Battery Place, at State and Whitehall Streets

For more than 200 years, Battery Park has been an invaluable part of New York City’s history. In 1855, Castle Garden, situated inside the Park, became the world’s first immigrant depot. Decades before Ellis Island was built or the Statue of Liberty gazed down at incoming boats, millions of newcomers arrived at Battery Park from Europe and elsewhere.

Although its role has changed, people from around the world still visit Battery Park for a view of the city’s past. Ferries dock at its shore to pick up visitors to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and all summer long concerts play on its grounds.

beautiful waterfront and flower gardens make Battery Park a lovely place to wander. For those who’d like a longer stroll, the park’s location at the southern tip of Manhattan makes it a classic starting point for walking tours through the city.

Located at the southern tip of Manhattan with ready access to the harbor and the Hudson River, Battery Park is where the history of New York City began. The area’s strategic location was recognized by Native Americans and Dutch settlers, who called it Capske Hook (from Kapsee, an Indian term for rocky ledge). Near this point, the colonists of the Dutch West India Company began the settlement of New Amsterdam in 1625. As the colony grew and its commerce expanded, piers, wharves, and slips rose along the coastline. The Dutch constructed Fort Amsterdam as early as 1626, and around 1683, the first of a series of gun batteries was constructed around the shore.

With its fine promenade and magnificent vista of the harbor, the Battery became a popular place for New Yorkers to visit in the early 18th century. Its development as a public park owes to its enlargement through landfill. Fort George (as Fort Amsterdam was then known) was completely razed in 1788, and its remnants were used to fill in the shore and expand the Battery. Between 1808 and 1811, a new circular fort known as the West Battery was erected 200 feet offshore. It was renamed Castle Clinton (for Governor De Witt Clinton) in 1815 and ceded to the City in 1823. Around this time, the park was extended further by landfills to an area of about ten acres. Another massive landfill project got underway in 1853 and was completed in 1872.

Meanwhile, the old fort was renamed Castle Garden and provided the setting for countless receptions, demonstrations, and performances for more than thirty years. General Lafayette was welcomed there in 1824 and Hungarian patriot Lajos Kossuth in 1851. Inventor Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrated his “wireless telegraph” in 1842, and singer Jenny Lind made her American debut in 1850. From 1855 to 1890 the building was used as the federal immigration center for the east coast, processing approximately eight million immigrants. In 1890 Castle Clinton was acquired by the New York City Department of Public Parks, which operated the New York Aquarium there from 1896 to 1941.

Portions of Battery Park were closed from 1940 to 1952, while the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Battery Park Underpass were built beneath it. Although construction was delayed by World War II, New Yorkers were delighted with the dramatically transformed park, completely relandscaped and expanded by two acres. Subsequent alterations include the addition of Peter Minuit Plaza in 1955 and the dedication of the East Coast Memorial in 1963. Castle Clinton was ceded to the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1950 and designated a national monument. In 1982 New York State designated Battery Park as a part of Harbor Park, a group of historic waterfront sites.

Battery Park contains many monuments honoring soldiers, explorers, inventors, and immigrants. In 1995 this American Linden (Tilia Americana) tree was planted as a tribute to singer Jenny Lind (1820-1887), whose performance at Castle Garden on September 11, 1850 was billed as the musical event of the century. Thanks to promoter P.T. Barnum, the arrival of the “Swedish Nightingale” caused a sensation in New York. Thousands of fans purchased Jenny Lind cakes, hats, boots, opera glasses, parasols, and concert tickets. At the concert, Lind earned $12,600, all of which she donated to charitable and benevolent institutions in New York City. She concluded her American tour with a farewell performance at Castle Garden on May 24, 1852.

American Merchant Mariners Memorial

Commissioned by the American Merchant Mariners Memorial, Inc., this memorial was conceived in 1976.

Coast Guard Memorial

The Coast Guard Memorial near the southern entrance path on the south side of Battery Park is by Norman Millet Thomas (born 1915). The sculpture was created in 1947 and dedicated in 1955.

East Coast Memorial

Facing the Statue of Liberty across New York harbor, the East Coast Memorial is located at the southern end of Battery Park.

Giovanni Da Verazzano Statue

This heroic sculpture of Italian explorer and navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano (c. 1485-1528) is by Ettore Ximenes (18551926) and was dedicated October 9, 1909.

Jewish TercentenaryMonument

This flagstaff, unveiled on May 20, 1955, commemorates the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jewish settlers in New Amsterdam and North America.

Joh Ambrose Statue

This monument honors engineer John Wolfe Ambrose (18381899), whose vision and persistence resulted in the deep sea channel to New York harbor, which improved the viability of the port of New York City.

John Ericsson Statue

This 1903 statue by Jonathan Scott Hartley (18451912) depicts the esteemed Swedish-American engineer and inventor John Ericsson (18031889), who helped to revolutionize military-maritime technology.

Netherlands Monument

This monumental flagstaff commemorates the Dutch establishment of New Amsterdam and the seventeenth century European settlement which launched the modern metropolis of New York City.

New York Korean War Veterans Memorial

This monument in Battery Park, north of Castle Clinton, honors military personnel who served in the Korean Conflict (1950-1953).

Norwegian Veterans Monument

This monument honors the valiant sailors of the Norwegian merchant marines and navy who lost their lives in the cause of the Allies during World War II.

Shellfish in New York City

Battery Park rests on the southern tip of Manhattan, overlooking New York Harbor. At one time, the waters of this area were filled with boats attempting to harvest shellfish.

The Immigrants

Sculptor Luis Sanguino (b. 1934) celebrates the diversity of New York City and the struggle of immigrants in this heroic-sized bronze figural group.

Walloon Setters Monument

This nearly ten-foot-tall granite stele at the northwest corner of Battery Park by Castle Clinton was designed by noted architect Henry Bacon (1866-1924).

Wireless Operators Monument

Italian physicist and inventor Guglielmo Marchese Marconi (1874-1937) carried out the first successful experiments of wireless technology in 1895 in Bologna.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10013, 10038, 10012, 10002, 10007

Nearby Neighborhoods: Chinatown, Financial District,  Tribeca, and Battery Park City

New York City Hall Park

New York City Hall Park

City Hall Park

Broadway, at Park Row Chambers Street

Surrounded by centuries-old majestic government buildings that date back to 1812, this park provides a much-needed green spot in a bustling downtown area. At lunchtime each afternoon it springs to life when those working in the neighborhood come to relax, eat, and soak in sunshine on its grassy lawns.

For people-watching enthusiasts, the park provides a crosscut of New York life as government workers, jury members, and newlyweds visiting City Hall for their marriage licenses stroll through its grounds.

ts bike path, which leads directly to the Brooklyn Bridge, offers a different type of scenic view to cyclists pedaling through picturesque panoramas of some of the City’s iconic public architecture.

City Hall Park, located in downtown Manhattan, has played a key role in New York civic life for centuries, from its Colonial beginnings as a rebel outpost to its current function as the seat of City government.  The land has been used, among other things, as a pasture, a prison, a parade ground, a public execution site, an almshouse, an art museum, and a post office.

From 1653 to 1699 this area was known as the Commons and served as a communal pasture ground for livestock.  The park’s western boundary was a Native American trail that later became Broadway.  An almshouse for the City’s poor stood on this site from 1736 to 1797, at which point a second almshouse was built; archaeological evidence of the first structure was unearthed in 1989.

In 1757 construction began on a debtors’ prison and a soldiers’ barracks on the north end of the Commons where the Tweed Courthouse now stands.  In 1765 New Yorkers protested the Stamp Act at the site, and a year later the first “Liberty Pole,” a commemorative mast topped by a vane featuring the word “liberty,” was built by pro-independence New Yorkers; a replica dating to 1921 now stands between City Hall and Broadway, near its original location.  During the American Revolution (1776-1783) the British controlled New York and used the debtor’s prison to hold Revolutionary prisoners of war, executing 250 of them on gallows located behind the Soldiers’ Barracks.

In 1803 the cornerstone was laid for the current City Hall, which was designed by Joseph Mangin and John Mc Comb.  When the building opened in 1812 many felt that it was too far north of the center of the City.  In 1818 a circular building called the Rotunda that housed the City’s first art museum was built on the park’s northeast corner, and in 1830 the debtors’ prison was converted to the City Hall of Records.  In 1842 a fountain with a 100-foot-diameter basin and an impressive center jet capable of shooting water 50 feet into the air was built using water pumped in from the then-new Croton Aqueduct.  New Yorkers continued to use the park for gatherings and events throughout the 19th century, including public meetings after the declaration of the Mexican-American War in 1846, and a call to volunteers in 1862 to enlist in the Civil War (1861-1865).  During the Civil War the park was used to house troops in soldiers’ barracks.  After President Lincoln was assassinated, his funeral procession for New York residents originated at City Hall.

Part of the southern tip of the park was sold to the Federal government in 1867 to build a post office.  The Rotunda building was demolished in 1870 and in 1871 the Croton Fountain was replaced by a new fountain designed by Jacob Wrey Mould, co-designer of Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain, which became the centerpiece of the smaller park.  Concerts were held at the park during the 1870s.  In 1903 the park’s original gas streetlights were replaced by electric lamps.  In 1939 the Post Office building was torn down, restoring the park to its original triangular shape, and reestablishing the open view of St. Paul’s Chapel from City Hall.  In 1966 the City Hall building was designated a city landmark as well as a national landmark.

The park is home to more than a dozen monuments, including Frederick MacMonnies’s statue of Colonial patriot Nathan Hale (1893) and John Quincy Adams Ward’s Horace Greeley (1890), which was moved to the park in 1916.  In 1920 the Mould fountain was dissembled and moved to Crotona Park in the Bronx to make way for MacMonnies’ controversial Civic Virtue (1922) fountain, which stood in the park from 1922 to 1941.  Civic Virtue featured an allegorical figural group depicting a male figure stepping over two prone female figures, and as the object of much protest, was moved to Queens at Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia’s (1882-1947) request.  The Delacorte Fountain (1972) stood at the site from 1972 until the park was renovated in 1999; it is now in the Bronx at Borough Hall Park.  In 1991, during the construction of a nearby federal office building, an African burial ground was uncovered on portions of the northern part of the park, and designated as a City landmark and National Historic site in 1993.

In 1999 a $34.6 million project fully restored the park, adding a central walkway and gardens and replacing pavement with grass and trees. The Mould fountain with its original granite base was returned to the park with a reconstructed centerpiece and lighting fixtures.  A circular tablet at the southern end of the park was added to educate visitors about the history of the site.  At the park’s rededication, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani called the renovation “a final gift from the 20th century to New Yorkers of the 21st.”




Nearby Neighborhoods: Lower East Side, Stuyvesant Town, and Alphabet City


East River Park

East River Park

Montgomery Street to East 12th Street, FDR (East River) Drive

The East River Park runs alongside the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) Drive and the East River from Montgomery Street to East 12th Street. It was conceived in the early 1930s when Robert Moses (1888-1981) was designing the FDR (also known as East River) Drive. Moses knew that the expressway would pass through the Lower East Side, a neighborhood sorely in need of parkland. He was determined not to let the land between the expressway and the river go to waste. Moses envisioned a tree-shaded esplanade with abundant recreational facilities and windswept views of the East River and beyond.

Moses soon faced a problem: the acquisition of enough land for a park in this densely populated area. Condemnation, the process by which the City normally acquired land, was prohibitively expensive and fraught with legal difficulties, especially along this heavily industrialized waterfront. Moses arrived at an imaginative solution. To provide more parkland, he built a 10-foot wide concrete extension to Manhattan’s eastern shoreline spanning 20 blocks. The combination of the added platform and Moses’s energetic legal wrangling was enough to secure the needed land, and in 1939, East River Park, the Lower East Side’s largest open space, opened alongside the FDR Drive.

East River Park has undergone a great many changes since then. In 1949, when the FDR Drive was widened, a portion of the park between Montgomery and Jackson Streets was eliminated. South Street was extended in 1963, protruding onto another 30-foot section of the park. In 1951, Parks built the 10th Street pedestrian overpass above the FDR Drive, connecting the park with East Village residents, especially allowing easy access to residents of the neighboring Lillian Wald Houses.

An amphitheater was built in the park in 1941, along with an adjacent limestone recreational building, as part of an urban renewal project for the Lower East Side. Joseph Papp (1921-1991), founder of Shakespeare in the Park and the Public Theater, staged Julius Caesar there in 1956. During much of that decade, the amphitheater was the site of free Evening-in-the-Park concerts. Local schools held their graduation ceremonies there, and the Group of Ancient Drama performed free productions of Greek classics. In 1973, however, the amphitheater closed due to a budget shortage. Vandals attacked the neglected theater and by 1980 it was unusable.

The East River waterfront has played a crucial role in the development of New York City. Before the arrival of Dutch colonists in the 17th century, it was home to the Nechtanc, a subgroup of the Lenapes, Native Americans who once inhabited much of the New York area. After European settlers colonized the area, it formed a vital link in trade with Europe and the West Indies. By 1825, the area was marked by an active shipbuilding industry, boisterous masses of sailors, and a number of active municipal waterfront markets. In the mid-19th century, as sea trade moved to the deeper channels of the Hudson River, docks gave way to factories, and then, in the late 19th century, to tenements. By the time Moses developed his plan for the park, the southern East River waterfront was dotted with slaughterhouses, glass factories, power stations, and railroad yards.

In recent years, the park has been the site of extensive renovations, including 1994 improvements to the basketball court, playground, and picnic area, and seawall. Renovation continued in 1996, when Parks celebrated the opening of the 10th Street comfort station, funded through the efforts of City Council Members Antonio Pagan and Kathryn Freed, with a First Flush ceremony. Commissioner Stern performed a ceremonial flush of the men’s room toilet and cut an inaugural toilet paper ribbon. In 2000, ballfield lighting improvements were completed with funding provided by City Council Member Margarita Lopez. A bikeway was completed in 2001 with funding from Mayor Giuliani and Borough President C. Virginia Fields.

The park is a popular recreation area. In addition to its views of the East River, it boasts basketball, tennis, and handball courts; playgrounds; a picnic area; softball, football, baseball and track fields; a river promenade; and a footbridge. The Brian Watkins Tennis Club, which opened in 1991, is named for a 22-year old Utah tourist who was slain while attempting to protect his parents from a subway mugger. The tennis club honors Watkins’s avid interest in tennis, offering free tennis lessons six months a year.

East River Park Anchor

Pulled from the East River, the origins of this anchor are unclear. When it was placed on the site in 1970, the accompanying plaque stated that the piece was donated by the F&M Schaefer Brewing Co. in memory of the William H. Brown shipyard. The Brown shipyard was famous for building the schooner yacht America, which was launched on May 3, 1851. The international yachting race known as the America’s Cup was named after this schooner.


Nearby Zip Code: 10002

Nearby Neighborhoods: Lower East Side, Nolita, Noho, and the East Village


Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Sara Delano Roosevelt Park

When this park was named in 1934 after Sara Delano Roosevelt (1854 -1941), mother of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), she held the distinction of being the only Presidential mother, after Mary Washington, to live until her son took office.

Sara Delano married James Roosevelt (1828-1900) in 1880 at her family’s home in Newburgh, New York. The couple then resided at his Springwood estate, designed by Central Park architect Calvert Vaux, in nearby Hyde Park. Her philanthropic activities included serving on the board of the Gallaudet home for the deaf, teaching sewing classes to girls and volunteering at the Laura Delano Free Hospital for Children of New York City, founded by the Roosevelt family in 1885 in memory of her sister Laura. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote about her only child’s early years in her 1933 memoir: My Boy Franklin.

The parkland was acquired by the City in 1929 for the purpose of widening Chrystie and Forsythe Streets and building low-cost housing but was later set aside for “playgrounds and resting places for mothers and children.” The construction of the park in 1934 was the largest park project on the Lower East Side since the acquisition of Tompkins Square Park a century earlier. Parts of four streets were closed (Hester, Broome, Rivington, and Stanton) to accommodate seven distinct play areas with separate playgrounds for boys and girls, as well as two wading pools, a roller skating rink and a perimeter of benches and shade trees.

The dedication ceremonies on September 14, 1934 demonstrated the Lower East Side’s reverence for Mrs. Roosevelt and its jubilant reception of “America’s finest playground.” A cannon salute and a performance by the Parks Department Orchestra, paying tribute to the patriotism and ethnic diversity of the largely immigrant patrons, were broadcast on radio stations from Maine to Virginia. In his opening address, Harry H. Schlacht, founder of the East Side Home News, proclaimed the day to be “the birth of a new Lower East Side.”

Recent additions to the park include the Golden Age Center for senior citizens, a vendors market, and the Wah-Mei Bird Garden. Park facilities and security were greatly improved in 1996 with the completion of a 2.7 million dollar capital project which elevated the sunken park to street level and provided a new playground, basketball courts and sidewalks.

M’Finda Kalunga Garden

The M’Finda Kalunga Garden is named in memory of an African-American burial ground that was located on nearby Chrystie Street between Rivington and Stanton Streets.

Dutch colonists brought the first Africans to the New Amsterdam colony in the late 1500s. By 1748, African-Americans, slave and free, made up 20% of the city’s population. In addition to being banned from membership in churches, at best relegated to balconies and back pews, New York’s black residents endured curfews, meeting prohibitions, and burial restrictions.

In 1794, the African burial ground near City Hall was closed, and by October of that year, the Common Council of New York City received a “petition from the Sunday Black men of this City praying the aid of this board in purchasing a piece of ground for the internment of their dead.” By April, the land was granted in what was deemed “a proper place,” near the dilapidated ruin of James Delancey’s mansion. The land purchase was bounded to the east by First Street (now Chrystie) and to the north and south by Stanton and Rivington Streets. By the late 1700s, the growing population of the city forced northern expansion. The burial ground began to deteriorate, and in 1853, it closed forever. The human remains were disinterred, and the site was soon built over. The M’Finda Kalunga Garden, just a few hundred yards away, memorializes this moment in history. M’Finda Kalunga means “Garden at the Edge of the Other Side of the World” in the Kikongo language.

The garden was founded in 1983, as a project of the Roosevelt Park Community Coalition. This coalition, formed in 1982 in response to an overwhelming drug problem in the park, created several committees to assess and to solve the variety of problems facing the neighborhood. The original aims of the garden were more social than horticultural. The organizers viewed their work as a beachhead from which to launch initiatives that would make the community a better place to live. In the following years, more gardeners joined the project, and the garden began to take shape.

About 20 regular gardeners now maintain individual beds, and contribute to the upkeep of communal areas, such as the shrubbery and bulb plantings. The garden’s mailing list is nearly double this number. Keys and individual plots are earned on an apprenticeship basis, when would-be members work with current members on shared plots, and demonstrate their commitment to maintaining the garden. Community business is handled in a democratic fashion at monthly meetings. Scheduled events include Clean-Up Day, Kids Day, senior center hours, and fundraisers.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10009, 10003, 10002

Nearby Neighborhoods: Lower Manhattan, East Village, Alphabet City


Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park

Avenues A to B, between East 7th and East 10th Streets

This park honors Daniel D. Tompkins (1774–1825), who served as Governor of New York from 1807 to 1817 and as Vice President of the United States under James Monroe (1758-1831) from 1817 to 1825. Peter Stuyvesant (1610–1672), director general of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, owned this property during the 17th century. Tompkins later acquired it, and by the 19th century, it was marked for development as a public square.

The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 proposed a large market on this land stretching from First Avenue to the East River, but plans for the market never materialized. Bordered today by Avenues A and B, and 7th and 10th Streets, Tompkins Square Park was acquired by the City in 1834. Originally swampland, this site was graded and landscaped between 1835 and 1850. In 1866, the New York State Legislature ordered the City to remove a number of trees that had been planted at the time of the park’s creation to allow for an open parade ground for the Seventh Regiment of New York. A few Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) trees were spared, and of those, three survived to the present day. Believed to be the oldest trees in the park, two of the Sycamores can be found along 10th Street and the other is located on Avenue A at 9th Street.

The New York State Legislature, bowing to pressure from city residents, redesignated the square as a public park in 1878, and it was redesigned the following year. Approximately 450 trees were planted and many of those remain in the park today. Species include Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), American elm (Ulmus americana), and Oriental plane (Platanus orientalis).

The park is home to several monuments, including the Temperance Memorial Fountain (1888), the Samuel S. Cox monument (1891), the Slocum Memorial Fountain (1906), several memorial plaques, and the Ukrainian-American Flagstaff (1942), which was donated by the Ukrainian Production Unit of the American Red Cross. A playground for girls was built in 1904, and in 1911, 10,000 people came here to witness the City’s first inter-park athletic championships. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888–1981) expanded recreation opportunities in the park in the 1930s, adding handball courts and swing sets. A bandshell was completed in 1966 in time for frequent concerts and rallies, which characterized that period in history.

Since its beginnings in the 19th century, Tompkins Square Park has served as a place to voice dissent. Demonstrations in 1857 and 1875 about the lack of jobs and the poor economy gave way to local residents’ protests about gentrification in the 1980s and 1990s. In the late 1980s, police and East Village residents clashed after Parks began enforcing the park’s closing hours, in effect barring homeless from camping in the park. In 1991 the park was closed and dozens of homeless people who had been living in the park were relocated.

The park was reconstructed and reopened in the summer of 1992. During this renovation, the bandshell was removed, a state-of-the-art dog run and new playgrounds were built, several monuments conserved, and the turf and sidewalks replaced. Today Tompkins Square Park continues to serve a diverse community, providing a peaceful, meditative environment within the bustle of city life.

Hare Krishna Tree

One of Tompkins Square Park’s most prominent features is its collection of venerable American elm (Ulmus americana) trees. One elm in particular, located next to the semi-circular arrangement of benches in the park’s center, is important to adherents of the Hare Krishna religion. After coming to the United States in September, 1965, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896–1977), the Indian spiritual leader, founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York. He worked from a storefront on nearby Second Avenue that he used as the Society’s American headquarters. Prabhupada and his disciples gathered in Tompkins Square Park in the fall of 1966 to introduce the East Village to the group’s distinctive 16-word mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

On October 9, 1966, Prabhupada and his followers sat beneath this tree and held the first outdoor chanting session outside of India. Participants chanted for two hours as they danced and played cymbals, tambourines, and other percussive instruments; the event is recognized as the founding of the Hare Krishna religion in the United States. Prabhupada’s diverse group that day included Beat poet Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997). Krishna adherents continue to return to the tree to acknowledge its significance.

American elm trees are known for their towering canopies, which provide abundant shade through spring, summer, and fall. It is rare today to find such a collection of American elms, since many of the mature elms planted across the country have been killed by Dutch Elm Disease. This incurable disease, a fungus carried by bark beetles ( Coleoptera Scolytidae) which colonize on the branches of the elm tree, swept across the United States in the 1930s and remains a threat to the park’s collection of elms. Despite having lost at least 34 of the trees, Tompkins Square Park still hosts a large assemblage of elms, which continue to this day to enchant park patrons. The East Village Parks Conservancy, a volunteer group, raises significant private funds for the ongoing care and maintenance of the American elms and other historic trees in Tompkins Square Park.

Samuel Sullivan Cox

Samuel Sullivan “Sunset” Cox (1824–1889) was born in Zanesville, Ohio, and served his home state as a Democratic Congressional representative from 1857 to 1865 before being unseated. After moving to New York in 1866, Cox served again in Congress for several terms from 1869 until 1889.

Although Cox once publicly declared that his most satisfying contribution to public service was championing the Life Saving Service—founded in the 1840s to patrol the coasts and save imperiled boaters during bad weather, the group was absorbed into the Coast Guard in 1915—this statue is sponsored by U.S. Postal Service workers because of Cox’s support for their quality-of-life issues. Known as the “letter-carriers’ friend,” Cox spearheaded legislation that led to paid benefits and a 40-hour workweek for postal employees. Mail carriers from the 188 cities named on the monument contributed $10,000 for the statue in a campaign that began soon after Cox’s death.

Sculptor Louise Lawson’s statue of Cox, unveiled in 1891, depicts him orating before Congress. Lawson (186?–1899) came from a prominent Ohio family. She and her brother, U.S. Representative W. D. Lawson, both attended Cox’s 1889 funeral at which President Grover Cleveland and General William Sherman served as honorary pallbearers. One might interpret the statue’s somewhat stiff quality as representative of Cox’s steadfast stance on issues for which he advocated.

After the statue’s unveiling on Independence Day 1891, the New York Tribune noted, somewhat less charitably, that Cox’s “usually genial countenance is strained” and “out of harmony” with the Congressman’s natural demeanor. “The likeness is not a good one, and the facial resemblance is hardly suggestive,” the article added. A New York Times account of the ceremony questioned whether the statue “will ever be greatly admired as a work of art.” Nevertheless, a reported 2,500 letter carriers came from as far away as New Orleans and Memphis to participate in the moving ceremony to honor Cox at the statue’s unveiling.

The statue originally stood near Cox’s home on East 12th Street at the intersection of Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue, and Astor Place. In November 1924, due to a street-widening project in the vicinity of Astor Place, it was moved to its current location at the southwest corner of Tompkins Square Park.

In 1998, the monument was conserved by the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program. The treatment included cleaning, repainting, and applying a protective coating to the bronze sculpture and plaques. The pedestal was also cleaned and the lettering was remolded on the front side of the base. The program was funded in part by the American Express Company, the Florence Gould Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Slocum Memorial Fountain

Dedicated in 1906, this fountain serves as a reminder of those who died aboard the excursion steamer General Slocum on June 15, 1904. Prior to September 11, 2001, the burning of the General Slocum had the highest death toll of any disaster in New York City history. The incident claimed an irreplaceable part of the Lower East Side community once known as Little Germany and remains the worst inland-waters, peacetime tragedy in the nation’s history.

The Slocum was a triple-decker wooden ship built in 1891, named after General Henry Warner Slocum (1827-1894) who commanded the extreme right line of the Union Army at Gettysburg and represented the City of Brooklyn in Congress for three terms. It was one of nearly a dozen excursion steamers that traveled around New York waterways, enabling working class people to escape the city even if just for a few hours. On its final voyage, the Slocum was to vary its normal two trips to the Rockaways in order to bring a large party to Locust Grove on Long Island.

The approximately 1,300 passengers and 35 member crew included the congregation of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, located on 6th Street near 2nd Avenue, who were en route to their seventeenth annual picnic. As it was a weekday, the majority of the German immigrants and people of German descent who comprised the group were women and children. This was also true for the other passengers who hailed from all over the New York area.

Twenty minutes after the ship departed the Third Street pier on the East River, it entered the ever treacherous junction of the East River, New York Harbor and Long Island Sound. There it was overtaken not by the current but by flames and Captain William Van Schaik docked, shortly after 10AM, at North Brother Island, near Riker’s Island. Of the more than 1,000 people who died, many were buried in the Lutheran cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, where a monument was erected in 1905 to honor the unidentified dead. The disaster was the fatal end of a ship with a history of accidents and was attributed to inadequate safety precautions and the negligence of the Captain.

The Slocum Memorial Fountain by sculptor Bruno Louis Zimm was donated by the Sympathy Society of German Ladies and installed in Tompkins Square Park, a central feature of the neighborhood. The nine foot upright stele is made of pink Tennessee marble with a low relief of two children looking seaward as well as a lion head spout. Zimm, who was a member of the Woodstock Artists Colony, also designed a similar fountain, the Women’s Health Protective Monument, located at 116th Street and Riverside Drive, and the frieze on the pediment of the Fine Arts building in San Francisco.

Temperance Fountain

Dating to 1888, this neo-classical fountain was the gift of the wealthy San Francisco dentist, businessman, and temperance crusader Henry D. Cogswell (1820–1900).

Cogswell was born in Tolland, Connecticut in 1820, the son of an architect and builder. His mother died when he was young, and the family relocated to Orwell, New York. At age nine Cogswell returned alone to Connecticut, and endured “eight years of labor in southern Connecticut and Rhode Island cotton mills, itinerant wanderings, and incarceration in a poorhouse.” Managing to transcend these ordeals, and largely self-taught, Cogswell served as principal of Orwell High School, studied medicine, and became a dentist.

News of the California Gold Rush of 1849 lured Cogswell to San Francisco. There his prosperous dental practice and real estate investments permitted him to retire in 1856 with a fortune estimated at $2,000,000. He engaged himself in public philanthropy, founding the Cogswell Polytechnic Institute, and helping to advance the anti-alcohol or “temperance” movement. Often, his charitable acts were tinged with self-promotion, and in an effort to embellish his humble origins, he adopted the coat of arms of Humphrey Cogswell, a 15th-century English lord, from whom Henry falsely claimed his lineage.

Cogswell’s most lasting legacy was the 50 monuments he sponsored nationwide between 1878 and the 1890s. Most were versions of the temperance fountain. Several of the fountains, such as those in Washington, D. C., Boston Common, and in Tompkins Square Park, were covered by a stone canopy or baldachin supported by four Doric columns. As can be seen here, the four stone entablatures were emblazoned with the words Faith, Hope, Charity, and Temperance.

The erection of the Temperance Fountain in Tompkins Square Park resulted from Cogswell’s affiliation with the Moderation Society, which was formed in 1877 to address health conditions on the Lower East Side, and to distribute free ice-water fountains to encourage citizens to drink water instead of alcoholic beverages. Cogswell served as the group’s honorary president in 1890, and the collaboration produced another temperance fountain at the New York City main post office at 34th Street and Eighth Avenue. The figure of Hebe, the mythical water carrier, atop the pyramidal stone pediment was originally fabricated in zinc by the J. L. Mott Iron Works in Mott Haven in the Bronx. The classically-styled figure is based on a marble statue made circa 1816 by the renowned Danish sculptor Albert Bertel Thorvaldsen (c.1770–1844). Thorvaldsen’s 1839 marble self-portrait stands in Central Park at East 97th Street. Though the four ornamental luminaires with red, white and blue tinted glass, which once flanked the fountain, long ago vanished, this monument has withstood the vagaries of time better than most. In 1992, the fountain underwent extensive restoration, and the Hebe statue was replaced with a more durable bronze replica.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10003, 10011, 10012

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


Downtown Parks, Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

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

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.

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 Beaux-Arts 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 Commander-in-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.

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 Italian-American 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.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10003, 10011, 10012

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

Downtown Parks, Union Square Park

Union Square Park

Union Square

Broadway to Fourth Avenue, between East 14th and East 17th Streets

For nearly 170 years Union Square has been a gathering place—for commerce, for entertainment, for labor and political events, and for recreation. The park owes its name to its location at the intersection—or union—of two major roads in New York City, Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) and Bowery Road (now Fourth Avenue). When the Commissioner’s Plan, the famous gridiron of Manhattan streets and avenues, was projected in 1807, the former potter’s field at this intersection was designated as Union Place. The site was authorized by the State Legislature as a public place in 1831 and acquired by the City of New York in 1833.

On July 19, 1839 Union Square opened to the public. Its paths, situated among lushly planted grounds, were inspired by the fashionable residential squares of London. The design emphasized the park’s oval shape (enclosed by an iron picket fence) and focused on a large central fountain, which was installed for the opening of the Croton Aqueduct in 1842. As New York City’s downtown expanded northward, Union Square became an important commercial and residential center. Around its borders sprang up houses, hotels, stores, banks, offices, manufacturing establishments, Tammany Hall, and a variety of cultural facilities, including music auditoria, theatres, and lecture halls. The grounds of Union Square have frequently served as a choice location for public meetings, including parades, labor protests, political rallies, and official celebrations such as the Great Metropolitan Fair of the U.S. Sanitary Commission in 1864.

In 1871 Parks Engineer in Chief M.A. Kellogg and Acting Landscape Gardener E.A. Pollard collaborated on a new plan for Union Square. A year later the park was redesigned by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. They removed the enclosing fence and hedge, planted a variety of hardy trees, widened the sidewalks, and created a muster ground and reviewing stand “to meet the public requirement of mass-meetings.”

Ten years later, Union Square played a central role in the first Labor Day celebration. On September 5, 1882, a crowd of at least 10,000 workers paraded up Broadway and filed past the reviewing stand at Union Square. As the procession passed the stand, Robert Price of Lonaconing, Maryland said to Richard Griffiths, the General Worthy Foreman of the Knights of Labor, “This is Labor Day in earnest, Uncle Dick.” On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the legislation which made Labor Day a national holiday.

In 1928-29 Union Square was completely demolished to accommodate a new underground concourse for the subway. Alterations made in the 1920s and 1930s included the straightening of park paths, the construction of a colonnaded pavilion, and the dedication of the Independence (Charles F. Murphy Memorial) Flagstaff (1926, sculpted by Anthony de Francisci). Earlier monuments in the park include George Washington (1856, Henry Kirke Brown), Abraham Lincoln (1868, also Brown), Marquis de Lafayette (1873, by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi), and the James Fountain (1881, by Karl Adolph Donndorf). Since 1976 the Union Square Greenmarket has served as a local landmark, offering a cornucopia of fresh food and plants on the north side of the park, where a flower market flourished over a century ago.

Threatened by general misuse, deterioration, and the presence of drug dealers in the 1970s, Union Square has recently undergone a dramatic transformation. In 1985 major renovations under Mayor Edward I. Koch included creating a new plaza at the south end of the park, relocating paths to make the park more accessible, planting a central lawn, and installing new lighting and two subway kiosks. In 1986 a monument to Indian political leader and social reformer Mohandas Gandhi (1986, by Kantilal B. Patel) was dedicated on a traffic island southwest of the main park. Two new playgrounds were constructed in 1993-94, and a restaurant opened in the sunken courtyard outside the pavilion in 1994.

In 1997 the United States Department of the Interior designated Union Square Park as a National Historic Landmark because of its significance in American labor history. Plans are underway to extend the park line south 14th Street, and to incorporate in the park the traffic island on which the Gandhi statue now stands.

Abraham Lincoln Statue

One of three sculptural renditions of Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) in New York City’s parks, this larger-than-life bronze by Henry Kirke Brown (1814–1886) stands vigil on a busy crossroads at the north end of Union Square Park.

Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hardin County (now Larue County), Kentucky, and was mostly self-educated. He settled in New Salem, Illinois, in 1831 and worked as a storekeeper, surveyor, and postmaster while studying law. In 1834, Lincoln was elected to the state legislature and served four terms, and was elected to Congress on the Whig ticket and served from 1847 to 1849. After this single term, he left politics and dedicated himself to a successful legal practice; it was not until the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854 threatened to expand the practice of slavery in the West did Lincoln rejoin the national arena. He lost two bids for the Senate in 1856 and 1858, but made an impression on his state and the nation over the course of seven debates with Democratic opponent Stephen A. Douglas.

Lincoln successfully ran for president as a Republican in 1860. While campaigning, he made his first visit to New York City in February 1860, and delivered a famous speech in Cooper Union’s Great Hall. By Inauguration Day in March 1861, seven southern states had seceded from the Union, and four more would follow in April. As the nation plunged into Civil War, Lincoln proved a skillful and thoughtful leader and orator. In 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves and delivered the Gettysburg Address that eloquently memorialized fallen soldiers.

Lincoln won re-election in 1864 against George McClellan. Five days after Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC. He died the next morning. Lincoln’s funeral cortege traveled to all the principal cities in the United States, and arrived in New York City on April 24. His body lay in state at City Hall. Lincoln is buried at Oak Ridge, Illinois, near Springfield.

Not long after Lincoln’s death, the statue of Lincoln was sponsored by the Union League Club, a Republican organization, which retained the services of the noted sculptor Henry Kirke Brown. Though Brown, like many of his generation, made an obligatory visit to Italy to study, he was part of a group of sculptors attempting to establish a truly American sculptural idiom. In his statue of Lincoln, cast in 1868, and dedicated September 16, 1870, he combines a classically styled pose with a perceptive naturalism, uniting realistic detail with an idealistic stance. Brown also created a similar portrait of Lincoln in Prospect Park (1869), and his nephew and pupil Henry Kirke Bush-Brown (1857-1935) crafted the bronze bust for Gettysburg’s Lincoln Memorial.

The sculpture originally stood in the street bed at the southwest corner of Union Square, at the location today occupied by the statue of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948). In 1875, Abraham Lincoln was protected by the installation of an elaborate stone and bronze rail fence, into which were inscribed from his second inaugural address, “…with malice toward none; charity toward all.” Union Square Park was completely redesigned in 1930 to accommodate new subway construction, and the statue, minus its fence, was relocated to its current position in axial alignment with the Independence Flagpole (1930) and Henry Kirke Brown’s striking equestrian George Washington (1856) located at the park’s southern plaza. Abraham Lincoln was conserved in 1992.

George Washington Statue

This impressive bronze equestrian portrait of George Washington (1732–1799), the first president of the United States, is the oldest sculpture in the New York City Parks collection.  It was modeled by Henry Kirke Brown (1814–1886) and dedicated in 1865.

George Washington was born into a prosperous family on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia.  He was privately educated and gained experience as a land surveyor, before joining the militia.  He served as an officer in the French and Indian Wars from 1755-1758.  After rising to the rank of colonel, he resigned his post and married Martha Dandridge (1731–1802), returning as a gentleman farmer to the family plantation at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

He soon reentered public life, and served in succession as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses (1759-74), and as a member of the First and Second Continental Congresses (1774-75).  Upon the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, Washington was made Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.  His military prowess and inspirational leadership held the colonial armies together against overwhelming odds, and secured the evacuation and defeat of the British in 1783.

Washington again retired to Mount Vernon, but his dissatisfaction with the new provisional government caused him to resume an active role, and in 1787, he presided over the second federal constitutional convention in Philadelphia.  He was then unanimously chosen first president of the United States, and was inaugurated at Federal Hall in New York City on April 30, 1789.  Washington was reelected to a second term in 1793, declined a third term, and retired from political life in 1797.  Often referred to as “the father of our country,” Washington is universally regarded as having been instrumental in winning the American Revolution and in establishing the new nation.

In 1851, a committee of concerned citizens interested in erecting a monument to Washington in New York approached sculptor Horatio Greenough (1805–1852), known for his huge classical marble portrait of Washington.  Simultaneously, the committee also invited Henry Kirke Brown to submit a design, though it was unclear whether he was to assist Greenough or compete with him for artistic selection.  Any prospect of collaboration evaporated with Greenough’s premature death in December 1852.

Though Brown, like many of his generation, made an obligatory visit to Italy to study, he was part of a group of sculptors attempting to establish a truly American sculptural idiom.  His first major public commission was a statue of De Witt Clinton (1769–1828) which he completed for Greenwood Cemetery in 1852.  Working at a specially equipped studio in Brooklyn, and assisted extensively by John Quincy Adams Ward (1830–1910), who himself would attain renown as a sculptor, Brown spent 18 months modeling the horse and rider.

The moment Brown depicts is that of Evacuation Day, November 25, 1783, when Washington reclaimed the city from the British.  With outstretched hand, he signals to the troops in a gesture of benediction, a sculptural motif indebted to precedents from antiquity, most notably the Marcus Aurelius statue on Rome’s Capitaline Hill.  The resulting statue depicts a uniting of classical gesture and pose with a simple and direct naturalism.  The piece was cast at the Ames foundry in Chicopee, Massachusetts, one of the first foundries in the United States capable of such large-scale quality work.  The names of the donors are inscribed on the skyward face of the bronze sub-base.  Brown also sculpted the statue of Abraham Lincoln on the north side of park.

On June 5, 1856, the Washington statue was installed on a simple granite base designed by Richard Upjohn.  The event drew thousands of spectators.  One month later, on July 4, the statue was formally conveyed to the custody of the City of New York.  At that time the sculpture stood in a fenced enclosure in the middle of the street, at the southeast corner of the square.  In 1930, following overall improvements to the park, and to better protect it from vehicular traffic and pollution, the statue was moved its position of centrality on the south side of the park.  In 1989, the sculpture was conserved, and the missing sword and bridle strap recreated through the Adopt-A-Monument Program, a joint venture of Parks, the Municipal Art Society, and the New York City Art Commission.

In the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the George Washington sculpture served as a touchstone for collective grieving and public expression, and became the central focus of a massive around-the-clock community vigil and a provisional shrine.  These events reaffirmed the symbolic power of New York City’s most venerable outdoor work of art.

Independence Flagstaff

Although this flagstaff commemorates the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it is also known as the Charles F. Murphy Memorial Flagpole. The intricate bas-reliefs and plaques were completed in 1926 by sculptor Anthony De Francisci (1887–1964), and feature a procession of allegorical figures representing democracy and tyranny, the text of the Declaration of Independence, and emblems from the original 13 colonies. The enormous flagpole, said to be one of the largest in New York State, is capped with a gilded sunburst.

The Independence Flagstaff was a gift of the Tammany Society, and replaced a flagstaff built during the tenure of Tammany president Charles F. Murphy (1858–1924), a boss in the infamous political machine. After Murphy’s death, Tammany supporters wanted to dedicate this bigger and better flagstaff to Murphy. Public sentiment prevented honoring a symbol of Tammany corruption in a manner commensurate with Lincoln and Washington at Union Square Park, and by the time the Murphy Flagpole was dedicated on July 4, 1930, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, it was referred to as the Independence Flagstaff. The flagstaff has been restored extensively through the years, most recently in 1987 when the stone pedestal was renovated and the flagpole reinstalled.

James Fountain

Also known as the Union Square Drinking Fountain, this ornate piece by German sculptor Karl Adolph Donndorf (1835–1916) was donated by philanthropist Daniel Willis James (1832–1907) to promote the virtue of charity to 19th century New Yorkers. One of a few public drinking fountains of this type left, the figural group contains a mother holding a baby with an infant at her left side. The fountain’s figures were modeled on the artist’s family and the granite is from Sweden. The lion’s heads on the fountain’s four sides dispense water; the fountain originally featured tin cups chained to the piece to allow passersby to quench their thirst.

The piece, located in an alcove on the west side of the park, was dedicated October 25, 1881. A civic patron, James intended his gift to function not only as a decorative work of art but also to propagate a lesson about kindness and charity. After visiting the artist in his native Germany and procuring a model of the fountain, James commissioned Donndorf to execute the piece. The fountain was most recently renovated as part of the reconstruction of Union Square, scheduled for completion in 2002.

Marquis De Lafayette

This bronze sculpture depicts the Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), the French-born general who fought on behalf of American rebels during the American Revolution. Cast in 1873 and dedicated in 1876, the piece is a token of appreciation from the French government for aid New York provided Paris during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1) — thus the inscription “in remembrance of sympathy in times of trial.”

French statesman and military leader Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Montier Lafayette is best remembered for his role in the Revolutionary War. Sympathetic to the American cause, he aided the colonists through the provision of experienced military leadership. The Frenchman quickly became a favorite of General George Washington, who appointed him Major General in the Continental Army during 1777. The next year, Lafayette returned to France following the formal agreement of the France/United States alliance against Great Britain. Once in France, he actively lobbied for the allotment of increased military and financial aid for the Colonies. In 1780, Marquis de Lafayette returned to America and served valorously in the Virginia campaign, which forced the surrender of Lord Charles Cornwallis in 1781.

As a true proponent of democracy, Lafayette assumed a leading role in the French Revolution of 1789. He became a member of the National Assembly, from which position he prepared the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a bill of rights based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights (also a major source for the American Declaration of Independence). He commanded the French National Guard and joined the Feuillants, a moderate political party that advocated a constitutional monarchy. He gained leadership of a French division in 1792 in the war against Austria. Chastised by the Jacobins within his unit (who were far more radical than the Feuillants) Lafayette fled to Flanders where Austrian authorities imprisoned him for five years. Upon his return to France, he avoided the dictatorial politics of Napoleon Bonaparte. Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Lafayette resumed his political career by serving as a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1815 and from 1818 to 1824. He toured the United States in 1824 during which time Congress voted him a gift of $200,000 and a large tract of land. Marquis de Lafayette, the statesman and general, maintained the convictions of democracy, social equality, and religious freedom throughout the remainder of his life.

The larger-than-life-sized figure was sculpted by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834–1904), who also designed the Statue of Liberty (1886), another gift from the French government that figures prominently in New York Harbor. The granite pedestal designed by H.W. DeStuckle was donated by French citizens living in New York. Lafayette appears in another Bartholdi sculpture at Lafayette Square in Upper Manhattan that depicts him shaking General George Washington’s hand. Lafayette is also honored in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with a bas-relief on a stele by Daniel Chester French, who designed the figure of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In 1991 the monument was conserved through the Adopt-A-Monument Program, a joint venture of the Municipal Art Society, Parks and the New York City Art Commission.

Mohandas Gandhi

This bronze sculpture depicting Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948) was sculpted by Kantilal B. Patel (born 1925).  After its dedication on October 2, 1986, the 117th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, the sculpture joined monuments to Washington, Lafayette, and Lincoln in Union Square Park as a quartet of works devoted to defenders of freedom.  Noted civil rights leader Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) was the keynote speaker at the dedication.

The monument, donated by the Gandhi Memorial International Foundation and underwritten by Mohan B. Murjani of Murjani International, Ltd., was installed at Union Square because of the tradition of protest associated with the park.  The champion of nonviolent protest and Indian independence from Britain, arguably one of the most important figures of the 20th century, is seen here grasping a staff in his right hand, looking towards a point on the horizon, and walking forward.  Clad in sandals and a cotton dhoti, Gandhi’s dress illustrates his Hindu asceticism as well as his support for Indian industries.  After its installation the monument became an instant pilgrimage site, with an annual ceremony taking place on Gandhi’s birthday, October 2.

In 2001, Parks conserved the statue after it had been removed temporarily to facilitate the construction of a water main beneath the site. In 2002, the piece was reset on a more naturalistic stone base and the landscaped area around the monument, known as Gandhi Gardens, was expanded and improved.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10011, 10001, 10014, 10018

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

High Line

High Line

The High Line

 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 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily during the winter months. Last entrance to the park is at 7:45 p.m.


Beginning Friday, April 2, 2010, High Line will be open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. 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).

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.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10010, 10011, 10003, 10001

Nearby Neighborhoods: Flatiron District, Chelsea, Gramercy Park, and Rose Bay

Downtown Parks, Madison Square Park

Madison Square Park

Madison Square Park

Broadway to Madison Avenue, East 23rd to East 26th Streets

Madison Square Park is named for James Madison (1751-1836), a Virginian who was the fourth President of the United States (1809-17). Madison earned the title “father of the Constitution,” from his peers in the Constitutional Convention. He also co-authored The Federalist Papers (1787-88) with New Yorkers Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Madison was Secretary of State from 1801-09, serving through both of President Thomas Jefferson’s terms. As President, he was Commander-in-Chief during the War of 1812 with the British. Madison was the rector of the University of Virginia from 1827 until he died in 1836.

The largest parcel of this land was first designated as public property when Royal Governor Thomas Dongan revised the City Charter in 1686. Since then, this area has been used for a variety of public purposes. A potter’s field was established here in 1794, and then was moved in 1797 to Washington Square. By 1811 the land was home to a United States Army Arsenal (1806) and laid out as part of a military parade ground (named for Madison in 1814), bounded by 3rd and 7th Avenues and 23rd and 34th Streets. The arsenal fell out of military use, and served as a “House of Refuge” for juvenile delinquents from 1825 until 1839, when it was destroyed by fire.

After being leveled, sodded, and enclosed, Madison Square Park opened to the public on May 10, 1847, with boundaries of Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenues and 23rd and 26th Streets. Citizens quickly claimed the public park as their own. Their protests against plans to erect the Crystal Palace here in 1853 resulted in its relocation to Bryant Park. Nevertheless, the park has been host to grand celebrations, replete with temporary decorative arches, to commemorate historic occasions and anniversaries such as the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1876 and the triumphant return of Admiral Dewey from the Spanish American War in 1899.

The original Madison Square Garden was located adjacent to the park at Madison Avenue and 26th Street. It was owned by William Vanderbilt, and opened in 1879. The building was razed in 1899 and replaced with a Moorish style building designed by Stanford White. The second Madison Square Garden stood until 1925 when it was demolished and replaced by the headquarters of the New York Life Insurance Company. Promoter Tex Rickard built the third Garden that same year at 8th Avenue and 50th Street.

Soon after the creation of the Department of Public Parks in 1870, the square was relandscaped by Ignatz Pilat, Chief Landscape Architect, and William Grant. The new design brought in the sculptures that now highlight the park. One of the works capturing a politician in bronze is Randolph Ranger’s statue of William H. Seward (1876), the Secretary of State who purchased Alaska in 1867. He was the first New Yorker to have a monument erected in his honor. Others include J.Q.A. Ward’s sculpture of Roscoe Conkling (1893), a reconstructionist politician; and George Edwin Bissell’s monument to Chester Alan Arthur (1898), the 21st American President. War heroes are represented by James Goodwin Batterson’s monument to General Worth (1854-1857), the Mexican War veteran who is buried just west of Madison Square, and the Admiral Farragut monument, Augustus St. Gaudens’ first major work that was dedicated in 1881 to the Civil War naval officer. Other features are the ornamental fountain (1867) and the Eternal Light Flagpole (1923).

Chester Alan Arthur Statue

Dedicated on June 13, 1899, this monumental bronze portrait of Chester Alan Arthur (1830-1886), the 21st United States President, is by sculptor George Edwin Bissell (1839-1920).

Arthur was born in Fairfield, Vermont on October 5, 1830, the son of Reverend William Arthur and Malvina Stone. After college he studied law briefly, and then served in 1851 as principal of an academy at North Pownal, Vermont (where James Garfield, the 20th president taught penmanship the following year).

In 1853, Arthur moved to New York City, and practiced law. A staunch abolitionist, Arthur gained recognition for taking on civil rights cases, including one which paved the way for integration in the City’s passenger railroads. At this time, he became active in the newly formed Republican Party. During the Civil War, he served the Union as inspector-general and then quartermaster, in charge of providing equipment, clothing, and supplies to those troops in New York.

In 1871, Arthur was appointed customs collector of the Port of New York, a position of enormous influence. However, faced with corruption charges, he left office in 1878, under pressure from President Rutherford B. Hayes, an action which angered New York state Republicans led by Senator Roscoe Conkling. They were mollified by the selection of Arthur as the vice-presidential candidate on the successful ticket with James A. Garfield in 1880. Upon Garfield’s assassination in 1881, Arthur assumed the presidency, and was the first president since George Washington to take the oath of office in New York City. Arthur’s administration was considered to be honest and efficient. He successfully supported the Civil Service Reform Act of 1883, and vetoed legislation limiting the immigration Chinese laborers. Failing in 1884 to be renominated, Arthur returned to New York City, and died on November 18, 1886.

This statue was commissioned by the friends of Arthur at a cost of $25,000. The ornamental base of polished black Barre granite was designed by James Brown Lord. The sculpture depicts Arthur standing in a frock coat before an armchair, draped with a rug, and embossed on the back with the presidential seal. Bissell, who studied art in Paris, Rome and Florence, was a prolific sculptor, and operated a marble business in Poughkeepsie, New York. He also sculpted the portrait of mayor Abraham de Peyster, formerly in Bowling Green Park, and now in Hanover Square in lower Manhattan. The Arthur sculpture was repatined by the city monuments crew in 1968, and was conserved again in 1986-87. Sculptures of Arthur’s contemporaries, Roscoe Conkling (1893) and Secretary of State William Seward (1876) may be found at the southeast and southwest corners respectively of Madison Square Park, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ fine effigy of Admiral Farragut (1881) stands vigilant on the northern side of the park’s central axis.

Eternal Light Flagstaff

This monumental flagstaff honors those victorious forces of the United States Army and Navy who were officially received at this site following the armistice and the conclusion of World War I. The monument was commissioned by Rodman Wanamaker at a cost of $25,000.

The massive stepped ornamental pedestal, made of Milford pink granite, is inscribed with dedicatory tributes to those who served their country in World War I, and lists also the names of significant battle sites. It was designed by Thomas Hastings (1860-1929), whose architectural firm Carrere and Hastings were responsible for many notable buildings, including the New York Public Library. The lavish decorative bronze cap at the base of the flagstaff includes garlands and rams heads, and was sculpted by Paul Wayland Bartlett (1865-1925). The monument supports a star-shaped luminaire at the top of the pole, which is intended to be lit at all times as an eternal tribute to those who paid the supreme sacrifice.

The monument was dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1923, and each year is the site where the annual Veterans Day parade concludes, and official ceremonies are conducted.

Roscoe Conkling Statue

Located at the southeast corner of Madison Square Park this forthright, bronze full-standing statue of political figure Roscoe Conkling (1829-1888) is by the distinguished artist John Quincy Adams Ward (1840-1910), and dates to 1893.

Conkling was born in Albany, New York on October 30, 1829. He studied law with his father Alfred Conkling (1789-1874), a jurist, and entered the law practice of Francis Kernan (later a colleague in the Senate) in 1846. In 1850 he became district attorney for Oneida County, and was admitted to the bar in that year. His political career was launched when he was elected in 1858 Mayor of Utica, New York. He then served as a United States congressman (1859-1863, 1865-67) and senator (1867-1881).

A member of the House ways and means committee and of a special committee on post-war reconstruction, his first major speech was in support of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution which established equal protection of the laws for all citizens. In the senate Conkling was an ardent supporter of the Grant administration, served on the judiciary committee, helped support passage of a civil rights bill, and played a prominent role in framing the electoral-commission bill of 1877. In 1876 Conkling had garnered 93 votes for the Republican nomination for president at the convention in Cincinnati.

Conkling’s active government role made him the undisputed leader of the Republican party in New York State, and a power-broker who controlled federal patronage. Though married, this charismatic figure was romantically linked to several other women. In 1881 a dispute with President James Garfield (1831-1881) over patronage dispensation and federal appointments caused Conkling to resign from the Senate. Withdrawing in large part from politics, Conkling dedicated the remainder of his life to a successful law practice.

On March 12, 1888, while on his way to the New York Club at 25th Street, Conkling suffered severe exposure in Union Square, during the famous blizzard which gripped the city on that day. As a result his health rapidly declined, and he died on April 18th, 1888. Five years later friends of Conkling petitioned the Mayor and Park Board to erect a sculpture of him in Union Square. Park officials believed Conkling not of a stature to warrant placement of this work alongside existing sculptures in the park of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and the Marquis de Lafayette, but granted permission at the present location of the work.

Later referred to as “the Dean of American Sculptors,” Ward contributed nine sculptures to the parks of New York, among them Horace Greeley (1890) now in City Hall Park, Alexander Holley (1888) in Washington Square Park, William Earl Dodge (1885), now in Bryant Park, Henry Ward Beecher (1891) in Columbus Park, Brooklyn, and The Indian Hunter (1869), William Shakespeare (1872), The Pilgrim (1885), and the Seventh Regiment Memorial (1874) in Central Park. Ward’s depiction of Conkling is a sensitive and vigorous portrait of him posed, as Conkling’s wife requested, while delivering a speech before the United States Senate. In early December 1893, the eight-foot high, 1,200 pound statue was hoisted onto its granite pedestal, and installed—in deference to the Conkling’s heirs—and installed without any formal ceremony. In the summer of 2000 as part of the redesign and renovation of Madison Square Park the sculpture was relocated 20 feet to a landscaped area, and in 2001 the sculpture was conserved by the Citywide Monuments Conservation Program.

William Seward Statue

This imposing bronze statue of statesman William Seward (1801–1872) was created by the artist Randolph Rogers (1825–1892). The sculpture was dedicated in 1876, and Seward is said to be the first New Yorker to be honored with a monument in the city.

William Seward was born in Florida, New York, on May 16, 1801. An avid scholar, Seward studied at Farmers’ Hall Academy in Goshen, New York, and in 1816 enrolled at Union College, graduating in 1820. Seward was admitted to the bar at Utica in 1822, and partnered in Auburn, New York, with Elijah Miller. Active in local and national politics, Seward was elected in 1830 as an anti-Masonic candidate to the state senate. Defeated for governor by William L. Macy in 1834, Seward was elected to that position in 1838 as a leader of the anti-slavery wing of the Whig party, and served as governor for two terms, from 1839 to 1843. Afterwards Seward specialized in patent law, and was in great demand too as an attorney in criminal cases. In 1845, he argued in defense of freedom of the press in a libel suit brought by J. Fennimore Cooper (1789-1851) against newspaper publisher Horace Greeley (1811-1872) in 1845. Four years later, Seward was elected United States Senator (1849-1861).

In 1858, he delivered a famous address in Rochester, New York, in which he articulated the “irrepressible conflict” caused by the scourge of slavery in the United States. His prominent position within the Republican Party won Seward the most votes on the first ballot for the presidential nomination in 1860, but the party chose Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), to represent their interests. Shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration, several southern states withdrew from the union, initiating the bloodiest conflict in American history, the Civil War (1861-1865). Valuing Seward’s powers of persuasion, political acumen and unswerving fealty to the Abolitionist cause, Lincoln appointed him to the position of Secretary of State in 1861 (a position Seward held until 1869).

As Secretary of State, Seward worked to block European recognition of the Confederacy, negotiated the anti-slave trade Seward-Lyon treaty with Great Britain, and brokered the purchase of the Alaska territory from Russia in 1867, often referred to as “Seward’s Folly.” On the night of April 14, 1865 as John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) assassinated President Lincoln, Seward was attacked by Booth conspirator Lewis Powell (Paine), suffered severe wounds, but survived the encounter. Under President Andrew Johnson, Seward supported reconstruction policies, enduring considerable objections from many within his own party. Retiring from public life, Seward died on October 10, 1872, in Auburn.

In 1873, Randolph Rogers (1825-1892) was asked to create the portrait sculpture of Seward. Rogers was born in Waterloo, New York, and spent much of his childhood in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Moving to New York City in 1847, he began drawing and modeling. His employers, owners of a dry-goods firm, were so impressed with his artistic promise, that they financed his travel abroad. Rogers studied in Florence and Rome, Italy. The experience so transformed him, that though he received numerous public and private commissions in the United States, much of his professional career was spent making art as an expatriate in Italy.

An oft told tale, which Rogers did little to dispel, was that his statue of Seward was nothing more than a new head added to a copy of a sculpture of Lincoln he had made, installed a few years earlier at Fairmont Park in Philadelphia. While the two works do bear striking similarities, the size of Seward’s body appears too large, and though the proportion of the head to body seem at odds, the works are by no means identical. Seward is depicted seated, cross-legged in a large armchair, books stacked beneath, with pen and parchment at hand. The statue is situated on a large pedestal of variegated Italian marble. More than 250 subscribers, among them General Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) and Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1843–1899), contributed to the monument’s $25,000 cost.

The sculpture, placed on a diagonal facing the intersection of Broadway and 23rd Street at the southwest corner of Madison Square Park, was dedicated on September 27, 1876. Numerous dignitaries, including future president Chester A. Arthur (1829–1886) and General Winfield S. Hancock (1824–1886) attended the proceedings, which were reported to be “fittingly done” without extravagant pageantry, but told “the story of [Seward’s] life, of the perils he encountered and the triumphs he achieved.” In 1995, the sculpture was conserved.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10128, 10029, 10028, 10026, 10025, 10024, 10023, 10022, 10021, 10019

Nearby Neighborhoods: Midtown West, Upper East Side (Sociable Sixties, Upper West Side (Lincoln Square), and Gramercy Park, No-Mad, Chelsea, Union Square.

Central Park

Midtown Parks, Central Park

Central ParkCentral Park

Fifth Avenue and Central Park West 59th to 110th Streets

Central Park: The Cornerstone of Uptown Manhattan

Arguably the most famous park in the world, Central Park is a manmade wonder.  Not only is it the first public park built in America, but it is also one of the most frequently visited, with over 25 million guests per year.

Set in the middle of bustling Manhattan, its grounds serve as a safe haven, not only for athletes, daydreamers, musicians, and strollers, but also for teems of migratory birds each year.  One can spend an entire peaceful day roaming its grounds, gazing upon nearly 50 fountains, monuments, and sculptures or admiring its 36 bridges and arches.

With recreational facilities abounding, the more energetic won’t have a problem finding a spot to skate, pedal, row, dribble, or climb to his or her heart’s delight.  Although Central Park has 21 official playgrounds, we like to think of it as one gigantic jungle gym in its peak season.

150 years’ worth of visitors have enjoyed and recommended Central Park; don’t you think it’s your turn? And here’s how this wonder came about…

Late in the 1840s, socialites Anna and Robert Minturn led New York’s upper-crust civic movement to create a landscaped public park to rival the best that Paris, London, and Vienna offered. After the research of appropriate sites ended, in 1853, likeminded groups had two choices: Jones’ Wood, a tract along the East River in the 60s and 70s, or a rocky, mid-island tract, including Harlem Common, viewed as an unlikely development site because of its brackish swamps and irregular bluffs. After contentious wrangling—with more than a few interventions involving New York state legislators—the city council selected the first park commissioners, as well as the central site.

This expanse, from Fifth to Eighth Avenues, spanning 59th to 105th Streets, was already host to a handful of permanent structures—most prominently, the Sisters of Charity Mount St. Vincent Convent and School, an already aged facility built nearby the colonial-era McGowan’s Pass Tavern site, at 107th Street near Fifth Avenue. Others included those within Seneca Village, an African-American community with a population of 1,600, at West 82nd Street near Eighth Avenue (among them, several wood-frame churches and a school), and shanties, occupied by Irish pig-keepers and German gardeners, from Lenox Hill to Highland of New York (now Carnegie Hill), nestled between sporadic swamps, ponds, and rocky protrusions.

While this land was being cleared of its inhabitants (and what a saga the displaced dwellers wrought!) a newly appointed committee announced a competition that would determine the designer of the forthcoming first American landscaped urban park. After extensive backroom deals and intrigues, Park Superintendent Frederick Law Olmsted and British architect and landscapist Calvert Vaux’s Greensward Plan was selected, which envisioned decidedly English romantic, pastoral expanses. The commissioners, however, would add their own stamp, through budget revisions and spending-proposal paperwork

The physical creation of Central Park began in 1857 and continued throughout 1858, and then opened, in stages, over a period of 15 years (it initially encompassed 700 acres, but was expanded to 110th Street, in 1863, to a total of 843 acres). Along the way 10 million cartloads of muck and mire were removed, three million cubic feet of earth and stone were hauled in, and 20,000 laborers (prison chain gangs among them) were utilized. Ultimately, a half-million trees and shrubs were planted, offsetting a handful of manmade lakes and ponds and 40 graceful bridges.

Immediately received as truly wondrous, Central Park’s grand, sprawling, open spaces drew New Yorkers from every walk of life, and within five years more than seven million visitors, both to and from the city, were exploring it annually. While Olmstead and Vaux’s engineering feat was unarguably seminal, more important for Manhattan was the overall park-design concept, with its far northern portion’s open and rolling meadows—highlighted by nearby hills and bluffs—contrasting and yet harmonizing with its southern portion’s formal dress grounds and promenades. At the same time, rougher grounds to the north, complete with Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battle sites (and a single still-intact fort) were left undisturbed, to retain part of the island’s rugged character, while, to the south, the creation of the Great Lawn, Sheep Meadow, and what is now called the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir helped to reflect the more rural nature the park’s surrounding blocks once were.

But perhaps most notable among the park’s impacts is its own most notable structure, accomplished through the efforts of a group of wealthy art aficionados who maintained that the City would benefit from a museum displaying their collective treasures. With sufficient clout at Tammany City Hall, these prominent citizens lobbied for and won approval for what was to become the largest building within Central Park: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Work began in 1870, with designs by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, and the institution opened in 1877, continuously expanding and reflecting the work of many remarkable architects.

At the same time, the appeal of living due south of the new park was diminishing, and the blocks below 59th Street saw widespread conversion to commercial spaces. New Yorkers yearning for prestigious addresses were moving farther and farther north, and throughout the 1870s an eruption of mansions began along Fifth Avenue, first in the East 60s; within three decades the swells had moved as far north as 96th Street, inspired by the completion of the Carnegies’ urban estate.

The park’s western border, Eighth Avenue (renamed Central Park West in 1884, the same year as its most illustrious apartment house, the Dakota Apartments, welcomed its first residents), found itself opposite Fifth Avenue’s Millionaires’ Row—in more ways than one. The avenue developed in a more commercial vein, due to its proximity to many nearby theaters and low-rise multiple-family dwellings, resulting in tenements and boarding houses standing among early innovative apartment houses and luxury apartment hotels. But like its sister avenue across the park, Eighth Avenue became host to another of the city’s most revered collections—the American Museum of Natural History, also designed by Vaux and Mould, and completed in 1877 (the subsequent Theodore Roosevelt Memorial entrance opened in 1936). This institution found a new neighbor, in 1908, in the York & Sawyer and Walker & Gillette–designed New York Historical Society.

Eighteen blocks down, the park’s southwest corner anchors Columbus Circle. More than a major traffic hub (where Broadway intersects both Eighth Avenue and its cross street Central Park South), this plaza is home to the Maine Monument, a 44-foot Beaux Arts, limestone, marble-and-gilded-bronze pylon, (donated by William Randolph Hearst) in memory of the sailors aboard the U.S.S. Maine; Merchants’ Gate, the most imposing Central Park West park entrance; and—at its epicenter—the celebrated statue of Christopher Columbus, which commemorated the 400-year anniversary of his discovery of America.

A second plaza, no less architecturally significant, is stationed three blocks across town, at Central Park’s southeast corner. Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan’s only split semicircular plaza (and the park’s only external landscaped entrance) was designed in homage to Paris’s Place de la Concorde, and is best known for its outdoor art. The north portion boasts a statue of Union general William Tecumseh Sherman; the south, an Italian Renaissance–inspired statue of Pomona, the Roman goddess of bounty (and the Pulitzer Fountain’s centerpiece). And rotating sculptures, installed biannually by the Public Art Fund, grace the adjacent Doris C. Freedman Plaza. All share one of the city’s most elegant backdrops, designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh in the French Renaissance–château style: the world-renown (and aptly named) Plaza Hotel.

Highlights of Central Park

  • The Pond, and the Hallett Woods nature preserve, Grand Army Plaza, 59th to 61st Streets, at Fifth Avenue
  • The Central Park Zoo, 62nd to 65th Streets, at Fifth Avenue
  • The Dairy, at 63rd Street
  • The Arsenal, at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue
  • The Carousel, at 65th Street
  • The Mall and Summer Stage, 65th to 71st Streets
  • Sheep Meadow, 65th to 70th Streets
  • Strawberry Fields, at 72nd Street and Central Park West
  • Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, at 72nd Street
  • The Lake, and Boathouse, 72nd to 75th Streets
  • Conservancy Water, at 73rd Street and Fifth Avenue
  • The Ramble, 75th to 79th Streets
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and its Roof Garden, 80th to 84th Streets, at Fifth Avenue
  • Cleopatra’s Needle, at 81st Street
  • Belvedere Castle, Turtle Pond, and Delacorte Theater, at 82nd Street
  • The Great Lawn, 82nd to 85th Streets
  • The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, and Upper Reservoir jogging track, 85th to 94th Streets, from Fifth Avenue to Central Park West
  • Engineer’s Gate, at 90th Street and Fifth Avenue
  • The East and North Meadows, 97th to 99th Streets
  • The Conservancy Gardens, with the Vanderbilt Gates, at 105th Street and Fifth Avenue
  • The Blockhouse, McGowan’s Pass, 106th to 108th Streets
  • Harlem Meer, 108th to 110th Street, at Fifth Avenue


Central Park Gates

  • Merchant’s Gate, at Columbus Circle
  • Artisan’s Gate, Central Park South and Seventh Avenue
  • Artist’s Gate, Central Park South and Avenue of the Americas
  • Scholar’s Gate, at Grand Army Plaza
  • Children’s Gate, Fifth Avenue and 64th Street
  • Inventor’s Gate, Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street
  • Miner’s Gate, Fifth Avenue and 79th Street
  • Engineer’s Gate, Fifth Avenue and 90th Street
  • Woodman’s Gate, Fifth Avenue and 96th Street
  • Vanderbilt Gate, Fifth Avenue and 102nd Street
  • Pioneer’s Gate,  Central Park North and 110th Street
  • Farmer’s Gate, Central Park North and Lenox Avenue
  • Warrior’s Gate, Central Park North and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard
  • Stranger’s, Gate Central Park North and Central Park West
  • Boy’s Gate, Central Park West and 100th Street
  • All Saints’ Gate, Central Park West and 96th Street
  • Mariner’s Gate, Central Park West and 86th Street
  • Naturalist’s Gate, Central Park West and 77th Street
  • Woman’s Gate, Central Park West and 72nd Street

Nearby Zip Codes: 10010, 10003, 10009, 10016

Nearby Neighborhoods: Kips Bay, Rose Hill, Peter Cooper Village, and Stuyvesant Town


Midtown Parks, Bellevue South Park

Bellevue South ParkBellevue South Park

Bellevue South Park

East 26th to East 28th Streets, Mt. Carmel Place, (between First and Second Avenues)

Nestled among its namesake hospital, a large apartment complex, and the Public Health hospital, Bellevue South Park serves a different purpose for each of the communities it serves. Health fanatics rely on its exercise stations and volleyball & basketball courts, hospital employees recharge while gazing at its decorative floral and animal sculptures, and children stretch and conquer its playgrounds.

The park is named after Bellevue Hospital, one of the world’s leading medical institutions for more than two centuries. The original hospital opened as an almshouse in 1736 on the lot now occupied by City Hall. In 1811, New York City purchased Belle Vue farms, which is located at 27th Street and 1st Avenue. The land became the Bellevue Institution, in effect, a community center with an almshouse, a pest house, a soap factory, a greenhouse, a penitentiary, a school, a morgue, a bake house, an icehouse, and a shop for carpenters and blacksmiths. The institution was dedicated in its entirety in1816.

Bellevue had already established a reputation for innovative medical technology by the mid-1800s, and treated soldiers from both the Civil War and the Spanish American War. Bellevue doctors pioneered the use of hypodermic syringes (1856), performed the nation’s first cesarean section (1867), and developed the first hospital-based ambulance service (1869). Specialized units holding 2,700 total beds, a variety of outpatient clinics, and four schools were founded as the hospital expanded. During World War I and II, Bellevue organized hospital units to serve overseas. Today, the hospital is affiliated with the New York University School of Medicine.

This park actually lies to the west of the hospital complex, not to its south. The misleading name stems from the fact that the original Bellevue Urban Renewal Area was located at Kips Bay Plaza on East 30th Street, and this park lies just to the south of that site. The Bellevue South Urban Renewal Project, which began in 1959, dramatically changed the face of a 17-block area on Manhattan’s East Side, running from 23rd to 30th Streets between First and Second Avenues. This project was a source of much controversy among area residents, some of whom desired rehabilitation of older structures, rather than complete razing and rebuilding. Ultimately, tenements and old factory buildings gave way to a new, vibrant community centered on a complex of eight mixed-income apartment buildings known as Phipps Plaza.

Bellevue South Park was mapped in 1966, a welcomed green space for the increasingly residential neighborhood. The park fell victim to New York City’s severe fiscal crisis of the mid-1970s and was left undeveloped for some time. In the late 1970s, the city agreed to pay for the construction of the park after Community Board Six and residents of the neighborhood promised to cover all of the expenses needed for its maintenance. The park opened in November 1979, and the Better Bellevue Association saw to its maintenance for the next seven years. The Association, a coalition of residents and nearby institutions including the Phipps Plaza Community Center, the Parks Council, the New York City Environmental Fund, and Community Board Six, organizes senior activities, lunchtime concerts, and children’s programs.

The city took control of the park after the worst of the fiscal crisis had passed, and Parks assumed jurisdiction over Bellevue South Park in 1986. A $2 million renovation sponsored by Councilman Antonio Pagan was completed in 1997, transforming the park into its current shape. Improvements included the removal of a concrete wall that had surrounded the park, a significant greening of the interior that replaced concrete and asphalt with trees and plant beds, and the installation of two new playgrounds with safety surfacing. A basketball court, numerous game tables, and new benches were added as well. Designers gave the park a lively and playful atmosphere by including fanciful sculptures of flowers, elves, turtles, and frogs, with sculpted animal tracks laid in the ground.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10036, 10018, 10019, 10017

Nearby Neighborhoods: Midtown East and West, Murray Hill, and Times Square


Midtown Parks, Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, West 40th to West 42nd Streets

The site of winter ice skating at The Pond, free summer movies on the lawn, and endless meals and meetings at its tables, Bryant Park serves its role well as a centrally located Manhattan park. Just blocks from Times Square and the theater district and mere feet from the New York Public Library, the park is an ideal resting spot for the thousands of tourists and residents who pass by its boundaries each day.

Pull up a chair or hop on Le Carrousel to experience the charm of this Parisian-like park!

The City of New York established a potter’s field–that is, a burial place for unknown or indigent people–on the site of modern day Bryant Park in 1823. The potter’s field continued to be used until 1840.

Around that same time, between 1839 and 1843, the Croton Distributing Reservoir was built where the New York Public Library now stands, on the east side of the park. The land of the former potter’s field became Reservoir Park in 1847. The reservoir, which was the city’s prime water source for a time, was removed in the 1890s. In 1884, the park was renamed Bryant Park for New York Evening Post editor William Cullen Bryant.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Bryant Park a Scenic Landmark in 1974, and the park went through major reconstruction in 1988, reopening its gates in April 1992.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10019, 10023, 10036

Nearby Neighborhoods: Midtown West, Clinton, and Hell’s Kitchen


Midtown Parks, De Witt Clinton Park

De Witt Clinton Park

De Witt Clinton Park

West 52nd to West 54th Streets, between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues

De Witt Clinton Park is a truly family-friendly park.  Because of 1996 improvements to its Erie Canal Playground, one can find play equipment, safety surfacing, painted games, swings, benches, drinking fountains, concrete play mules (named Sal, Pal and Gal) and a frog spray shower within the play area.

Your four-footed family member hasn’t been forgotten; there are dog runs in the park for Fido to run within to his heart’s content.

Botanically-oriented families will enjoy Maria’s Perennial Garden.  Featuring flowers of the 1800s, rock garden species, and plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies, it’s a peaceful spot to appreciate and learn about nature.

And finally, competitive kin can shoot hoops, run bases, or hit a “killer” on the basketball courts, baseball fields, and handball courts.

Erie Canal Playground is located in De Witt Clinton Park, one of the few New York City parks which gave its name to a neighborhood. This area, roughly bounded by 59th Street, 8th Avenue, 34th Street, and the Hudson River, is known as Clinton, or Hell’s Kitchen. The park and playground are named for New York politician De Witt Clinton (1769-1828) and his most famous project – the Erie Canal, a 363 mile waterway that stretches from Albany to Buffalo.

De Witt Clinton was the son of Revolutionary War general James Clinton and the nephew of New York Governor George Clinton. He graduated from Columbia College in 1786 and served as a New York assemblyman (1798), state senator (1798-1802; 1806-11), U.S. senator (1802-03), New York City mayor (1803-07; 1810-11; 1813-15), and New York State governor (1817-21; 1825-28). He ran unsuccessfully for president against James Madison in 1812, with support from Federalists and Republicans. As a public servant and private citizen, Clinton improved the living conditions and as well as the defenses of New York and helped establish several charitable and cultural institutions, including the precursor of the New York Historical Society.

Clinton is best remembered for his role in planning the Erie Canal, constructed in 1817-25 at a cost of $8 million. Critics branded the project “Governor’s Gutter,” “Governor’s Gully,” “Clinton’s Ditch,” and “Clinton’s Folly.” By linking the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, the man-made waterway solidified New York’s position as the nation’s commercial center, and its success stimulated improvements to the interior and the Port of New York.

Parks acquired the 7.4 acre lot in Hell’s Kitchen in 1901, and officially opened De Witt Clinton Park on November 4, 1905. Designed by landscape architect Samuel Parsons, Jr., the picturesque park featured a recreation/bathing pavilion (by Barney & Chapman Architects), gymnasium, running track, playgrounds, and a series of curving paths that led spectators to a panoramic view of the Hudson and the Palisades. The park’s centerpiece was a children’s farm garden, which operated from 1902 to 1932. It featured flower beds, observation plots, a pergola, and 356 4′ x 8′ vegetable gardens each assigned to a “little farmer.” Director Frances Griscom Parsons (no relation to Samuel Parsons, Jr.), the city’s first female park administrator, taught local children about plant science, conservation, nutrition, and hygiene. The success of this program inspired the creation of similar farm gardens in other neighborhood parks in the 1910s-1930s and influenced the contemporary community gardens movement.

Sculptor Burt W. Johnson and architect Harvey W. Corbett designed the Flanders Field Memorial (1929) which depicts a World War I soldier or “doughboy” located in the southeast corner of the park. The monument was dedicated in 1930, and restored in 1997. De Witt Clinton Park was truncated on the west side by 1.5 acres in 1931 for the construction of the Miller Highway, which has since been torn down.

In 1996 the Erie Canal playground underwent a $635,000 renovation which included the installation of dog runs and play equipment, landscaping, and a colored concrete north arrow around the base of the reconstructed yardarm flagpole. A graphic on the pavement displays the words to “The Erie Canal” and the route of the famous waterway. In 2009 a $3.4 million reconstruction of the parks ballfields, with funding allocated by Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Member Christine Quinn, included installation of synthetic turf. Part of this reconstruction features an element of green design whereby much of the water runoff will be captured within the site.

The Atlantic Flyway, at De Witt Clinton Park

The bald eagle, a national symbol of strength and freedom, was formerly listed as an endangered species. Although this majestic bird no longer nests here, it can still be seen soaring through the skies of New York City, thanks to the city’s position along the Atlantic flyway


Upper East Side

Nearby Zip Codes: 10028, 10128

Nearby Neighborhoods: Yorkville


Upper East Side Parks, Carl Schurz Park

Carl Schurz Park

Carl Schurz Park

East End Avenue to East River, East 84th to East 90th Streets

This picturesque park, partially hidden along the East River, is one of the city’s best-concealed secrets. A stroll along the promenade provides beautiful views of the river, the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, the Triborough Bridge, Randall’s and Wards islands, and, of course, Gracie Mansion, the 18th century mansion that serves as the Mayor’s official residence.

Carl Schurz Park is one of the city’s most dog-friendly–two dog runs offer plenty of space for pups to run around and mingle, while the promenade offers a lovely place to stroll, with or without a furry companion. A playground at the end of the park holds fun for kids of all ages.

Carl Schurz Park, named by the Board of Aldermen in 1910 for the soldier, statesman, and journalist Carl Schurz (1829-1906), overlooks the turbulent waters of Hell Gate. The first known Dutch owner of the land was Sybout Claessen who was granted the property in 1646 by the Dutch West India Company. Jacob Walton, a subsequent owner, built the first house on the site in 1770. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army built a fort surrounding the Walton residence to guard the strategic shipping passage of Hell Gate. After a British attack on September 8, 1776, the house was destroyed and the Americans were forced to retreat from the fort, which the British retained until the end of the war in 1783.

The land was purchased from Walton’s heirs in 1798 by Archibald Gracie, a Scottish shipping magnate. He built a mansion there in 1799, where his illustrious guests included future United States president John Quincy Adams and future French king Louis Phillippe. The estate, sold by Gracie in 1819, was acquired by the City from the Wheaton family in 1891. The first home of the Museum of the City of New York, from 1924-32, the mansion has served as the official residence of New York’s mayors since Fiorello LaGuardia moved there in 1942.

The southern portion of the park was set aside by the City as East River Park in 1876. The former Gracie estate was added in 1891 and a new landscape design by Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons was completed in 1902. Maud Sargent relandscaped the park in 1939 when the East River Drive underpass was under construction. Charles Haffen’s sculpture of Peter Pan, created in 1928 for a fountain in the lobby of the old Paramount Theater, was installed in the park in 1975.

The park name honors Schurz, a native of Cologne, Germany. It was strongly supported by the large German community of adjacent Yorkville. After emigrating to the United States in 1852, Schurz quickly made his reputation as a skilled orator and proved to be instrumental to Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election campaign. His most significant political offices were that of United States Senator from Missouri (1869-1875), and Secretary of the Interior (1877-81) during the Hayes administration. In his later years, Schurz was editor of the New York Tribune and an editorial writer for Harper’s Weekly. Schurz is also honored by Karl Bitter’s statue of 1913, located at Morningside Drive and 116th Street.

Recent improvements include rebuilding of the stairs, the complete restoration of the playground and the opening of Carl’s Dog Run. These and other projects, including the planting of flowers, have been accomplished through a partnership between Parks and the Carl Schurz Park Association, which has demonstrated the community’s commitment to restoring, maintaining, and preserving this park since it formed in 1974.


Nearby Zip Code: 10021

Nearby Neighborhood: Upper East Side (in Yorkville)


Upper East Side Parks, St. Catherine' s Park

St. Catherine' s Park

St. Catherine’s Park

East 67th to East 68 the Streets, at First Avenue

Both St. Catherine’s Park and the nearby church were named for Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). St. Catherine was widely respected for her devotion to the poor and sick and for her incessant zealous labor. The youngest daughter in a large family, she lost many of her brothers and sisters in various plagues and thus gained a great appreciation for life and curing the sick. Eventually this dedication was recognized and she was named patron saint of those who heal the sick. Involved in public affairs, she was instrumental in returning the papacy from Avignon to Rome. She was commonly known for her visions of spiritual encounters with Christ, the most noted being when she saw Christ and herself engage in matrimony.

Across 68th Street and east toward York Avenue stands the park’s namesake, St. Catherine of Siena Church, founded in 1897, just ten years before the parkland was acquired. The church was originally built to serve the largely Irish community on the Upper East Side. A parochial school was established in 1906 in the basement of the church. A new era for the church came in 1932 when hospitals were built in the neighborhood and the church began to serve patients and staff.

The property for St. Catherine’s Park was purchased by the city of New York in February 1907 for use as a public playground. In 1914, it came under jurisdiction of the Parks Department and was given its current name by the Board of Aldermen in 1918. Originally built in 1917, the park was redesigned by the Parks Department in 1941 and reconstructed the same year by the Works Progress Administration. All that remains from the 1941 renovations are the flagpole, comfort station, and sycamore trees. A cement perimeter wall constructed in 1971 was removed when the park was renovated in 1988.

In 1996 $510,000 in funds was allocated by Council Member Charles Millard for the reconstruction of St. Catherine’s Park. An additional $618,000 has been appropriated by Council Member A. Gifford Miller. The current design is largely modeled after the Florentine floor pattern of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (1280) in Rome, where the body of St. Catherine of Siena rests.

The spray shower area stands in for the center aisle, leading to what would be the altar where the flagpole stands. The play areas to each side represent the pews, and the paving pattern throughout the park resembles the actual floor of the church in Rome. The elephant spray shower makes reference to Bernini’s sculpture of an elephant that supports a 6th-century Egyptian obelisk and stands outside the church. Because St. Catherine was often depicted holding a lily, a symbol of new life, lilies have been planted throughout, symbolizing the rejuvenation of the park. St. Catherine’s Park not only has a long history within the neighborhood, but also has religious and art historical associations that live on in the subtle park design.



Upper West Side Parks

Nearby Zip Codes: 10023, 10024, 10019

Nearby Neighborhoods: Morningside Heights and Columbus Circle


Upper West Side Parks, Damrosch Park

Damrosch Park

Damrosch Park

Amsterdam Avenue, at West 62th Street

Damrosch Park is an integral piece of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the home of some of the world’s best music, theater, and dance. Completed in 1969, the park is named for the Damrosch Family, an unrivaled family of musicians who contributed greatly to the musical heritage of New York City since Leopold Damrosch brought his family here in 1871.  The extensive layout of benches and planter beds make the park an ideal spot to catch a show or just some fresh air.  The Daniel and Florence Guggenheim band shell is the park’s focal point with a concrete plaza that holds 3,000 people and which serves as the main location for large events such as the Lincoln Center Festival in July, Lincoln Center Out of Doors in August, and as the home of the Big Apple Circus October through January.  Whether you are planning a visit to enjoy one of Lincoln Center’s many offerings or just passing by, you are always welcome at Damrosch Park.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10035, 10029, 10027, 10026

Nearby Neighborhoods: Upper West Side, Uptown, Harlem, Manhattan Valley, and Morningside Heights


Upper West Side Parks, Morningside Park

Morningside Park

Morningside Park

West 110th to West 123rd Streets, between Manhattan Avenue and Morningside Drive

Morningside Park takes its name from the eastern side—where the sun rises in the morning—of the rugged cliff of Manhattan schist which separates Morningside Heights on the west from the Harlem Plain to the east. The area was formerly known as Muscoota to the Indians of the Harlem Plain, Vredendal (Peaceful Dale) to 17th century Dutch settlers, and Vandewater Heights after the Dutch landowner who acquired property here in 1738. On September 16, 1776, during the Revolutionary War Battle of Harlem Heights, colonial forces retreated on a road through the area. Three blockhouse fortifications were built here and put to use during the War of 1812.

In 1867 Andrew Haswell Green, Commissioner and Comptroller of Central Park, recommended that a park be located in Morningside Heights. He argued that it would be “very expensive” and “very inconvenient” to extend the Manhattan street grid over the area’s severe topography. The City of New York was granted jurisdiction over this property in 1870. Construction of Morningside Park was delayed, however, because the Board of Commissioners for Public Parks rejected the design proposals submitted by Parks Engineer-in-Chief M.A. Kellogg in 1871, and by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (co-designers of Central and Prospect Parks) in 1873.

Architect Jacob Wrey Mould was hired to rework Olmsted and Vaux’s plans in 1880. He designed the promenade and buttressed masonry wall that encloses the park along Morningside Drive. The 30 foot-wide walkway was constructed as a series of esplanades, linked by steps, with semi-octagonal bays providing visitors with places to rest and to enjoy the view. Although a construction contract was awarded in 1883, Mould died in 1886 before the work was completed.

Fourteen years after their original proposal was rejected, landscape architects Olmsted and Vaux were hired in 1887 to continue improvements to Morningside Park. They enhanced the park’s natural elements by planting vegetation tolerant of the dry, rocky environment. Two paths—one broad, one meandering—traversed the lower portion of the park. Retained as a consultant, Vaux saw the work to completion in 1895, the year he drowned in Gravesend Bay. Parks Superintendent Samuel Parsons Jr. wrote of Vaux’s work, “. . .perhaps Morningside Park was the most consummate piece of art that he had ever created.”

The park’s design continued to evolve in the 20th century. Monuments installed in and around the park included Lafayette and Washington (1900) by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the Carl Schurz Memorial (1913) by Karl Bitter and Henry Bacon, and the Seligman (Bear and Faun) Fountain (1914) by Edgar Walter. Between the 1930s and the 1950s playgrounds, basketball courts, and softball diamonds were constructed in the east and south parts of Morningside Park.

In 1968 student and community protests halted construction of a large gymnasium in the park intended for the use of Columbia University and the public. The excavated foundation crater was converted into an ornamental pond and waterfall in 1989-90 as part of a $5 million capital reconstruction of the park from 110th to 114th Streets. The project also included installing new play equipment, creating a picnic area, planting new trees, and rebuilding the ball fields.

Carl Schurz Monument

Carl Schurz (1829-1906) was born in Liblar, Prussia (near what is now Cologne, Germany). In 1848, while a doctoral candidate at the University of Bonn, he joined the democratic revolt opposing the autocratic German government. After participating in rebellions in the Rhineland, the Palatinate, and in Baden, Schurz was imprisoned, escaped, and fled to Switzerland. After a short stay in Switzerland he resided in France and England before immigrating to the United States in 1852. Schurz eventually settled in New York City in 1881, but not before living variously in Philadelphia, Wisconsin, Detroit, and St. Louis.

Shurz was a prodigious learner and mastered the English language, while earning a law degree, within three years of settling in America. He soon established a reputation as a skilled orator and proved to be instrumental in the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Schurz was appointed Minister to Spain in 1861. He was a staunch abolitionist and when he returned to the United States in 1862 Schurz was appointed as a Major General in the Union army.

He commanded the 3rd Division, I Corp, of the Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Bull Run, and later led the 3rd Division, XI Corps, of the Army of the Potomac and 3rd Division, XI Corps, of the Army of the Cumberland. Returning to the North in 1864 he made numerous campaign speeches on behalf of Lincoln and was General Slocum’s chief of staff before reentering civilian life. He prepared a report on post-war racial integration in the Southern states for President Andrew Johnson (1822-1893) and then served as the Washington correspondent for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.

In 1867, Schurz became editor of the Westliche Post in St. Louis. He then served as the temporary chairman of the Republican Convention of 1868. Admired for his eloquence and political acumen, Schurz was elected United States Senator from Missouri in 1869 and served until 1875. He was appointed Secretary of the Interior in 1877 by Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893), where he was a strong proponent of civil service reform. He worked for improvements in the treatment of Native Americans in the Bureau of Indian Affairs until leaving his post in 1881. In his later years, Schurz was editor of the New York Tribune and an editorial writer for Harper’s Weekly. He continued to be an outspoken advocate of civil service reform. Upon Schurz’s death in 1906, prominent lawyer Joseph H. Choate formed a memorial committee and raised $93,000 in donations towards a monument for Schurz.

This impressive monument to soldier, statesman and journalist Carl Schurz is the result of a collaboration between the distinguished sculptor Karl Bitter (1867–1915) and renowned architect Henry Bacon (1866–1924). Built in 1913, the monument consists of a full standing bronze portrait of Schurz in the center of a granite exedra (curved bench) with carved reliefs framed by two ornamental bronze luminaries. The entire monument is located within a large brick-paved plaza projecting from the promontory at Morningside Drive and West 116th Street.

In 1908, Austrian sculptor Karl Bitter was selected to create the sculpture. Bitter had already received many public commissions including the Franz Sigel statue (1907) on Riverside Drive. Before his death, he modeled the maquette for the figure of Pomona atop the Pulitzer Fountain in Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza. Bitter selected the site of the Schurz monument for its advantageous position and also enlisted Bacon to assist in the designs. Bacon later designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C, the Metropolitan Pool in Brooklyn, and two early electrical lamp-posts for Central Park.

Other studio assistants and associates of Bitter may have worked on the side and central stone relief carvings which relate to Schurz’s social concerns about African-American slaves and Native Americans. The low relief carvings in granite were made by the Bronx-based Piccirilli studios after clay and plaster models by Bitter, and the figures display a blend of the stylized features of ancient Archaic Greek and Vienna Seccessionist art. Set at the center, silhouetted against the sky, is the imposing figure of Schurz.

The monument underwent extensive conservation in the late 1930s, at which time incised inscriptions replaced bronze lettering and less distinctive light poles were substituted for the originals.

Dr. Thomas Kiel Arbortum

This arboretum (a Latin word meaning “a place grown with trees”) was named in memory of one of Morningside Park’s most dedicated volunteers, Dr. Thomas Kiel (1960-1996). Born in Meriden, Connecticut, Kiel attended Columbia College in Morningside Heights. As a college senior, he founded the Friends of Morningside Park in the fall of 1981. Even after Kiel graduated with a B.A. in 1982 and moved out of the neighborhood, he faithfully returned to Morningside Park to volunteer alongside other community members. While he was chairman, the Friends group launched a fundraising program, organized special events, replanted lawn areas, made horticultural and structural improvements, and cleaned and cleared the park to increase visibility.

Kiel received his M.D. degree from the New York University School of Medicine in 1986 and joined the staff of the Staten Island and University Hospital in 1988. He shared a private practice with Dr. George Ferzli, and together they published several articles about medical surgery and the digestive system. Dr. Kiel was an associate fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a diplomate of the American Board of General Surgery, and a first-place winner in the annual paper competition of the Society of Medicine of Richmond. Tom Kiel died tragically, at the age of 36, in a trailbike accident during a ten-day tour from Brisbane to Ayers Rock, Australia.

The Kiel Arboretum was inspired by a description of the arboretum proposed for the northeast corner of Central Park in 1858. The latter arboretum was one of the original features of the “Greensward” plan created by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. In 1858 Olmsted wrote, “This arboretum is not intended to be formally arranged, but to be so planned that it may present all the most beautiful features of lawn and wood-land landscape, and at the same time preserve the natural order of families, so far as may be practicable.” Winding paths were to direct visitors amongst 112 different species of trees, from Magnolia virginiana (sweet bay magnolia) to Juniperus virginiana (red cedar), and 169 species of shrubs, from Atragene Americana (glory bower) to Taxus Canadensis (ground hemlock).

Ultimately, the Central Park arboretum was not planted. The 1868 revised plan of the park labeled this area “Unfinished Ground”; it was later landscaped and designated as the East Meadow. Olmsted and Vaux were commended for their work in Central Park and won commissions to design public parks and private estates throughout the United States. Although their initial plan for Morningside Park was rejected in 1873, Olmsted and Vaux’s revised plan was accepted in 1887. Construction of Morningside Park was completed in 1895.

In 1998 Olmsted and Vaux’s arboretum took root in Morningside Park. Land was set aside from the foot of the entrance stairway at 116th Street north to 121st Street for a new planting program modeled on the original arboretum plan. The Kiel Arboretum was initiated with a first planting of trees from the Magnoliaceae (magnolia) family and shrubs from the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) and Berberidaceae (barberry) families. Plantings of additional tree and shrub families have created an informative arboretum and provided a fitting memorial to Dr. Thomas Kiel, a young man dedicated to the beauty of Morningside Park.

Manhattan Schist in New York City

Schist—which can be seen in Morningside Park, Marcus Garvey Memorial Park, and J Hood Wright Park—is an extremely strong and durable rock type. Deep below the buildings and busy streets of New York City, beneath the labyrinth of subway tunnels and stations, lies the geologic foundation that makes New York City unique in the world. This foundation consists of the city’s five bedrock layers: Fordham gneiss, found primarily in the Bronx; Manhattan schist, in Lower and northern Manhattan; the Hartland Formation, in central Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens; Staten Island serpentinite, in Staten Island; and Inwood marble, in Manhattan and beneath the rivers that surround it. But it is Manhattan schist, the most prevalent bedrock in Manhattan, that makes the city’s famed skyline possible.

Manhattan schist was formed about 450 million years ago, making it the second oldest of New York City’s bedrocks, after Fordham gneiss. At that time, the continents of the world existed as a single supercontinent, called Pangea. The continents and oceans are not anchored down in a fixed position—they rest on landmasses called tectonic plates, which float on the earth’s molten core. The plates shift continuously, colliding and separating, causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and forming jagged mountain ranges.

A continental collision between what is now the East Coast of North America and the floor of the Atlantic Ocean pushed a layer of shale–a sedimentary rock composed of clay and sand–roughly nine miles into the molten core of the earth. There, the intense heat and pressure transformed the shale into a conglomeration of minerals, including quartz, feldspar, hornblende, and mica. The resulting metamorphic rock is known as schist. Subsequent continental shifts pushed the schist back to the surface. In some areas the schist has even been exposed. The massive rock formation that rises out of Morningside Park is a visible sign of the Manhattan schist bedrock below. Schist can be recognized by its glittering appearance, which is caused by flecks of white mica within the rock.

Manhattan schist is found at various depths – from 18 feet below the surface in Times Square to 260 feet below in Greenwich Village. Where bedrock is far below the surface, skyscrapers are not practical because it is too difficult to reach the schist that provides structural stability and support. Consequently, there are few tall buildings in Greenwich Village, but skyscrapers stand in dense clusters in midtown where schist lies close to the surface. The schist formations display a rock whose importance cannot be overestimated—New York City reaches its towering heights because of this strong foundation.

Lafayette Square

Located on Manhattan Avenue, at 114th Street and Morningside Avenue, in Morningside Heights, Lafayette Square is named in honor of the prominent French statesman and military leader Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Montier Lafayette (1757-1834). Also known as Marquis de Lafayette, he is best remembered for his role in the Revolutionary War. Sympathetic to the American cause, he aided the colonists through the provision of experienced military leadership. The Frenchman quickly became a favorite of General George Washington, who appointed him Major General in the Continental Army during 1777. The next year, Lafayette returned to France following the formal agreement of the France/United States alliance against Great Britain. Once in France, he actively lobbied for the allotment of increased military and financial aid for the Colonies. In 1780, Marquis de Lafayette returned to America and served valorously in the Virginia campaign, which forced the surrender of Lord Charles Cornwallis in 1781.

As a true proponent of democracy, Lafayette assumed a leading role in the French Revolution of 1789. He became a member of the National Assembly, from which position he prepared a bill of rights based on the American Declaration of Independence. He commanded the French National Guard and joined the Feuillants, a moderate political party that advocated a constitutional monarchy. He gained leadership of a French division in 1792 in the war against Austria. Chastised by the Jacobins within his unit (who were far more radical than the Feuillants) Lafayette fled to Flanders where Austrian authorities imprisoned him for five years. Upon his return to France, he avoided the dictatorial politics of Napoleon Bonaparte. Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, Lafayette resumed his political career as a member of the Chamber of Deputies in 1815 and from 1818 to 1824. He toured the United States in 1824 during which time Congress voted him a gift of $200,000 and a large tract of land. Marquis de Lafayette, the statesman and general, maintained the convictions of democracy, social equality, and religious freedom throughout the remainder of his life.

The City of New York acquired this property by condemnation on July 28, 1870 along with the land used to build Morningside Park. The square contains large, shady sycamore trees and a monument entitled “Lafayette and Washington.” French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) designed the bronze statue, which depicts both figures on a marble pedestal, clothed in colonial uniforms, and shaking hands with the flags of their respective countries behind them. Famed publisher, Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) commissioned the sculpture based on the artist’s previous major accomplishment: the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor. Bartholdi completed the original “Lafayette and Washington,” which was dedicated in Paris in 1895. At the turn of the century, department store owner Charles Broadway Rouss bequeathed this fine replica to the residents of Morningside Heights.

Nearby Zip Codes: 10019, 10023, 10024, 10025, 10026, 10027, 10031, 10032

Nearby Neighborhoods: Riverside Drive-West End Avenue district, Morningside Heights, and Manhattanville


Upper West Side Parks, Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Riverside Park

Riverside Drive to the Hudson River, from West 59th Street to Clair Place

Riverside Park is one of only eight officially designated scenic landmarks in the City of New York. Rugged bluffs and rocky outcroppings created through prehistoric glacial deposits once descended directly to the Hudson River shore. They were densely wooded until 1846, when the Hudson River Railroad cut through the forested hillside. Acknowledging the city’s expansion northward, Central Park Commissioner William R. Martin proposed in 1865 that a scenic drive and park be built on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The land between the heights and the railroad was bought by the City over the next two years.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903), renowned co-designer of Central and Prospect Parks, was commissioned in 1873 and submitted a plan two years later combining park and parkway into a synthesized landscape which adhered to the general topographical contours of hill and dale. Over the next twenty-five years park designs were developed under a succession of landscape architects, including Samuel Parsons (1844–1923) and Olmsted’s partner, Calvert Vaux (1824–1895). The result, stretching from West 72nd to 125th Streets, was a park with grand, tree-lined boulevards, combined with an English-style rustic park with informally arranged trees and shrubs, contrasting natural enclosures, and open vistas.

The development of the park encouraged the construction of mansions along the drive. At the turn of the century, the City Beautiful movement sought to promote more dignified civic architecture, and found expression in the formal neo-classical detailing of the park’s extension from the 125th Street viaduct to 155th Street. Monuments placed along the drive during this era included Grant’s Tomb (1897), Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (1902), Firemen’s Memorial (1913), and Joan of Arc (1915).

The increased rail traffic and waterfront industries founded on shoreline landfill adjacent to Riverside Park led to an outcry by wealthy residents for action against these uses. After decades of discussion, a massive park expansion plan, crafted by architect Clinton Lloyd with landscape architect Gilmore Clarke, was implemented between 1934 and 1937 under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981). The park was widened westward by 148 acres, and the Henry Hudson Parkway, ball fields, esplanade, 79th Street Marina, and Rotunda were added to it.

In 1980, Riverside Park was designated an official city landmark. In 1994, Council Member Ronnie M. Eldridge funded a renovation of the 79th Street Marina’s docks at a cost of $1.3 million. Council Member Eldridge also helped fund an $8 million renovation of the Rotunda, and construction is slated to begin soon.

In 2000, seven acres of land stretching from 68th to 72nd Streets was added to Riverside Park, called Riverside Park South. This section of the park, part of a proposed 25-acre, $16 million project yet to be completed, was made possible by the construction of new portions of the West Side Highway, now known as the Joe DiMaggio Highway, and New World (the site’s developers). Riverside Park South includes a soccer field, three basketball courts, and a public pier extending 750 feet into the Hudson River.

The Riverside Park Fund, a community-based volunteer organization, contributes up to $1 million each year to fund projects in the park in places such as the Warsaw Ghetto Plaza, 87th Street Dog Run, and 73rd Street Track. The group also funds salaries for park workers. Several recent and ongoing renovations have helped ensure that Riverside Park will continue to serve the two million-plus users that take advantage of this Upper West Side treasure each year.

In 1998, Council Member Ronnie M. Eldridge funded a renovation of the cantilevered riverwalk between 83rd and 91st Streets at a cost of $1.5 million. Council Member Stanley E. Michels funded a $1.4 million restoration of the path between 143rd and 148th Streets, scheduled to begin shortly. Council Member Eldridge also funded a $3.15 million reconstruction of the South Lawn, to be completed in upcoming years.

Carrère Memorial

This commemorative terrace and balustrade, part of the staircase inserted at 97th Street into the 19th-century, rustic perimeter wall enclosing Riverside Park, honors the distinguished architect John Mervin Carrère (1858–1911).

Carrère was born on November 9, 1858 to a prosperous American family then living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was educated at public schools in Lausanne, Switzerland, and studied at the Institute Breitenstein in Grenchen, Switzerland, and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France (1877-82). After graduating from the Ecole, Carrère was a draftsman with the esteemed architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in New York City. In the mid-1880s he formed a partnership with architect Thomas Hastings (1860–1921) whom he had met in Paris and worked with at McKim, Mead and White.

The firm of Carrère and Hastings produced some of New York City’s finest and most notable edifices. Their early work was characterized by extensive ornamentation; their later work incorporated French Baroque and American Georgian elements, and displayed an increasing refinement indebted to classicism. The firm’s vast output included major civic buildings, private residences, public plazas and parks. Some of their better known works include the New York Public Library, the Frick mansion (today the Frick Museum), the Manhattan Bridge approaches and triumphal archway, Staten Island Borough Hall, Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan, and the landmarked bathhouse on Manhattan’s lower east side, which today is known as the Hamilton Fish Recreation Center. The work of Carrère and his partner helped shape the appearance of this growing city, as grand civic structures and public spaces were built in an era later dubbed the “City Beautiful Movement.”

In 1891 Carrère was elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and served on the AIA’s board of directors until his death. Carrère was the chairman of the Board of Architects of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 in Buffalo, New York. He was on a state commission in Ohio that redesigned a section of Cleveland, and served on similar commissions in Baltimore, Maryland and Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was a consulting architect to the Federal Government, and designed the annex to United States Capitol in Washington, D. C. that is used as a senate office building.

An active participant in the cultural life of the city, Carrère was a member of the Architectural League of New York, a Vice President of the National Sculpture Society, and served twice as president of both the New York Chapter of the AIA and of the Beaux-Arts Society. He was a founder of the Fine Arts Federation of New York City, a member of the National Institue of Arts and Letters, and served as a member of the New York City Art Commission.

On March 1, 1911 Carrère died as a result of an automobile accident, only two months before the official opening of the New York Public Library he had helped design. The day of his funeral on March 3, his body lay in state in the rotunda of the nearly finished library. Hastings continued to run the firm, later partnering with other architects.

This memorial was designed by Thomas Hastings, and includes a pink granite commemorative tablet on which is carved a parting curtain revealing the name of Carrère and the years of his birth and death. Commissioned at a cost of $9,000, the memorial was a gift to the City in 1916.

Cherry Walk

Cherry Walk is part of Riverside Walk, a continuous four-mile-long path along the Hudson River from 72nd to 158th Street. Named for the cherry trees (Prunus) along the path between 100th and 125th Streets, this part of Riverside Park was added in the 1930s when the park was expanded by filling in the river as part of the construction of the West Side Highway.

Riverside Park, one of only eight officially designated scenic landmarks in the City of New York, has a long and storied history. The rugged bluffs and rocky outcroppings once descended directly to the Hudson River shore and were densely wooded during the Native American habitation. In 1846 the Hudson River Railroad was cut through the forested hillside. Acknowledging the city’s expansion northward, Central Park Commissioner William R. Martin proposed in 1865 that a scenic drive and park be built on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The land between the heights and the railroad was acquired by the city over the next two years.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822–1903), renowned co-designer of Central and Prospect Parks, was retained in 1873 and submitted a plan in 1875 combining park and parkway into a synthesized landscape which adhered to the general topographical contours of hill and dale. Over the next twenty-five years park designs developed under a succession of landscape architects, including Olmsted’s partner Calvert Vaux (1824–1895) and Samuel Parsons (1844–1923). The result, stretching then from West 72nd to 125th Streets, was a grand tree-lined boulevard; an English-style rustic park with informally arranged trees and shrubs, contrasting natural enclosures, and open vistas.

Originally this part of the park was home to railroad tracks and unsightly dumps. In 1894, state legislature expanded Riverside Park to include the blighted land, and the Parks Department and neighborhood residents became involved in the renovation of the area.

In 1909, a naval parade from New York City to Newburgh, New York, in honor of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration began from this part of the river. The 18-day celebration commemorated the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s (1765–1815) demonstration of steam-power on the Hudson River and the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s (d. 1611?) discovery and exploration of the river. As part of the celebration, the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York presented 2,000 cherry trees as a gift to the city. The surviving trees of the original planting of 700, part of the same batch of trees planted in Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin, can be found elsewhere in Riverside Park, in nearby Sakura Park, and Central Park.

Plans to improve the site were first proposed in the early 20th century, and when the railroad expanded from two to six tracks, New York Central Railroad, under pressure from nearby residents, consented to covering the tracks. Plans to reconstruct the area took a twist, however, with the construction of the West Side Highway. Several “West Side Improvement” designs were proposed; an earlier plan by the noted architectural firm McKim, Mead and White placed the proposed parkway over the train tracks. Robert Moses (1888–1981), who first noticed the site’s potential as a fledgling civil servant, made transforming the waterfront one of his top priorities when he became Parks Commissioner in 1934. Moses opted instead to use the top of the enclosed train tracks for parkland, allowing the roadway to wend through the landfill-reinforced riverbank.

Under Moses’s direction, Gilmore D. Clarke and Clinton Lloyd, Parks landscape architects, designed a plan that afforded automobile drivers scenic views of the river while adding recreational facilities such as playgrounds and ball fields along the new expanse of land between the tracks and roadway. The West Side Improvement plan was completed in 1937 and added 132 acres to the park. The new landscape differed from Olmsted’s typically English garden design, utilizing the wall that covered the tracks as a backdrop for the new recreation features.

This link in the Hudson River Valley Greenway was completed in 2001, is part of one of several designated “greenways” in New York City on which only bicyclists and pedestrians are allowed. The project, which included an additional 35 new cherry trees, was funded by the Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and the State Environmental Quality Bond Act. Part of the greenway system first envisioned by Commissioner Moses trails on the Hudson River Valley Greenway which eventually will stretch from Battery Park in Manhattan to Battery Park in Waterford, New York.

Cyrus Clark Sculpture

This impressive sculptural bronze relief of local financier and civic planner Cyrus Clark (1830–1909) was created by Henry Kirke Bush-Brown (1857–1935), and dates to 1911.

Clark was an important leader in the financial community of late 19th century New York. He served as the director of the Hamilton Bank, and was a strong advocate for the commercial and residential community interests of the Upper West Side. He was a founding member of the executive committee, and was later the president of the West Side Association (WSA), formed by a group of influential businessmen in 1870 to promote public improvements north of 59th Street and west of Central Park.

In its early years, the WSA lobbied on behalf of public street and park improvements, and the extension of rapid transit to the area. They helped to bar commercial properties from West End Avenue, and promoted its exclusivity. After initiating the construction of Riverside Drive, they battled with the New York Central Railroad, and began the process—implemented in the 1930s—of covering the railroad tracks that ran through Riverside Park and disrupted its bucolic nature.

Clark’s friends, neighbors, and associates came together to commission a memorial in his honor, and they retained the services of the noted sculptor Henry Kirke Bush-Brown. Bush-Brown was the nephew and surrogate son of Henry Kirke Brown, who sculpted the equestrian statue of George Washington, which stands at the south side of Union Square Park at 14th Street and Broadway. He had a long and prolific career, in which he received numerous public and private commissions.

One of Bush-Brown’s best-known works is the Lincoln Memorial in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which he completed the same year as the portrait of Cyrus Clark. In New York City, he also sculpted the figure of Justinian on the Appellate Court Building opposite Madison Square Park, and the figure of Commander Hall on the temporary Dewey Arch that once straddled Fifth Avenue at 24th Street. Brown’s relief of Clark is imbedded in a natural rock outcropping near the 83rd Street entrance to Riverside Park.

Eleanor Roosevelt Monument

Riverside Park, one of only eight officially designated scenic landmarks in the City of New York, has a long and storied history. The rugged bluffs and rocky outcroppings created through prehistoric glacial deposits once descended directly to the Hudson River shore and were densely wooded during the Native American habitation. In 1846 the Hudson River Railroad was cut through the forested hillside. Acknowledging the city’s expansion northward, Central Park Commissioner William R. Martin proposed in 1865 that a scenic drive and park be built on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The land between the heights and the railroad was bought by the City over the next two years.

Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), renowned co-designer of Central and Prospect Parks, was retained in 1873 and submitted a plan in 1875 combining park and parkway into a synthesized landscape which adhered to the general topographical contours of hill and dale. Over the next twenty-five years park designs developed under a succession of landscape architects, including Olmsted’s partner Calvert Vaux (1824-1895) and Samuel Parsons (1844-1923). The result, stretching then from West 72nd to 125th Streets, was a grand tree-lined boulevard, an English-style rustic park with informally arranged trees and shrubs, contrasting natural enclosures and open vistas.

The development of the park encouraged the construction of mansions along the drive. At the turn of the century, a movement dubbed the “City Beautiful” sought to promote a more dignified civic architecture, and found expression in the formal neo-classical detailing of the park’s extension from the 125th Street viaduct to 155th Street. Monuments placed along the Drive during this era included Grant’s Tomb (1897), the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (1902), the Firemen’s Memorial (1913), and Joan of Arc (1915).

The increased rail traffic and waterfront industries founded on landfill extending the shoreline led to an outcry by wealthy residents for municipal action against these uses as unpleasant to the park and community. After decades of discussion a massive park expansion plan, crafted by architect Clinton Lloyd with landscape architect Gilmore Clarke, was implemented between 1934 and 1937 under Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. The park was widened westward by 148 acres, and the Henry Hudson Parkway, ball fields, esplanade, 79th Street marina and rotunda were added to it.

The monument, honoring humanitarian and First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), was dedicated at 72nd Street on October 5, 1996 in the presence of Hillary Rodham Clinton, First Lady of the United States. Penelope Jencks was the sculptor. A new landscape on the site of a former West Side Highway access ramp was designed by Bruce Kelly/David Varnell Landscape Architects. Funding for the $1.3 million Eleanor Roosevelt Monument project, which included a renovated entranceway, was provided by the City of New York, the State of New York, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund, which has established an endowment for the ongoing maintenance of the sculpture.

Firemen’s Memorial

The Firemen’s Memorial (1913) in Riverside Park is one of the most impressive monuments in New York City. The monument was designed by H. Van Buren Magonigle (1867-1935), and its sculptures are attributed to Attilio Piccirilli (1866-1945).

Riverside Drive stretches along Riverside Park and the Hudson River from West 72nd Street to Dyckman Street. When New York started expanding northward, the City acquired land, in 1866-67, for a park and scenic drive between the Hudson River Railroad and the rocky bluffs along the river. The original 1875 plan, by Frederick Law Olmsted, the co-designer of Central Park, called for a park with a picturesque drive winding along the natural contours of the land. Twenty-five years later, the result was an English-style rustic park and a formal tree-lined boulevard.

A fashionable address at the turn of the 20th century, Riverside Drive attracted a collection of substantial neoclassical apartment houses and mansions along its eastern side. The Drive’s majestic elevation also made it an impressive location for colossal monuments and institutions, including Grant’s Tomb (1897) and Riverside Church (1930). The Firemen’s Memorial is one of more than a dozen monuments along Riverside Drive, including sculptures of Franz Sigel (1907), Joan of Arc (1915), Samuel Tilden (1926), Lajos Kossuth (1930), and Eleanor Roosevelt (1996).

This monument is said to have had its origins in the remarks of the Right Reverend Henry C. Potter at the funeral of Deputy Fire Chief Charles A. Kruger in 1908. Bishop Potter said that while there were many memorials to public and private citizens there were none “to our brave citizens who have lost or will sacrifice their lives in a war that never ends.” Potter was the first chairman of the memorial committee, succeeded by Isidor Straus (1845-1912), a founder of Macy’s department store, who lived at 105th Street and West End Avenue and died on the R.M.S. Titanic. The committee raised $90,500, of which $50,500 was through popular subscription and $40,000 was in public funds allocated by the Board of Estimate and Apportionment on July 17, 1911.

Though originally intended for the north end of Union Square, the monument was ultimately built on the hillside facing the Hudson River at 100th Street. The memorial comprises a grand staircase (once flanked by ornamental luminaires), a balustraded plaza, a fountain basin, and the central monument. Made of Knoxville marble, the monument is a sarcophagus-like structure with a massive bas-relief of horses drawing an engine to a fire (the original was replaced by a bronze replica in the 1950s); to the south and north are allegorical sculpture groups representing “Duty” and “Sacrifice,” for which the celebrated model Audrey Munson (1891-1996) is said to have posed.

The architect, Magonigle, also designed the memorial to President William McKinley (1843-1901) in Canton, Ohio. Piccirilli, the sculptor, came from a family of master Italian stone carvers who settled in New York City and had a studio in the Bronx. They contributed sculptural and ornamental carving to the Washington Square Arch and the Pulitzer Fountain. Attilio Piccirilli also collaborated with Magonigle on the Maine Monument at Columbus Circle, at the southwest corner of Central Park.

The memorial exemplifies a classical grandeur that characterized several civic monuments built in New York City from the 1890s to World War I, as part of an effort dubbed the City Beautiful Movement, which was meant to improve the standard of urban public design and achieve an uplifting union of art and architecture. This monument has twice undergone extensive restoration, once in the late 1930s, through a W.P.A.-sponsored conservation program, and more recently through a $2 million city-funded capital project completed in 1992.

The monument was dedicated on September 5, 1913, and was formally accepted on behalf of the city by Mayor William Gaynor (1848-1913), who died later that month. Each autumn, the incumbent mayor joins the fire commissioner and thousands of uniformed firefighters at the Firemen’s Memorial to honor the memory of firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty. This well-attended ceremony reaffirms the dedication of these public servants, who perform heroic acts on a daily basis.

On September 11, 2001 the Fire Department suffered by far its worst loss in a single day, when 343 firefighters died in response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Their heroism in the face of death demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the public’s safety, and in the weeks following the tragedy, this monument became a vigil site and shrine for those in mourning.

Franz Sigel Statue

This bronze equestrian sculpture of military officer, educator, journalist, and public servant Franz Sigel (1824–1902) is by the distinguished sculptor Karl Bitter (1867–1915). Sigel is also honored with a park named for him, which is located at 158th Street and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

Sigel was a patriot both in his native land of Germany and in his adopted home in the United States. He was born on November 18, 1824, in Sinsheim, Baden. He completed his studies at the Gymnasium of Bruchsal, graduated from the military academy of Karlsruhe in 1843, and then became a lieutenant in the grand ducal service. However, his liberal views were in conflict with the existing regime. After leading an unsuccessful revolutionary force in 1848, he was forced to flee to Switzerland. He traveled in exile to England in 1851, and then to the United States a year later.

After settling in New York City in 1852, he taught in public schools and German schools, co-founded the German-American Institute, joined the Fifth New York Militia, and wrote for the New Yorker, Staats-Zeitung, and the New York Times. He moved to St. Louis in 1857 to teach at the German-American Institute.

At the outset of the American Civil War, Sigel formed a regiment that helped to keep Missouri and its federal arsenal for the Union. Rising to the rank of major general in the Union Army, he fought in several decisive campaigns including Pea Ridge and the Second Battle of Bull Run. He is credited with encouraging many German-Americans to fight for the Union. Sigel returned to New York in 1867, first working in the transportation industry and then serving in various positions in local and federal government. He then resumed his career in journalism as the publisher of the New York Deutsches Volksblatt and editor of the New York Monthly. He died on August 21, 1902.

In 1904, a monument committee commissioned Karl Bitter to sculpt his portrait. Bitter was born in Austria and trained in Europe before immigrating to the United States in 1889. He created numerous sculptures for wealthy private clients such as the Vanderbilts and Astors, as well as many public works of art, including the statue of Carl Schurz (1913) in Morningside Park. Before his death in a car accident, he modeled the maquette for the figure of Pomona atop the Pulitzer Fountain (1913-1916) in Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza. His masterful portrait of Sigel was one in a series of sculptures he made of foreign-born American military heroes, including the Marquis de Lafayette and Baron Von Steuben.

With the Franz Sigel commission, Bitter took great care in determining its location at the top of a staircase where West 106th Street meets Riverside Drive. The granite pedestal projects beyond the top step and rests on a secondary stone base. It was dedicated in 1907. In 1941 Sigel’s bronze sword was dislodged and reattached by Parks crews, and was later removed to storage for safekeeping. In the late 1980s, the Parks monuments crew cleaned and waxed the statue, and the monument is presently slated for conservation and restoration of the sword. Recent horticultural enhancements to the adjoining hillside have been supported by the Green streets program and the Riverside Park Fund.

Green Street by Riverside Church, Peregrine Falcons in New York City

This Green Street, located between 102th and 122nd Streets and Riverside Drive, is a prime spot in New York City for sighting peregrine falcons. The reemergence of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) in North America is one of the environmental movement’s greatest success stories. Until the middle of the 20th century, the crow-sized, dark-capped, blue-gray peregrines ruled the skies and rocky mountaintops from Alaska all the way to Georgia, preying on smaller birds such as sparrows and pigeons. One of nature’s most skilled hunters, the peregrine falcon dive-bombs its prey at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Capable of flying at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour in level flight, the peregrine is one of the world’s fastest birds.

But in the 1950s and ‘60s, the chemical DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), used widely in agricultural pesticides, found its way up the food chain. The sparrows, pigeons, and other small birds that peregrines hunted fed on insects contaminated with DDT. Due to the process of bio-magnification, DDT accumulated in the peregrines, causing their eggs to become too weak to even support the weight of the mother incubating her eggs. The eggs shattered before fledglings could hatch. By the time DDT was finally banned in 1972, there was not a single peregrine falcon left east of the Mississippi.

When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, peregrine falcons were one of the first species to receive protection. Restoration efforts were launched throughout the 1970s and ‘80s; during that time, 150 young captivity-bred Peale’s peregrine falcons (the eastern peregrine subspecies being extinct) were released in New York State, to reclaim nesting sites in the rocky peaks and crags of the Adirondacks and Hudson River Palisades.

Over the years, peregrines have moved farther and farther into New York City, taking up residences on the exteriors of skyscrapers and bridges. Pairs of peregrine falcons have been found nesting on the window ledges of such buildings as the Metropolitan Life Building (1 Madison Avenue), the Bank of New York (48 Wall Street), and the St. Regis Hotel (2 East 55th Street) in Manhattan. In addition to the Verrazano Narrows and Throgs Neck bridges, peregrines have been seen on the Manhattan tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as on an old gun turret on the Marine Parkway. A peregrine was once even spotted above Times Square. These man-made aeries provide perfect residences for the birds – isolated, easily approachable by air, and with great views of territory and of prey.

By 1999, the peregrine falcon had recovered sufficiently to be moved off the Endangered Species List. Over 145 falcons have been successfully hatched and banded by biologists in New York City since 1983, and have been found raising their own families as far away as Baltimore and Wisconsin.

Hamilton Fountain

This ornate, baroque-styled marble fountain, dedicated in 1906, was commissioned posthumously by Robert Ray Hamilton, who bequeathed $9,000 to the city for its creation and installation.

Reputedly a descendant of statesman Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804), “this” Hamilton was a real-estate owner in Manhattan’s West 20s and 30s. This fountain was originally intended to be placed in a small park in the vicinity. He was active in politics, an avid sportsman, and big-game hunter, who died on a hunting trip in 1890.

The esteemed architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore–whose more notable buildings include Grand Central Terminal, Chelsea Piers, and the Con Edison Tower–was retained to design the fountain. Made of Tennessee marble, the lavishly carved fountain is surmounted by an eagle with wings spread, beneath which are decorative motifs, a coat of arms, a dolphins’ head spray feature, a shell-shaped spill basin, and a larger foliate catch basin. The fountain is inserted into the 19th century rustic retaining wall of the earliest portions of Riverside Park. Funds are now sought to restore the missing eagle’s beak, clean, reappoint, and repair the monument.

Though today, with the inclusion of aquatic plants, the Hamilton Fountain is largely decorative, when it was erected the horses of well to do travelers in carriages would have put this watering hope to active use. At that time the streets of Manhattan were frequented by thousands of horses on a daily basis–equine transport being the principal means of conveying goods and people throughout the city–and numerous watering fountains and troughs could be found along thoroughfares and traffic intersections. Many were erected by humane societies such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and besides serving a necessary function in preserving the health of beasts of burden, these roadside fountains often exhibited a degree of artistry in their design and ornamentation. The decline of horse-drawn commercial vehicles resulted in the virtual elimination of these fountains by World War II.

Joan of Arc, Joan of Arc Park

This impressive bronze equestrian sculpture of 15th century French patriot and martyr Joan of Arc (1411–1431) is one of the finest works of art in the Parks collection. Created by the eminent artist and art patron Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington (1876–1973), the piece was dedicated in 1915.

Jeanne La Pucelle, later known as Joan of Arc, was a peasant maiden said to have been divinely inspired to help liberate the French from English rule. Through her determination, she was able to gain an audience with the Dauphin of France, later to be King Charles VII, at the time when the city of Orleans was under siege. Charles appointed her commander-in-chief of a small provisional army, which under her inspired command forced the English to withdraw in 1429. With the siege lifted, the Dauphin was crowned in Reims Cathedral, with Joan seated in the place of honor next to him.

Though a popular figure, Joan was restrained by the new King from marching on Paris. In 1430, while conducting an unofficial campaign, she was captured by Burgundian soldiers at Compiegne, and sold to the English, who charged her with witchcraft and heresy. She was subjected to a long trial in a French ecclesiastical court presided over by the Bishop of Beauvais, and was eventually found guilty and condemned to death. On May 31, 1431, she was burned at the stake. Twenty years later an investigation into Joan’s trial proceedings led to the annulment of her sentence. On May 16, 1920, nearly 500 years later, Jeanne la Pucelle was canonized as Saint Joan by Pope Benedict XV.

The exploits of this heroine from the Middle Ages have been revisited by authors and artists ever since her death. Among the many notable works surrounding her myth are Mark Twain’s novel The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896), a fictionalized account of her life, playwright George Bernard Shaw’s political play Saint Joan (1923), and Carl-Theodor Dryer’s landmark silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928).

In New York, a prominent group of citizens formed a Joan of Arc monument committee in 1909. Their efforts coincided with those of a young sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington, to create a sculpture of Joan. Her first version, in which she emphasized “the spiritual rather than the warlike point of view,” was submitted to the prestigious Salon in Paris. It received an honorable mention from the jury, nevertheless skeptical that such an accomplished work of art could have been made solely by a woman.

The New York monument committee, headed by J. Sanford Saltus, was so impressed by her work, that they awarded her the commission. Architect John van Pelt was retained to design the pedestal, which is made of Mohegan granite composed of Gothic-style blind arches, decorated with coats of arms. A few limestone blocks from the tower in Rouen where Joan of Arc had been imprisoned were incorporated into the base. Van Pelt situated the monument at the top of the steps in the park island at 93rd Street and Riverside, and had planted a screen of trees to disguise the buildings.

Huntington’s version is both heroic and infused with naturalistic detail. For Joan’s armor, she conducted research at the arms and armory division of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the refinement of the equine anatomy was based on a horse borrowed from the fire department of her native town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her niece posed astride a barrel, as she modeled the figure, first nude, then in costume.

On December 6, 1915, the sculpture was unveiled in an elaborate ceremony, which included a military band and French Ambassador Jean J. Jusserand. Mrs. Thomas Alva Edison was among those selected to pull the cord that released the shroud. Huntington went on to have a long and illustrious career, and also sculpted the statue of the Cuban patriot, José Martí (1965), which stands at Central Park South and Avenue of the Americas. A replica of Joan of Arc stands in front of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

In 1939, Parks repaired Joan’s sword, which had been broken, repatined the bronze statue, and repaired the staircase. In 1987, the sculpture again underwent a full conservation financed by the Grand Marnier Foundation through the Municipal Art Society’s Adopt-A-Monument Program.

Samuel Tilden Statue

William Ordway Partridge (1861–1930) sculpted this bronze, larger-than-life figure of attorney and public servant Samuel Jones Tilden (1814–1886). It was dedicated October 5, 1926.

Tilden was born on February 9, 1814 in New Lebanon, Columbia County, New York. As an undergraduate, he studied at both Yale University and the University of the City of New York (now New York University). He graduated from Yale in 1837. Tilden enrolled the following year as a law student at the University of the City of New York. Tilden was admitted to the bar in 1841 and he practiced law in New York City. His high-profile clients included more than half the railway corporations north of the Ohio and between the Hudson and Missouri Rivers. Although he probably did not graduate from any law school, Yale University awarded him an honorary L.L.B. in 1875

Tilden was active in city, state, and national politics. Elected to the state assembly in 1845, he also served in the Constitutional Convention of 1846 and ran on the Democratic ticket for Attorney General in 1855. He was a member of the Free Soil movement, which fought the extension of slavery into U.S. Territories. In 1863, Tilden moved into a home on Gramercy Park. He combined that house with an adjacent townhouse in 1874 to form a mansion where he resided until his death. The mansion has been the home of the National Arts Club since 1905.

By1868, Tilden had assumed the leadership of the Democratic Party in New York State. In 1870, he launched a high-profile attack on the Tweed Ring, which had dominated New York City government from 1860 to 1871. Tilden helped to impeach several judges, exposed the plunder amassed by certain Tweed officials, prosecuted many of them on behalf of the state, and described the Ring’s illegal dealings in the pages of the New York Times.

Campaigning as a reform candidate for the Democrats, Tilden was elected Governor of New York State in 1874. His anti-corruption platform won him the Democratic presidential nomination in 1876. Although Tilden won a majority of the popular vote, he lost the Electoral College vote, 185-184, to Rutherford B. Hayes. The election was widely regarded as having been stolen by the Republicans, who formed the majority of the commission that was appointed to determine the vote of three Southern states, each of which had two sets of electors. He died at his country home, known as Greystone, in Yonkers on August 4, 1886.

Tilden left a fortune of several million dollars. His bequest of his large book collection, as well as six million dollars, ultimately led to the creation of the New York Public Library. He also set aside $50,000 for a commemorative statue to be erected in his honor. Tilden’s heirs contested his will, squandering much of his amassed wealth in the process, and delayed both his bequest to the library and the installation of this statue. Disagreement over the site as well as disputes between the sponsors and the sculptor postponed installation of the monument a staggering 40 years after Tilden’s death. The original design by architects Wilder and White placed the monument within an exedra located at Park Avenue and 34th Street, but extant plans for street improvements at that spot forced the designers to this alternative location.

The Tilden statue is one of more than a dozen monuments that grace Riverside Drive. William Ordway Partridge depicted Tilden in a solemn stance, his hand resting on a copy of the United States Constitution. One of Tilden’s biographers said that this document was, along with Jefferson’s writings, his “Mother Goose.” Given his disputed loss in the Electoral College, the inscription in the pedestal is not without irony: it reads, “I trust the people.” The sculpture is set within a terrace paved with river stone, and is framed by granite benches. Partridge also sculpted the statues of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton on the campus of Columbia University, as well as the Grant equestrian statue in Brooklyn’s Grant Square Gore.

In 2000, the City Parks Foundation Monuments Conservation Program restored the statue. The terrace, surrounding landscape, and Lajos Kossuth statue were renovated by a $350,000 capital project funded by Council Member, now Manhattan Borough President, C. Virginia Fields.

Seventy-Ninth Street Boat Basin

Parks and Recreation created this Boat Basin for the people of New York and the recreational boaters of the world.

Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s 1875 design for Riverside Park provided for the existing rail lines and sculpted Riverside Drive. Those early accommodations for transportation technology would only multiply over time. When Robert Moses first laid eyes on Riverside Park in the early 20th century, industry and time had taken their toll. Two tracks became six and vacant land on the riverfront became dumps. It disgusted Moses, but also motivated him to dream of an amazing riverside redevelopment plan with decking over tracks that would yield new parkland and public amenities. He believed this waterfront could be “the most beautiful thing in the world.” At the time however, Moses was 25 and far from being able to implement his dream.

Twenty years later City/State Park Commissioner Robert Moses, who also headed the Triborough Bridge Authority, had all the power he needed to finally make his visions a reality. Funding for the project came from various federal work relief funds. One of the main categories of projects the federal government sought to fund was infrastructure improvement, including the elimination of places where train tracks crossed roads. With this Moses presented the plans for his very unusual and expensive “Seventy-ninth Street Grade Elimination Structure.” In reality this structure, which stands more than 200 feet away from the rail line, was the beautiful boat basin Moses envisioned as a young man.

Since the time it opened in 1937 the boat basin has been home to New York City boaters. For many years, a limited number of boats held year round access to slips at the basin, which limited access for seasonal and recreational boating. Since 1991, no additional year-round permits have been issued, and the boat basin is returning to its original mission. By 2003 70% of the marina’s 170 slips and moorings were used by seasonal, recreational boaters. For the past ten years kayaks have become a common sight on the Hudson River, and so in June of 2003 Parks dedicated a launch just for canoes and kayaks.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

This massive circular temple-like monument located along Riverside Drive at 89th Street commemorates Union Army soldiers and sailors who served in the Civil War. This monument, one of the few in a city park that the New York Landmark Commission designated a landmark, was designed by architects Charles (1860–1944) and Arthur Stoughton (1867–1955), who won a competition with this ancient Greek design.

The marble monument, with its pyramidal roof and 12 Corinthian columns, is based on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. It was commissioned by the State of New York, and dedicated on Memorial Day in 1902. Sculptor Paul E. Duboy carved the ornamental features on the monument. The pillars list the New York volunteer regiments that served during the battle as well as Union generals and the battles in which they led troops. For years the monument was the terminus of New York City’s annual Memorial Day parade.

In 1961 the City spent more than $1 million to fix the monument’s marble façade, which had deteriorated, and portions of the monument were replaced with more durable granite.

The Amiable Child Monument

This unique New York City monument marks the site of one of the few private graves on public land within the five boroughs. It belongs to St. Claire Pollock (the namesake of nearby St. Clair Place), a child who died on July 15, 1797 in the fifth year of his life, probably from a fall from the cliffs of the parkland onto the rocks near the Hudson River.

In the two centuries that have passed since the tragedy of the “Amiable Child”–as he was described on his headstone–different accounts of St. Claire’s origins and family have persisted. George Pollock, the owner of the property on which the boy was buried, was either his father or his uncle. He was a linen merchant of Scots-Irish, or possibly English descent, who lived in a mansion on Strawberry Hill (later called Claremont) in the 1790s. He had sold his property to Mrs. Cornelia Verplanck, his former neighbor, by January 18, 1800 when he wrote as follows:

“There is a small enclosure near your boundary fence within which lie the remains of a favorite child, covered by a marble monument. You will confer a peculiar and interesting favor upon me by allowing me to convey the enclosure to you so that you will consider it a part of your own estate, keeping it, however, always enclosed and sacred.”

Claremont Hill was the site of the Battle of Harlem Heights, fought during the Revolutionary War, on September 16, 1776. By 1806 it had been acquired by Michael Hogan, a former British Consul in Havana, who built Claremont Mansion (for which Claremont Avenue was named). Possible sources for the name are Hogan’s birthplace of County Clare, Ireland and his friend Prince William, Duke of Clarence, who would ascend the English throne as King William IV in 1830. Known as the site of a popular roadside inn by 1860, Claremont was acquired by the City from the heirs of Joel Post in 1873, for the development of Riverside Park.

In the 1890s Claremont Inn was host to numerous politicians, socialites and entertainers including the Morgans, Vanderbilts and Whitneys, Lillian Russell, and Admiral George Dewey. By 1907 the Inn had been transformed into a restaurant, serving the likes of Cole Porter and James J. Walker. It was destroyed by fire in 1950. The playground which now stands on the site was built shortly afterwards.

A century after the Tomb of the Amiable Child was laid, New York’s most famous monumental grave–Grant’s Tomb–was completed. The domed structure across Riverside Drive, designed by architect John Duncan and sculptor John Massey Rhind, was dedicated on April 27, 1897. The latter structure is as grand a testimony to the accomplishments of national leader as the monument to the amiable child is a modest and touching tribute to a young boy who never had the opportunity to grow into adulthood.

Warsaw Ghetto Memorial Plaza

For more than half a century this circular plaza at the southern end of the promenade at 83rd Street in Riverside Park has served as a place of contemplation and remembrance of the victims of Nazi brutality. The plaza takes its name from the modest granite plaque at its center. One of the first Holocaust monuments in the United States, the plaque and its surroundings were dedicated on October 19, 1947 by Mayor William O’Dwyer. A crowd of 15,000 attended, including 100 survivors of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. Each year on April 19, people gather here in memory of the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto, who rose up against their Nazi captors, and the six million other Jews martyred during World War II.

Buried beneath the plaque are two boxes containing soil from Terezin and Sered, two concentration camps in Czechoslovakia, and a scroll describing the defense of the Warsaw Ghetto, in both Hebrew and English, composed by the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. In November 1940, the Nazis confined the Jews of Warsaw within an 840-acre neighborhood (home to more than 400,000 Jews at its peak) and kept them in a state of near-starvation and rampant disease. The Ghetto was sealed off from the rest of the city by a ten foot high wall. The conditions were horrific: the mortality rate in the Ghetto reached over 6,000 per month.

In the summer of 1942, 300,000 Jews were deported by train to the Treblinka concentration camp. The Ghetto was now poised to be liquidated. In the spring of 1943, after news of an impending round of deportations, the remaining Jews vowed to fight rather than submit, and with smuggled weapons they rose up despite the dismal odds. Superbly organized into roughly 50 combat groups, the Jews managed to hold off the S.S. (elite Nazi troops), from April 19 to May 16. The Germans regained control by burning the Ghetto to near ruin. Some 15,000 of the 56,000 Jews who fought were killed and another 40,000 deported to concentration camps. Historians estimate that 300 Nazis were killed and another 1,000 wounded in the uprising.

The plaque was originally intended to serve as a cornerstone for a larger memorial. Over several decades sculpture proposals for this location were submitted by Jo Davidson, Percival Goodman, Ivan Mestrovic, and Erich Mendelsohn and Nathan Rapoport, among others, but none received funding. Over the years, the plaque itself has become the monument.

The 12,000-square-foot plaza, enclosed by garden planters, crabapple and locust trees, and a polychromed granite wall, was part of the West Side Improvement. The massive Riverside Park expansion directed by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, and designed by Gilmore D. Clarke and Clinton Loyd, was completed in 1937, and built largely with federal funds. In 1990 the perimeter gardens were designed and planted by David T. Goldstick.

In 2001 the plaza was restored and improved through a partnership between the Riverside Park Fund and the City of New York, part of a requirements contract funded by Mayor Giuliani. Major support was provided by the Deedy and David Goldstick Foundation, and in-kind contributions were received from the International Masonry Institute of the Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen. Landscape architect Gail E. Wittwer-Laird designed the restoration, utilizing stone patterns and details indicated, but not implemented, in the original 1930s plan. New bluestone curbing, lighting, and benches were installed, the perimeter gardens were extended and replanted, and the fencing was replaced. Today, the newly landscaped plaza provides a dignified memorial within this historic park.

Woman’s Health Protective Association Fountain

Located along Riverside Drive at 116th Street, this marble stele and drinking fountain was designed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Woman’s Health Protective Association (WHPA) of New York City in 1909.

Bruno Louis Zimm (1876–1943), who also created the Slocum Memorial Fountain in Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Park, received the commission to sculpt this monument. Dedicated in 1910, the stele depicts two female figures holding a lamp. These forms were representative of the Association’s commitment to shedding light on the public health issues facing women. The names of its members are inscribed along the benches to the right and left of the stele.

Members of the WHPA were usually part of the city’s elite, and Charlotte Wilbour, one of the names inscribed along the Riverside Park benches, helped to found the first New York City Woman Suffrage Association in 1870. This more radical branch of the movement (in comparison with the relatively conservative chapter in Boston) lobbied against the passage of the 15th amendment, which proposed to give suffrage to African-American men. Leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton opposed the male focus of the bill and suggested a new, 16th amendment in its place, one that would offer “universal suffrage” to all races, genders, and religions.

The dream of the founding suffragettes finally actualized on August 16, 1920, eleven years after this fountain was commissioned. With the vote in hand, the National Woman Suffrage Association disbanded, but its surviving members went on to become the core of the League of Women Voters and to continue the focus on women’s health issues in New York City.


Riverside Park South

Seven acres (open of a {planned} 21.5-acre park)

In the 17th century the Riverside Park area was called “Bloemendal,” Dutch for “vale of flowers.” Its rolling topography and river views attracted country estates and farms. The countryside changed to bustling neighborhood after the Civil War (1861-1865), and the construction of the Interborough Rapid Transit subway line in 1902 attracted a surge of residential buildings.

Beginning in October 1851, steam rail service by the Hudson River Railroad followed the shoreline of the Hudson River, connecting to the Bronx and taking passengers as far north as Rensselaer in upstate New York. In 1869, Cornelius Vanderbilt merged the New York Central Railroad with the Hudson River Railroad to form the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. This piece of land was acquired to serve as the New York Central Railroad yard; it was the primary departure, receiving, and classification area for the sole all-freight line on the island of Manhattan. Gantry ramps permitted boxcars to be rolled on and off barges that traversed the Hudson River. In 1939, this yard was one of the two largest privately owned properties in the City of New York. In 1968, the New York Central Railroad merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad (founded in 1863); two years later, though, in 1970, the new Penn Central Railroad declared bankruptcy.

Developers had been eyeing the property since at least 1961; Edward Swayduck, then president of Local 1 of the Amalgamated Lithographers of America, envisioned “Litho City,” intended to be a “self-contained urban community.” His plan never materialized, and in 1984, Donald Trump bought the rights to the property. His initial proposals for “Lincoln West” and “Television City,” including the world’s tallest building, were offered, but never came to fruition. Opposition by community groups and elected officials, as well as economic conditions, prevented the construction of these projects.

In 1991, six non-profit civic groups–the Regional Plan Association, the Municipal Art Society, The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Parks Council, Riverside Park Fund, and Westpride, working with elected officials and city agencies, offered an alternative plan. It reduced the size of the development, proposed moving the elevated highway under a new Riverside Boulevard, and created a dramatic sweep of waterfront park. In 1992, Riverside South was approved by the city on the condition that the developer, Hudson Waterfront Associates, would pay for the creation of a 21.5-acre park and fund its maintenance in perpetuity. Sixteen buildings are scheduled to be erected, and the land along the Hudson River waterfront deeded to the City of New York. Plans to relocate the elevated highway were put on hold in response to concerns by elected officials.

Phase I includes the erection of three buildings and a southern extension of Riverside Park, stretching from 68th street to 72nd street. Phases II through VII will follow as more buildings are erected, extending Riverside Park to 59th Street. This will connect Hudson River Park to Riverside Park, joining the two bike paths to create a greenway from the Battery to 125th Street, part of the Hudson River Valley Greenway that will eventually stretch from Battery Park, Manhattan to Battery Park in Watervliet, in upstate New York.

The park, designed by Thomas Balsley Associates and funded by Hudson Waterfront Associates, retains the industrial flavor of the railroad yard. Angular paths, created out of the old concrete relieving platforms, evoke the old railroad tracks. Abandoned ramps and piers, as well as a rusting gantry, remain as a remembrance of times and technologies past. Among the collapsing structures, an ecosystem flourishes; weeds and wildflowers grow through the wooden planks of dilapidated piers, crickets chirp, birds nest, and mallards and geese float about. On the shoreline, the elevated highway, a giant snakelike pergola, shades arcs of benches and seashore grasses.

A 715-foot long recreational pier, built atop the remains of the original wooden shipping Pier I, stretches out into the Hudson. Standing on the new pier in a brisk breeze, watching the current pass or the sun set, may inspire daydreams of river travel and the busy working waterfront of yore.


Upper West Side Parks, Theodore Roosevelt Park

Theodore Roosevelt Park

Theodore Roosevelt Park

Columbus Ave, between West 77th to West 81st Streets

Once Manhattan Square, this Upper West Side park surrounding the American Museum of Natural History is named to honor Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919). Roosevelt served as New York City Police Commissioner, Governor of New York State, Vice-President under William McKinley, and following McKinley¡¦s assassination, the youngest man to serve as President of the United States.

Americans most often remember him as the aggressive politician who advised the nation to ¡§speak softly and carry a big stick,¡¨ but the only native of New York City to sit in the Oval Office was also a scholar of natural history and a devoted environmentalist. As president, he was instrumental in the creation of the National Zoo, the formation of 51 national bird sanctuaries, and the preservation of 18 natural wonders including the Grand Canyon. The magna cum laude Harvard graduate (Class of 1880) and Nobel laureate (Peace Prize 1906) wrote three dozen books, ranging in subject from Charles Dickens to African big game hunting. The Museum contains specimens that Roosevelt shot and collected during his family¡¦s visit to Egypt in 1872.

In 1807, the City of New York mapped this land as a public park but did not officially own it until it was acquired by condemnation in 1839. It was later assigned to the Board of Commissioners of Central Park (a precursor to the Department of Parks, which was not established until 1870) who controlled it as an annex of Central Park. Before the Museum was built here, planners considered using the site for a zoo or a botanical garden. The Museum, founded in 1869, was temporarily housed in what is now Parks headquarter, the Arsenal, at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue, before it moved to the West Side.

In the late 1860s, financiers abandoned a museum project only months after it began on the site that now houses Tavern on the Green. Molds of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals remain buried there to this day. Construction for the American Museum of Natural History began on this site in 1874 under the direction of Calvert Vaux (1824 -1895) and Jacob Wrey Mould (1825-1886) and the Museum opened in 1877. Even after the Museum took up permanent residence, a group of evangelical ministers proposed to build a large tabernacle here in 1916. Fortunately for the ever-expanding Museum, their proposal was rejected.

In 1929, the State obtained access to the land facing Central Park West for a Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. In 1936, many public officials, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), gathered to dedicate the indoor portions of the monument. In 1940, the State added a bronze statue by sculptor James Earle Fraser (1876-1953) intended to depict a bold, progressive Roosevelt symbolically uniting the races of America. Distinguished architect John Russell Pope (1874-1937) designed the neoclassical granite pedestal. The park was known as Manhattan Square until 1958, when a local law renamed it ¡§Theodore Roosevelt Park.¡¨ Neighborhood residents have traditionally referred to the parkland as ¡§Museum Park¡¨ or ¡§Dinosaur Park.¡¨

Since 1990, the dog run has been a boon to the community, providing a safe haven for dogs and their owners. It is one of the largest dog runs in the Parks system. Parks maintains Roosevelt Park with help from the Friends of Museum Park, a neighborhood group. The renovation of the park areas adjacent to 81st Street and Columbus Avenue in 2000 included the relocation of the dog run, as well as improvement of the drainage and irrigation systems, the renovation of the lawn and paths, and the addition of new benches and fencing. The dog run, once called Teddy¡¦s Dog Run, was renamed Bull Moose Dog Run after Roosevelt¡¦s Progressive Party. Today, Theodore Roosevelt Park pays tribute to a dedicated conservationist and serves as a place of rest and recreation for local residents and museum visitors alike.

Margaret Mead Green

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” –Margaret Mead

In 1979, the City Council enacted a law naming the northwest portion of Theodore Roosevelt Park “Margaret Mead Green” in honor of the distinguished anthropologist. Mead (1901-1978) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but spent most of her life in New York City. She graduated from Barnard College with a BA in psychology (1923), and then studied with Franz Boas (1858-1942) and Ruth Benedict (1887-1948) at Columbia University where she earned her doctorate in anthropology (1929).

Mead had begun her doctoral dissertation research in 1925, heading off on her own to American Samoa to study adolescent girls. She soon achieved international renown with the publication of the resultant text Coming of Age in Samoa, a success she followed four years later with another study of younger children titled Growing Up in New Guinea. Mead conducted fieldwork throughout her life in such locations as New Guinea, Samoa, Bali, the Admiralty Islands, and even North America. The American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Pacific Peoples owes many of its exhibits to Mead’s research in that area.

During World War II, Mead had to postpone her studies in the South Pacific; she did not, however, abandon research altogether. Mead and her colleague Ruth Benedict founded the Institute for Intercultural Studies in 1944 as a place for scholars to analyze contemporary American culture with the same critical eye they turned on “primitive” cultures. Mead was the author of twenty-three books, not all of which were strictly scientific. She published a great number of academic essays and lectures, contributed a column to Redbook magazine and made appearances on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Her areas of expertise were diverse, ranging from population control to women¡¦s liberation to a space probe. Mead often spoke before the United States Congress on behalf of women, the aging, and the mentally ill.

Mead worked as a research fellow and curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1926 until her death in 1978. She was elected president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and several other professional organizations. She received 28 honorary doctorates. One year after her death, Mead¡¦s scholarship was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the United States grants to a civilian. The Museum commemorates Mead with an annual festival of anthropology films and videos in the spring. Mead’s only daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson (1939-), is an anthropologist and English professor who has written and co-authored eight books and serves as the current president of the Institute for Intercultural Studies.

This park area is a lasting tribute to a woman whose legacy of groundbreaking scholarship and progressive social consciousness endures beyond her years. This park is appropriately situated between the Museum tower that once held Mead’s office and the apartment building on 81st Street where she lived for many years.

The Friends of Museum Park, a neighborhood organization, has helped to maintain Margaret Mead Green in the past. In 2000, the Margaret Mead Green was renovated along with the rest of Theodore Roosevelt Park. In addition to a new irrigation system, the paths and lawns were restored, and new benches were added. Beds of native wildflowers and new groundcover enhance the natural beauty of the Green. With the help of Parks & Recreation, the Central Park Conservancy, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Friends of Museum Park, Margaret Mead Green’s future will be greener than ever.



Nearby Zip Codes: 10039, 10032, 10030,

Nearby Neighborhoods: Audubon Terrace, Morris-Jumel District


Highbridge Park, including Sherman Creek Park

Highbridge Park, including Sherman Creek Park

Highbridge Park

West 155 and Dyckman Streets, between Edgecombe & Amsterdam Avenues

Named after the High Bridge, the city’s oldest standing bridge, Highbridge Park was assembled piecemeal between 1867 and the 1960s, with the bulk being acquired through condemnation from 1895 to 1901.

Although widely known for its important landmarks, the Highbridge tower and formerly mentioned bridge, the park offers natural beauty and recreational fun that serve as reason enough to visit. Open vistas and an unusual geologic makeup greet visitors who stroll the pathways north and south through the park, while pedestrians and waterside cyclists on the greenways cherish its magnificent cliffs and large rock outcroppings. The Highbridge Recreation Center and Pool have kept active New Yorkers busy since 1936, and several playgrounds and ball fields have been constructed throughout the park over the last century.

Coogan’s Bluff

Coogan’s Bluff, a large cliff extending northward from 155th Street in Manhattan, once was the site of the fabled Polo Grounds, home of the New York baseball Giants, and the first home of the New York Mets. It sits atop a steep escarpment that descends 175 feet below sea level. In 1891, John T. Brush (1845-1912), the Giants’s owner, bought the land for the stadium from James J. Coogan (1845-1915), a real estate merchant and Manhattan Borough President (1899-1901).

Dyckman Sitting Area

Dyckman, a shoemaker and patriarch of the Dyckman family in America, emigrated from Holland in the mid-1600s. Dyckman, along with fellow Dutchman Jan Nagel, purchased much of the land between present-day 155th Street and the northern end of the island sometime after 1661. Members of the Dyckman and Nagel families lived on this land continuously for three generations, until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.

During the British occupation of Manhattan (1776-1783), the Dyckmans, like many other patriots, fled the city and did not return until the British evacuation. When the war ended and the Dyckmans found that their home and orchards had been destroyed, they built a new house on Kingsbridge Road, today’s Broadway, near what is now 204th Street. They chose this location on a major thoroughfare in order to supplement their income by providing accommodations for travelers on their way to and from Manhattan. The Dyckmans also made their fields available to livestock in transit to the slaughterhouses and markets of Lower Manhattan.

By the 1850s, the amount of traffic and the increased quantity of livestock being brought to market made Broadway a less hospitable place to live. The Dyckman household moved roughly half a mile away to another part of their property. After it was sold by the Dyckmans in the 1870s, the farmhouse served as a hotel for a brief period of time. Mary Alice Dyckman Dean and Fannie Fredericka Dyckman Welch, daughters of the last Dyckman descendant to reside in this house, gave the property to the City of New York in 1916. The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum has been open to the public since its establishment by the City in 1916. It is presently operated by Parks and the Historic House Trust.

This small sitting area, bounded by Dyckman and Nagle Avenues, is located within Highbridge Park. The greater park derives its name from New York City’s oldest standing bridge, the High Bridge (1848), which was built to carry the Old Croton Aqueduct over the Harlem River. It was part of the first reliable and uninterrupted water supply system in New York City.

As the city was devastated by fire and disease in the 1830s, the inadequacy of the City’s patchwork of wells and cisterns became apparent. It was decided in the early 1830s that an aqueduct be established to bring water into Manhattan. The Croton River, located in northern Westchester County was found to be sufficient in quantity and quality to serve the needs of the City, and work began in earnest to construct the extensive project in 1835.

The Old Croton Aqueduct was the first of its kind ever constructed in the United States. The innovative system used gravity to propel water along its 41 mile run into New York City. Its heavy iron pipes were enclosed within a masonry structure that crossed ridges, valleys, and rivers along its way. The High Bridge, the most monumental watercourse along the aqueduct, soars 138 feet above the 620 foot-wide Harlem River, with a total length of 1450 feet. The bridge, designed with a pedestrian walkway, was not used for vehicular traffic. In the 1920s, the bridge’s center masonry arches were declared a hazard to navigation and replaced by a single steel span.

The area that is today’s Highbridge Park was assembled gradually between 1867 and the 1960s, with the bulk being acquired through condemnation from 1895 to 1901. The cliffside area from West 181st Street to Dyckman Street was acquired in 1902, and the parcel including Fort George Hill was acquired in 1928. In 1934, Parks obtained the majestic Highbridge Tower and the site of old High Bridge Reservoir. The High Bridge and surrounding land, including the Dyckman Sitting Area came under Parks jurisdiction in 1960.

Sherman Creek Park

Harlem River Parkway, at Tenth Avenue

Shel Silverstein wrote of that fantastical place where the sidewalk ends where “there the grass grows soft and white, and there the sun burns crimson bright, and there the moon-bird rests from his flight to cool in the peppermint wind.”  What about where the street ends?  In Northern Manhattan, Parks is working to create such an idyllic atmosphere in the form of waterfront parks.

On November 29, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall, Council Member Miguel Martinez, Community Board 12 Chair Martin Collins, and third and fifth graders from P.S. 152 Dyckman Valley School to break ground on five street-end parks, from West 202nd through 206th Streets.  The parks will reconnect the Inwood community to the waterfront as part of the Mayor’s citywide waterfront Greenway initiative.  The project is being funded by $2.1 from Mayor Bloomberg and $200,000 from Council Member Martinez.

The concept for street-end parks comes from the Sherman Creek Interagency Initiative convened by Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and led by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  EDC acted as the funding conduit and aided in coordinating the community planning efforts.  The initiative was a collaborative effort of multiple City agencies and the local community board to develop a comprehensive plan for the larger Sherman Creek community.  One goal was to reconnect the community to the Harlem River waterfront.  These parks are the first phase in a longer-term effort to reclaim the waterfront and provide continuous waterfront access from Dyckman Street north to the University Heights Bridge.

At 202nd Street, there will be a colored concrete paved seating area surrounded by ornamental native plantings, a handicap-accessible ramp, and a kayak launch.  The park at 203rd Street, the largest of the parks, will feature a tree-shaded picnic and barbeque facility, a performance space and spray shower plaza, waterfront seating with decorative pavements, and fishing access.  The 204th Street park is designed to complement its proximity to a thriving area of food vendors and will contain a shaded group of picnic tables surrounded by flowering vine-covered trellis walls and waterfront seating with decorative pavings.  At 205th Street, there will be a gathering space with game tables and waterfront seating.  The smallest site, at 206th Street, will feature waterfront seating surrounded by ornamental native plantings.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10035, 10029, 10027, 10026

Nearby Neighborhoods: Uptown Harlem and Spanish Harlem


Uptown Parks, Mount Morris, Marcus Garvey Park

Marcus Garvey Park

Marcus Garvey Park

Madison Avenue, between East 120th to East 124th streets

A park that nurtures its entire community, Marcus Garvey provides pastimes for children, teens, adults, and the elderly.

The two playgrounds are built for all children, including those with disabilities, giving the neighborhood’s youngest member’s hours of fun on the park’s slides, fountains, and drawbridges. On summer days families and friends swim and sun in its outdoor pool, and in the warm evenings they gather to watch plays and concerts in the park’s amphitheater.

During the school year, the recreation center provides care and supervision for young students. And the afterschool program is not the only education in the center—during the summer instructors teach swimming novices to do the crawl and improve their strokes in its indoor pool, and throughout the year classes as diverse as computer skills, kickboxing, yoga, and karate are offered to all who want them.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887-1940) was an advocate for economic independence within the black community and also became a proponent of Black Nationalism. He was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887 and immigrated to Harlem in 1916, where in 1918 Garvey established the headquarters of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). At the UNIA’s first convention, held at Madison Square Garden in 1920, Garvey declared his plans to build an independent nation for black Americans in West Africa. The group promoted black economic self-sufficiency, publishing the Negro World newspaper and establishing black-owned businesses. Garvey founded his own shipping line, the Black Star Shipping Line, to finance these projects. Garvey’s plans foundered after his conviction for mail fraud in 1923 following the failure of his shipping line and increasing government scrutiny. After Garvey served two years in prison, President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence, and in 1927 he was deported to Jamaica.

The social and political history of this site reaches back into the early colonial period. Dutch settlers referred to the park as “Slangberg,” or Snake Hill, because of its reptile population. British fortifications on the site guarded the Harlem River during the Revolutionary War. The Common Council considered razing the hilly area in 1835 to accommodate new streets but local citizens successfully petitioned to preserve it as a public park. It opened as Mount Morris Park in 1840.

Although the park’s natural features have been preserved, a number of architectural elements have been added over time. A fire watchtower was designed by Julius Kroehl and erected in 1856 at a time when fire was capable of destroying a city largely constructed of wood. The 47-foot cast-iron tower is unique in the United States, and was designated a landmark in 1967. A reconstruction of Mount Morris Park in the 1930’s added a community center and a child health station. Current facilities include the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center, named for a renowned Parks employee, an amphitheater and a swimming pool. Capital projects completed in 2002, 2004 and 2005 have improved the pool entrance, added new safety surfaces and landscaped the park. The Marcus Garvey Park Alliance community group organizes a variety of cultural events in addition to supporting capital projects. Mount Morris Park was renamed for Marcus Garvey in 1973.

Manhattan Schist in New York City

Schist—which can be seen in Morningside Park, Marcus Garvey Memorial Park, and J Hood Wright Park—is an extremely strong and durable rock type. Deep below the buildings and busy streets of New York City, beneath the labyrinth of subway tunnels and stations, lies the geologic foundation that makes New York City unique in the world. This foundation consists of the city’s five bedrock layers: Fordham gneiss, found primarily in the Bronx; Manhattan schist, in Lower and northern Manhattan; the Hartland Formation, in central Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens; Staten Island serpentinite, in Staten Island; and Inwood marble, in Manhattan and beneath the rivers that surround it. But it is Manhattan schist, the most prevalent bedrock in Manhattan that makes the city’s famed skyline possible.

Manhattan schist was formed about 450 million years ago, making it the second oldest of New York City’s bedrocks, after Fordham gneiss. At that time, the continents of the world existed as a single supercontinent, called Pangea. The continents and oceans are not anchored down in a fixed position—they rest on landmasses called tectonic plates, which float on the earth’s molten core. The plates shift continuously, colliding and separating, causing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and forming jagged mountain ranges.

A continental collision between what is now the East Coast of North America and the floor of the Atlantic Ocean pushed a layer of shale–sedimentary rock composed of clay and sand–roughly nine miles into the molten core of the earth. There, the intense heat and pressure transformed the shale into a conglomeration of minerals, including quartz, feldspar, hornblende, and mica. The resulting metamorphic rock is known as schist. Subsequent continental shifts pushed the schist back to the surface. In some areas the schist has even been exposed. The massive rock formation that rises out of Morningside Park is a visible sign of the Manhattan schist bedrock below. Schist can be recognized by its glittering appearance, which is caused by flecks of white mica within the rock.

Manhattan schist is found at various depths – from 18 feet below the surface in Times Square to 260 feet below in Greenwich Village. Where bedrock is far below the surface, skyscrapers are not practical because it is too difficult to reach the schist that provides structural stability and support. Consequently, there are few tall buildings in Greenwich Village, but skyscrapers stand in dense clusters in midtown where schist lies close to the surface. The schist formations display a rock whose importance cannot be overestimated—New York City reaches its towering heights because of this strong foundation.

Mount Morris Fire Watchtower

A prominent feature of Marcus Garvey Park and its neighborhood, the Mount Morris Fire Watchtower serves as an important community landmark. In the 19th century efforts to contain fire in New York City included the construction of an extensive reservoir system and the Croton Aqueduct, as well as the placement of round-the-clock watchmen at strategic vantage points. These men directed fire companies through an alarm code, corresponding to the severity of the fire and to numbered districts, transmitted by bells, flags and lanterns. City Hall, constructed in 1812 with a bell in its cupola, became the city’s first and main alarm. After a devastating fire in 1835 the Fire Department built dedicated towers across the city.

Ironically, these early structures were made of wood, and fire consumed several of them. Fortunately, fireproof construction became possible in the late 1840s when inventor James Bogardus perfected the use of cast-iron as a structural material. The Board of Aldermen commissioned Bogardus to erect the world’s first cast-iron fire watchtower in 1851 on Ninth Avenue at West 33rd Street and a second in 1853 on Spring Street. Two years later, after petitioning by Harlem residents, the City announced a third tower, atop Mount Morris. Julius B. Kroehl won the contract with a $2300 bid (Bogardus wanted $5750), but followed the pioneer’s theory and design. He completed the structure in 1857. Employing then-revolutionary building technology, these early examples of post-and-lintel cast-iron architecture inspired the steel cages developed in the 1880s to support skyscrapers. The Mount Morris Watchtower is the only surviving example of this type of structure.

The 10,000-pound bell in the tower is not the original one. Cast by founders E.A. & G.R. Meneeley of West Troy, NY in 1865, it replaced an earlier bell furnished by Jones & Hitchcock of Troy, NY. Manufacturing flaws may have destroyed the first bell; more likely improper striking caused the damage. Originally watchmen struck the bell manually by pulling a lever on the observation deck, one tier above the bell. The four-legged iron frame standing beneath the tower today is the remains of an electro-mechanical striker that permitted remote operation; it was first installed in the 1870s and replaced after 1905.

The firetower network, which at its peak included eleven towers, fell into disuse in the 1870s as the Fire Department began to install telegraphic alarms on street corners and taller buildings rendered these early perches obsolete. At the request of neighbors, however, the Mount Morris tower continued to sound at noon and 9:00 pm weekdays, and at 9:00 am and pm on Sundays, for timekeeping and churchgoing purposes until about 1909. The Fire Department retained ownership of the tower until 1913.

Mount Morris Fire Watchtower still stands due to its protected location on parkland. The tower was designated a New York City landmark in 1967 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Through the support of the Marcus Garvey Park Conservancy and the Manhattan Borough President, Parks undertook a major stabilization of the structure in 1994.


Upper Manhattan

Nearby Zip Codes: 10034, 10040, 10033, 10032

Nearby Neighborhoods: Hamilton Heights, Sugar Hill, St. Nicholas Place Historic Districts.


Upper Manhattan Parks, Fort Tryon Park

Fort Tryon Park

Fort Tryon Park

Riverside Drive to Broadway, West 192nd to Dyckman Streets

Originally inhabited by the Weckquaesgeek Tribe, who lived in the area until the early 17th century, this densely forested high ground at the northern end of Manhattan was “Lang Bergh” or Long Hill to the early Dutch colonists. The Continental Army called the strategic series of posts along the Hudson River “Fort Washington” during the summer of 1776, until Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British forced the troops to retreat. The British then renamed the area for Sir William Tryon (1729–1788), Major General and the last British governor of colonial New York.

Margaret Corbin (1751–1800?), for whom the park’s drive and the circle near the entrance are named, took control of her fallen husband John’s cannon during the 1776 attack and was wounded during the clash. In 1977, the City Council named the drive in her honor.

During the 19th century, wealthy New Yorkers built elegant estates around the Fort Tryon area, the most notable being the house of Cornelius K.G. Billings, a wealthy horseman from Chicago. From 1901 to 1905, Billings reportedly spent more than $2 million building his Tryon Hill mansion. In 1909, Billings funded a stele erected at the apex of the park memorializing Corbin and the Continental Army’s defense of the site in honor of the Hudson Fulton Celebration.

In 1917, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874–1960) bought the Billings mansion and began developing the property, employing the Olmsted Brothers architectural firm to help him realize his vision for the site. Rockefeller even purchased land on the New Jersey side of the Hudson—now known as the Palisades State Park—to preserve Fort Tryon’s stunning views. Although the Billings mansion burned to the ground in 1925, a small frame and stucco gatehouse from the original property remains located just west of Corbin Circle. Rockefeller donated the land to the City in 1931, and it was designated parkland the same year.

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (1870–1957), son of the co-designer of Central and Prospect Parks, spent four years transforming the site’s rocky topography and thin soil into a manicured landscape. Olmsted designed Fort Tryon Park with promenades, terraces, wooded slopes, and eight miles of pedestrian paths, careful to preserve open areas and the spectacular views of the Hudson and the Palisades. He noted in 1927 that this park had one of the few unspoiled river views in Manhattan.

The Cloisters opened in the north end of Fort Tryon Park in 1938 after Rockefeller bought sculptor George Grey Barnard’s (1863–1938) collection of medieval art. Inspired by Romanesque monasteries, the museum includes several cloisters, or courtyards, from actual French monasteries. Now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was designated an official New York City landmark in 1974.

The plaques and monuments in the park commemorate the 1776 siege and Rockefeller’s gifts, and several modern sculptures connect the park’s historic past to its present. In 1983, Fort Tryon Park was designated an official City landmark, and a plan was developed the following year to fully renovate the park. The park’s Heather Garden was one of the first projects slated for renovation. By the 1980s, the garden had become overgrown. Thanks to volunteers and the Greenacre Foundation, Parks completed a three-year restoration of the garden and reopened long-lost views of the Hudson and the Palisades in 1988.

Fort Tryon contains two notable playgrounds. In 1985, Parks dedicated a playground at the southern end of the park for Jacob Koppel Javits (1904–1986), the noted legislator from the Lower East Side. The Anne Loftus Playground, which was named in 1990 for Anne Susan Cahill Loftus (1925–1989), an Inwood resident and district manager of Community Board 12, was part of the original Olmsted design.

Containing one of the highest points in Manhattan, Fort Tryon Park towers above the Hudson River, offering magnificent views of the Palisades and the lower Hudson Valley that challenge the notion that Manhattan’s best vistas are experienced from its skyscrapers.


Located in historic Fort Tryon Park in a wooded thicket east of Cabrini Drive, this sculpture is decidedly contemporary in both form and materials. Made of industrial supplies, Columnade was fabricated by Kenvil Newcrete Products and installed in the park in January and February of 1973.

The abstract artwork by Eduardo Ramirez consists of two rows of 17-foot high, linear, cast-concrete columns that link in a continuous serpentine form. The sculpture commission was initiated in 1972 through Mayor John V. Lindsay’s (1921-2000) Neighborhood Action Program in cooperation with the Washington Heights-Marble Hill community organization. A competition sponsored by the Public Arts Council and the Municipal Art Society, and an Environmental Art Program of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs award Ramirez the commission and a $5,000 prize for his artistic services.

Heather Garden

After John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874–1960) began acquiring parcels of land for what would become Fort Tryon Park, he employed the Olmsted Brothers architectural firm to design the park. Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870–1957), son of the co-designer of Central and Prospect Parks, developed a plan to transform the rocky topography and thin soil of Fort Tryon Park into a stunning landscape that preserved the spectacular vistas of the Hudson River and New Jersey’s Palisades. The Heather Garden was to be a distinct place of beauty and repose within the park itself. Fort Tryon Park and the Heather Garden opened in 1935.

Olmsted built the Heather Garden into the side of the rocky ridge as a series of terraces with American elm trees (Ulmus americana) lining a 600-foot promenade along the top. Stone sitting areas permitted passersby to contemplate the panorama and were purposely set at an angle to minimize noise and visual intrusions. It took several seasons for the garden to mature. Low-growing heather (Calluna vulgaris) was chosen as the predominant plant so as not to obscure the scenery. It is normally found in Scotland and England, where its distinctive pink-purple flowers bloom on the hills during the late summer months.

Time took its toll on the Heather Garden. An ill-conceived 1955 renovation disregarded important aspects of the Olmsted design and by the 1980s the garden had become overgrown, and its magnificent vistas obscured, while little remained of the original plantings. A 1984 report noted, “In its current state, the Heather Garden bears little resemblance to the Olmsted original,” adding that “[t]he current plantings resemble a locomotive of large tennis balls.”

In 1985, Parks undertook a complete renovation of Fort Tryon Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its opening. Parks joined with the Greenacre Foundation to restore the park according to the original Olmsted design. The first phase of the project focused on the main terrace and the Heather Garden.

Restoration of the garden was completed in 1988. Thousands of photographs from the 1930s were consulted during the renovation process as well as over 900 drawings and 250 pages of plant listings. As workers removed 20 years of overgrowth, including the invasive Norway and sycamore maple trees (Acer plantanoides and Acer pseudoplatanus) that had taken over much of the area, long-lost views of the Hudson were visible once again. Older shrubs were transplanted and combined with new flora; over 2,500 heathers, heaths, and brooms, 15,000 bulbs, 5000 perennials, 500 shrubs, and five trees were planted.

Margret Corbin Circle

Corbin (1751–1800?), for whom Fort Tryon Park’s drive and entrance are named, took control of her fallen husband John’s cannon and fought during the 1776 battle at the site of what is now known as Fort Tryon Park. The only woman buried in the cemetery at West Point, Margaret Corbin was wounded during the clash; her story was largely buried until Washington Heights residents sought to commemorate her in the 1970s.

Corbin was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, in 1751. Her father was killed by Native Americans and her mother captured when she was five years old; she survived because she was away visiting an uncle, who then raised her. She married John Corbin in 1772. He later enlisted in the First Company of Pennsylvania Artillery, and she joined her husband in the Revolutionary War effort.

After American forces retreated into New Jersey following the Battle of Long Island and later the Battle of White Plains, about 3000 soldiers remained on the hill in present-day Fort Tryon Park. The Continental Army fortified the battlement during the summer of 1776, taking advantage of the site’s steep terrain.

On November 16, 1776, 4,000 Hessian mercenaries fighting on behalf of the British attacked the outnumbered Maryland and Virginia riflemen who were defending the position. It was here that John and Margaret Corbin fought. After John Corbin, a cannoneer, was shot and killed, Margaret, who had helped to clean and load the cannon, took over for her husband, continuing to fire shots until she was hit by gunfire as well and subsequently captured.

Though not fatal, the wounds in her shoulder crippled her for life. She received one-half of a soldier’s pension, as decreed by the Continental Congress in 1779. Corbin later moved near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where she worked until her death, around 1800. In 1926, Corbin’s body was disinterred and buried in the West Point Military Cemetery. A monument to her was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

After capturing the American soldiers, the British renamed the spot for Major General Sir William Tryon (1729–1788), and the last British governor of colonial New York, and although the Continental Army ultimately prevailed, the site continued to be referred to as Fort Tryon. Noting this irony in the 1970s, in the wake of the bicentennial of American independence, a movement to rename the park for an American hero took shape, and Corbin’s story resurfaced. Ultimately a compromise was reached where the park’s plaza and drive were named for Corbin and the park retained the Tryon name.

In 1977, the City Council voted unanimously to name the drive for her. Councilman Henry J. Stern (b. 1935), who co-sponsored the bill to commemorate Corbin, noted that despite growing up in the neighborhood and using the park’s playground as a youth, he never realized he was “honoring a Tory.” Subsequently, local schools developed a curriculum about Corbin, and in 1982 a plaque honoring the heroine was placed at 190th Street and Fort Washington Avenue.

The Cloisters

The Cloisters, a replica of a medieval monastery, rises from the towering cliffs of Fort Tryon Park in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan. A designated New York City landmark, it incorporates parts of actual Romanesque and Gothic cloisters from five medieval European monasteries, a Romanesque chapel, and a 12th-century Spanish apse. “Cloisters” refers to a place of religious seclusion, such as a monastery or a convent, as well as the covered walkways and courtyards that were included in the design of these holy places. In addition it houses an immense collection of medieval art.

The bulk of the collection originally belonged to George Grey Barnard (1863-1938). Barnard, a noted sculptor at the time, had amassed considerable debt and began to speculate and traffic in medieval antiquities, which he bought at reduced prices and sold abroad. Ruins from a portion of the Cuxa Cloister in France, now featured in the building’s center, were purchased by Barnard for only $10,000, a paltry sum for an historical landmark. Barnard discovered the rest of the Cuxa ruins in a bathhouse in a French village and purchased them as well for just 5,000 French francs (not quite $1,000). Barnard had prepared the rest of the ruins for export to the United States, crating and cataloging the remnants, when French authorities realized that its historic national treasures were being pillaged. Under public pressure, Barnard returned the ruins to the village and quietly and quickly sent home the rest of his acquisitions just weeks before the French government passed legislation banning the international trading of historic monuments.

In 1914, Barnard built a gallery, known as The Cloisters, on Fort Washington Avenue to display his treasures. The Metropolitan Museum, with a $600,000 donation from John D. Rockefeller Jr. (1874-1960), purchased the collection in the 1920s. Rockefeller donated 62 acres of land he had purchased in 1909 for $1,700,000 and provided further funding to acquire additional land for Fort Tryon Park, setting aside four acres to build a second incarnation of the Cloisters. In exchange New York gave him land in the East 60’s for the Rockefeller Institute.

The surrounding park, with its neo-Gothic walls, structures, and battlements, was designed by the eminent landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Charles Collens (1873–1956), who designed Riverside Church, drew up the plans, and The Cloisters opened to the public in 1938. The medieval structure was built using quarried granite cut into smaller, more manageable blocks in order to duplicate ancient Roman building methods, eschewing any benefits of modern technology.

The exterior of the building is a conglomerate of architectural styles, which range from Romanesque to late Gothic. It is dominated by the Cuxa Cloister tower, which holds the Cuxa Cloister that Barnard took from France; the tower is a replica of the cloister’s original home and the building’s roof tiles are similar to those found at the Cuxa site in France. A reconstructed Gothic cathedral on the building’s southeast corner features 14th century stained glass and 13th and 14th century tomb monuments and pier sculptures. The Romanesque Langon Chapel, on the building’s west side, contains part of the interior stonework from a 12th century church in southwestern France.

Inside, the building houses several European cloisters. The 12th century Romanesque apse in the Fuentidueña Chapel, on loan from the Spanish government, was taken apart and sent stone by stone to the United States in 1958. It was reassembled and opened to the public in 1961. Rockefeller himself donated a set of Gothic tapestries from a chateau in France recounting the “Hunt of the Unicorn.” The tapestries are one of the most popular attractions, and have become a signature piece for The Cloisters. Also featured are interior courtyards with lovely and gardens and sculptures oriented to invite peaceful introspection. The Cloisters was designated an official New York City landmark in 1974.

Nearby Zip Codes: 10032, 10033, 10031, 10034

Nearby Neighborhoods: Inwood, Washington Heights, Hudson Heights, Harlem, Sugar Hill, and Hamilton Heights


Upper Manhattan Parks, Fort Washington Park

Fort Washington Park

Fort Washington Park

West 155th to West 179th Streets, Henry Hudson Parkway

Known to history buffs as the namesake of a Revolutionary War structure built for the rebels and seized by the British; known to children as the site of Manhattan’s only lighthouse, the Little Red Lighthouse, the protagonist in a popular children’s book; known to aesthetes as an ideal lookout spot onto the Hudson River and the Palisades, Fort Washington Park is a valued part of the Washington Heights community.

It’s not just its history and beauty people value; baseball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a playground welcome athletes of all ages.

On June 20 1776, Pennsylvania battalions of the Continental Army began constructing a five-bastion fort for General George Washington (1732–1799) at the intersection of present-day Fort Washington Avenue and 183rd Street. Their quickly assembled, earthen-walled structure had no water supply and no significant barricade to repel attackers. The highest hill on Manhattan island was an ideal location for the fort, with its views overlooking the Hudson River to the east, the valley of Manhattan as far south as what is now 120th Street, and protection on the north side from Fort Tryon. Unfortunately, Fort Washington’s prime position did not spare it from British bombardiers. British and Hessian forces captured this last American stronghold in Manhattan on November 16, 1776, as General Washington watched helplessly from Fort Lee on the New Jersey side of the Hudson. The overall battle of New York City, from Manhattan to Long Island, cost the Continentals several hundred lives and over four thousand prisoners of war.

The British army and its sympathizers then occupied the city until the American victory in 1783. Wilhelm, Baron von Knyphausen (1716–1800), a German general in British service, was commander of New York from 1779 to 1780 and what remained of the American fort was renamed Fort Knyphausen in his honor. After the war, vestiges of the Fort disappeared, and the surrounding area became known as Washington Heights. Granite paving outlines the former contours of Fort Washington in the southern portion of nearby Bennett Park. For the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Washington in 1976, the Washington Heights-Inwood Historical Society re-enacted the conflict on the site of the former fort.

The Laws of 1894 mapped this park, which now stretches from 155th Street to Dyckman Street and from Riverside Drive to the Hudson River, as parkland and named it Fort Washington Park. The City of New York officially acquired most of the property in five separate parcels between 1896 and 1927, all through condemnation. Parks was granted jurisdiction at the time of those acquisitions, but some additional parkland was added from the Port of New York Authority (1939), the Board of Estimate (1966), and the Department of Real Property (1989).

In the early 20th century, many construction plans circulated for this parkland. In 1912, the West End Hotel wished to build a sister facility with views of the majestic Hudson. Developers advanced plans to build an open-air stage and comfort station on the shore of the Hudson in 1913. The theatre was to be a reproduction of an ancient Greek theatre in Taormina, Sicily. Each time the threat of encroachment loomed, the neighborhood organizations of Washington Heights fought to protect their green space.

Inspiration Point Shelter, on Henry Hudson Parkway at 190th Street, opened in 1925 as a resting place for pedestrians and leisure drivers. Designed by architect Gustave Steinacher in 1924, the neoclassical sitting area opened a year later and quickly became a favorite of Hudson River tourists. In 1927, the Board of Estimate allowed Parks to relinquish control of a parcel of land at 179th Street for the Port of New York Authority’s construction of the George Washington Bridge. When it was completed in 1931, the steel-cabled beauty was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

The West 181st Street Beautification Project and the New York Restoration Project help Parks ensure that Fort Washington Park can provide diverse opportunities for rest and recreation. Baseball fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a playground welcome athletes of all ages. Benches are available for those who simply want to take in the views of the Hudson River and the Palisades Cliffs in New Jersey. Each September, the Little Red Lighthouse Festival brings hundreds of lovers of children’s literature and nautical history to Fort Washington Park and its most famous landmark, in the shadow of the “Great Gray Bridge.”

Dyckman Street Boat Marina

The Dyckman Street Boat Marina in Fort Washington Park is named for the Dyckman family who were among the original Dutch settlers of Manhattan island, and owned most of the land in the immediate area.

The first of the family to arrive in America, Jan Dyckman emigrated from Holland in the mid-1600s. A shoemaker by trade, Jan and another Dutch settler named Jan Nagel purchased much of the land between present-day 155th Street and the northern end of the island. Members of the Dyckman and Nagel families lived on this land for three generations, until the onset of the Revolutionary War (1776-1783). British troops occupied the Dyckman home after the family fled. Upon their return the Dyckmans found their house ruined, prompting them to build a new farmhouse on the Kingsbridge Road, which is now Broadway and 204th Street.

Occupied between 1785 and 1865, the Dyckman House provided accommodations to travelers and livestock in transport to lower Manhattan. It is the only remaining 18th century farmhouse in Manhattan. At its peak, the farm included all the land from Fort George Hill to 230th Street (which was once part of the island of Manhattan) and from the Harlem River to Broadway. The farmhouse is now a museum detailing the lives of these early settlers.

From 1915-1942 ferries operated by the Englewood-Dyckman Company transported cars and passengers from this location to the Palisades beaches across the Hudson River. Beach and ferry use peaked in the early years of the Depression. Once the George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, serious competition for traffic began. Ferry usage declined from one million to 300,000 vehicles in one year, and the ferry company closed in 1942.

Years of abandonment followed. Land including the Marina was assigned to Parks in 1966. In an arrangement with Parks, the Dyckman Marine Venture made plans in 1987 to develop the marina, construct a pier, and open up a restaurant on the site. Parks agreed to let them use the land rent free in exchange for their investment. A federal grant funded the $420,000 pier. Within two years, the operators had completely overhauled the marina. With its brand new docks and fishing pier, the marina now thrives. Permanent bathrooms are now available. The foot of Dyckman Street was added to the park in 1995, further increasing the use of this section of Waterfront Park. The marina also features Tubby Hook Café and Bar, a full service café with lovely sunset views overlooking the Hudson, and the George Washington Bridge glistening to the south. Tubby Hook Café has become a popular live music venue, specializing in Latin American Rock performances.

Peregrine Falcons in New York City

Fort Washington Park is one of Manhattan’s best spots for spotting peregrine falcons, due to its location underneath George Washington Bridge.

The reemergence of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) in North America is one of the environmental movement’s greatest success stories. Until the middle of the 20th century, the crow-sized, dark-capped, blue-gray peregrines ruled the skies and rocky mountaintops from Alaska all the way to Georgia, preying on smaller birds such as sparrows and pigeons. One of nature’s most skilled hunters, the peregrine falcon dive-bombs its prey at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Capable of flying at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour in level flight, the peregrine is one of the world’s fastest birds.

But in the 1950s and ‘60s, the chemical dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), used widely in agricultural pesticides, found its way up the food chain. The sparrows, pigeons, and other small birds that peregrines hunted fed on insects contaminated with DDT. Through a process known as biomagnification, DDT accumulated in the peregrines, causing their eggs to become too weak to even support the weight of the mother incubating her eggs. The eggs shattered before fledglings could hatch. By the time DDT was finally banned in 1972, there was not a single peregrine falcon left east of the Mississippi.

When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, peregrine falcons were one of the first species to receive protection. Restoration efforts were launched throughout the 1970s and ‘80s; during that time, 150 young captivity-bred Peale’s peregrine falcons (the eastern peregrine subspecies being extinct) were released in New York State, to reclaim nesting sites in the rocky peaks and crags of the Adirondacks and Hudson River Palisades.

Over the years, peregrines have moved farther and farther into New York City, taking up residences on the exteriors of skyscrapers and bridges. Pairs of peregrine falcons have been found nesting on the window ledges of such buildings as the Metropolitan Life Building (1 Madison Avenue), the Bank of New York (48 Wall Street), and the St. Regis Hotel (2 East 55th Street) in Manhattan. In addition to the Verrazano Narrows and Throgs Neck bridges, peregrines have been seen on the Manhattan tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as on an old gun turret on the Marine Parkway. A peregrine was once even spotted above Times Square. These man-made aeries provide perfect residences for the birds – isolated, easily approachable by air, and with great views of territory and of prey.

By 1999, the peregrine falcon had recovered sufficiently to be moved off the Endangered Species List. Over 145 falcons have been successfully hatched and banded by biologists in New York City since 1983, and have been found raising their own families as far away as Baltimore and Wisconsin.

Monarch Butterflies in New York City

The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) may seem to be one of the most delicate creatures alive. But despite its frail appearance, every year the monarch makes a long and perilous journey thousands of miles south to escape the harsh winters of the North. While on this journey, the monarch can often be seen at Fort Washington Link.

The monarch butterfly begins its migration in September and travels for 30-45 days. Monarchs originating east of the Rocky Mountains and as far north as Canada make their way to the quiet, cool mountains of the Transvolcanic Region in central Mexico, about 60 miles west of Mexico City in the state of Michoacan. Migrating monarchs can be observed along the City’s beaches and coastal parks. Monarchs from New York City travel as much as 2,100 miles, averaging 50 miles a day, to reach their destination by the end of October. Resting in the chilly treetops, the butterflies hibernate for four months, covering oyamel fir trees (Abies religiosa) in thick layers that resemble black and orange leaves. During this period, the monarchs sit quietly with their wings folded, living off of fat reserves.

When the weather warms, usually in March, the monarchs come out of hibernation and mate. After mating, they begin their return trip to the southern United States. There they lay their eggs on milkweed (Asclepiadaceae) plants and die, entrusting their offspring to fend for themselves. The milkweed is an important food source for monarch caterpillars. As the larvae gorge themselves on the leaves, they accumulate the milkweed’s toxic cardiac glycosides and become poisonous to birds and other predators. An unknowing bird that tries to eat a monarch soon finds out how distasteful these butterflies are and vomits it up, and the bird learns to avoid the monarch’s distinctive colors. Many other species of butterfly, such as the harmless viceroy (Limenitis archippus), mimic the colors of the monarch with the hopes that predators will avoid them too.

After about a month of feeding, the caterpillars pupate and metamorphose into adults. The adult monarchs continue the journey north and also lay eggs. By late June, the third generation of monarchs reaches New York City, and, by August, their offspring reach Canada. This fourth generation spends its time storing energy from nectar so they can make the long journey to Mexico in September.

How monarchs are able to navigate their way across unfamiliar terrain is unknown. Some speculate that the butterflies rely on the earth’s magnetic field for guidance, while others believe that the directions are embedded into the monarch’s genetic code. Whatever the reason, the monarch remains one of the City’s most beautiful and enchanting sights. While monarchs are usually attracted to large fields containing milkweed, many can be seen in New York City parks due to selective plantings like those at Fort Washington Link.

The Little Red Lighthouse

The Little Red Lighthouse stopped being used as a functional lighthouse long ago, but over the years this 40-foot-high structure has become a beacon of another kind. Located underneath the George Washington Bridge along this treacherous section of the Hudson River once known as Jeffrey’s Hook, this is one of the few surviving lighthouses in New York City and serves as a quaint reminder of the area’s history.

Long ago, Native Americans known locally as the Wiechquaesgeck—part of the Lenape tribe—inhabited much of upper Manhattan and eastern New Jersey. The Wechquaesgeck, and later the Dutch and English colonists, fished and hunted along the banks of the Hudson River. The Hudson was also an important route for travel, connecting upstate cities such as Albany to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean. As traffic increased along the river, so did the number of shipwrecks at Jeffrey’s Hook. In an attempt to reduce accidents, a red pole was placed at Jeffrey’s Hook jutting out over the river to warn travelers of danger. In 1889, two 10-candlepower lanterns were placed on the pole to aid navigation. Much of the land surrounding the lighthouse, including the riverbanks of Jeffrey’s Hook, was acquired by the City in 1896, and became known as Fort Washington Park.

In the early 20th century, barge captains carrying goods up and down the Hudson demanded a brighter beacon. The Little Red Lighthouse had been erected on Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 1880, where it used a 1,000 pound fog signal and flashing red light to guide ships through the night. It became obsolete and was dismantled in 1917. In 1921, the U.S. Coast Guard reconstructed this lighthouse on Jeffrey’s Hook in an attempt to improve navigational aids on the Hudson River. Run by a part-time keeper and furnished with a battery-powered lamp and a fog bell, the lighthouse, then known as Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, was an important guide to river travelers for ten years. The George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, and the brighter lights of the bridge again made the lighthouse obsolete. In 1948, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse, and its lamp was extinguished.

The Coast Guard planned to auction off the lighthouse, but an outpouring of support for the beacon helped save it. The outcry from the public was prompted by the children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, written by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward in 1942. In the popular book, the Little Red Lighthouse is happy and content until a great bridge is built over it. In the end, the lighthouse learns that it still has an important job to do and that there is still a place in the world for an old lighthouse. The classic tale captured the imaginations of children and adults, many of whom wrote letters and sent money to help save the icon from the auction block.

On July 23, 1951, the Coast Guard gave the property to Parks, and on May 29, 1979, the Little Red Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It did not receive much attention over the years, until City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin worked with Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern to find funding for its restoration. In 1986, Parks hosted a party in honor of the lighthouse’s 65th anniversary and to celebrate a $209,000 renovation of the lighthouse that included reconstruction of the concrete foundation and the installation of new steel doors. In the year 2000, the lighthouse received a fresh coat of red paint that is true to its original, historic color, along with new interior lighting and electric lines. Today, the Little Red Lighthouse remains a stalwart symbol of the area’s heritage, lighting the way into the city’s past.

The Little Red Lighthouse is owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, a member of the Historic House Trust of New York City.


Nearby Zip Codes: 10034, 10040

Neighborhoods: Inwood and Washington, including Hudson Heights and Fort George.


Upper Manhattan Parks, Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park

Inwood Hill Park

Dyckman Street, along the Hudson River to Harlem River Ship Canal

There’s old New York, and then there’s old New York.  Inwood Hill Park is a living piece of old New York.  Evidence of its prehistoric roots exists as dramatic caves, valleys, and ridges left as the result of shifting glaciers.  Evidence of its uninhabited state afterward remains as its forest and salt marsh (the last natural one in Manhattan), and evidence of its use by Native Americans in the 17th century continues to be discovered.  Much has occurred on the land that now composes Inwood Hill Park since the arrival of European colonists in the 17th and 18th centuries, but luckily, most of the park was largely untouched by the wars and development that took place.

The park continues to honor and cultivate its environment.  In 2002, the Urban Park Rangers launched a five-year bald eagle release project in the park, in hopes of re-introducing the bird species to New York City.  In the summer of 2007, the park’s Dyckman Marina was added to New York State’s Hudson River Greenway Water Trail, a project aimed at reacquainting city dwellers with natural bodies of water and encouraging citizen stewardship.  Similarly, a hiking trail and the Hudson River Bike Trail offer visitors chances to appreciate large stretches of the park’s natural beauty in an environmentally friendly manner.

Also importantly, the park manages to present modern conveniences like athletic fields, playgrounds, dog runs, and a barbecue area, in harmony with its natural assets.  The Park stands as a functional, beautiful space, waiting to be appreciated and used.

In the summer and fall of 1776, New York was the primary battlefield of the war for America’s independence. At stake were the City’s strategic harbor and inland waterways, especially the Hudson River. By controlling the Hudson Valley, the British hoped to prevent the armies of New England and the South from combining into a unified force.

Among the many forts built in New York by the Continental Army, three were located on the heights of northern Manhattan that overlook the Hudson River, allowing the army to direct their cannon fire at enemy ships below. The largest of the three was Fort Washington, which stood atop the highest point on Manhattan Island, at today’s 184th Street. Situated to the north of Fort Washington were two of its outworks, Fort Tryon and Fort Cockhill.

Fort Cockhill

Fort Cockhill stood on this hilltop, overlooking the mouth of Spuyten Duyvil Creek at its confluence with the Hudson. It was a small, five-sided earthen structure equipped with two cannons. On the morning of November 16, 1776, Fort Cockhill was attacked and captured by a battalion of Hessian (German) Grenadiers that served in the British Army. After taking Fort Cockhill, the Hessians hauled heavy guns and a howitzer to the top of the hill and fired on the American defenders at Fort Tryon. Fort Tryon was taken after heroic resistance by its greatly outnumbered defenders.

A short while later, the commander of Fort Washington, General Magaw, surrendered to attackers and the battle was over. The Americans were overwhelmed by the numerical superiority of the British-Hessian force and the effectiveness of their attack. It was a devastating defeat, in which the Patriots lost almost 3,000 troops, 2,800 of whom were taken as prisoners. Most of the captives died in prison as victims of deprivation and exposure.

In July of 1781, Washington and his generals surveyed the forts of northern Manhattan from nearby points in the Bronx, apparently preparing to attack New York again and to reclaim their captured forts. By that time Fort Cockhill showed signs of neglect, as reflected in Washington’s observation that “the fort on Cox’s Hill was in bad repair and but little dependence placed on it. There is neither ditch nor friezing, and the northeast corner appears quite easy of access.” This attack never materialized, but the preparations for it served to divert British attention and resources away from the upcoming battle at Yorktown, Virginia, the deciding battle of the Revolutionary War.

While the British surrender at Yorktown on October 19, 1781 ended the active phase of the war, British military forces continued to occupy New York City until November 25, 1783. On that date, later known as Evacuation Day, General Washington was present to reclaim possession of the city he was forced to abandon in 1776. His reentry route from Inwood to the Battery took him past Forts Cockhill, Tryon and Washington, this time in triumph.

Glaciers in New York City

Inwood Hill Park now contains the last natural forest and salt marsh in Manhattan, but the land once lay beneath a huge sheet of moving ice. The most recent ice age began about 1.5 million years ago, at the advent of the Pleistocene Era, and lasted until around 10,000 years ago. At the beginning of the Pleistocene, global temperatures dropped dramatically. Huge masses of snow and ice formed in the Arctic, sometimes as thick as two miles. The tremendous weight and pressure of the ice sheet caused the snow underneath to solidify, providing a surface on which glaciers could travel. During the Pleistocene Epoch, there were four glacial advances – the most recent being the Wisconsin ice sheet, which had the greatest impact on the land beneath New York City.

The Wisconsin ice sheet began its southward journey from the Arctic around 100,000 years ago, reaching what is now New York roughly 50,000 years later. By this time, it had lost some of its bulk, although it was still 300 feet thick and stretched from Massachusetts to Montana. As the glacier moved through this region, it deepened the bed of the Hudson River, carved out such geologic features as the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes basins, and left its mark on the Adirondack mountains. The glacier also deposited tons of gravel and pebbles, moving boulders from the Palisades to Central Park, plowing up topsoil, leveling the earth, and filling in depressed areas with glacial till. This glacial activity sculpted the characteristic terrain of Inwood Hill Park, with its dramatic caves, valleys, and ridges.

Fordham Gneiss in New York City

Fordham gneiss, one of the oldest rock formations in the world, can be seen from Inwood Hill Park by looking across Spuyten Duyvil Creek. Named for the Bronx neighborhood where it is most visible, Fordham gneiss was formed around 1.1 billion years ago, in the pre-Cambrian era, during a period of continental shifting. At that time, the continent of North America lay in a narrow basin beneath an ancient, shallow sea. Sand and silt had accumulated in the basin, forming sedimentary rock. During a continental shift, an unidentified landmass collided with North America, thrusting the sedimentary rock upward and forming a mountain range. This collision is known as the Grenville Orogeny, and it occurred at a time when life on earth consisted of algae and bacteria, and multi-celled organisms were beginning to evolve.

The impact of the collision and the high pressures involved caused the sedimentary rock to recrystallize, forming the black-and-white banded, metamorphic rock we see today. The contorted banding pattern of these bands is a testament to the immense geologic force of the shifting plates that formed the gneiss. Over the next hundred million years, passing glaciers and erosion by wind and water wore away the mountain ranges. Further shifting of the landmasses produced Manhattan schist, which can be observed at Inwood Hill Park’s Indian Houses; Inwood marble, named for this area where it can frequently be observed at the surface; and other bedrocks, which all came to rest on or beside the existing layer of gneiss.

In the Bronx, gneiss can be observed running along the surface of the earth in two ridges; one along the west side in Riverdale, and the other along the east side in Fordham, Tremont, University Heights and north into Van Cortlandt Park. Gneiss is also found on Roosevelt Island, emerging from the East River, and in Long Island City, Queens. The rocky cliff that has been painted with the letter “C” and is visible from Inwood Hill Park is one of the few areas in the city where this old bedrock is exposed at the surface.

Salt Marshes in New York City

Salt marshes play a critical role in the support of human life, acting as natural filtration systems by trapping pollutants that would otherwise contaminate our bays and oceans. Salt marshes have the ability to absorb fertilizers, improve water quality, and reduce erosion. They are also among the richest wildlife habitats.

Inwood Hill Park, a 196-acre oasis at the northern tip of Manhattan, features the last remnant of the tidal marshes that once surrounded Manhattan Island. The marsh receives a mixture of freshwater flowing from the upper Hudson River and saltwater from the ocean’s tides. The mix of salt and fresh waters, called brackish water, has created an environment unique in the city.

When the last of the glaciers melted 7,000 years ago, the oceans rose to their present levels. Sediments washed from the land were deposited offshore in narrow sandy strips, forming long islands parallel to the shoreline. These barrier beaches received the pounding surf on their ocean side, but had calm, protected bays behind their landward shores. While the waters were calm enough for vegetation to take root, the presence of saltwater made survival difficult. One species, however, saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), was able to colonize the flat expanses of sand and silt, which were covered twice a day by the ocean’s tides. Today, the grass is still found along the Atlantic coast.

As this specialized grass spreads, its stems trap floating debris. Sediments and particles of decaying matter slowly build up, forming nutrient-rich mud. This mud, called detritus, supports life on the marsh. It is the basis of a complex food web in which energy is passed from one organism to another. The fiddler crab (Uca pugnax) and ribbed mussel (Geukensia demissa) have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the cordgrass. While the crabs and mussels benefit from feeding on decaying matter trapped within cordgrass roots, cordgrass gains from the fiddler’s burrowing, which aerates the soil, and the mussel’s excretion, which provides necessary nitrogen.

At the end of each season, the cordgrass dies, creating a spongy peat. Each year’s peat layer raises the surface of the marsh, enabling it to colonize new territory. A variety of plants with less salt tolerance can colonize the peat, as it is out of the range of most of the high tides. This causes the formation of two separate plant communities, the intertidal marsh and the salt meadow. A third type of salt marsh community is the mudflat. Each of these communities has its own distinctive vegetation, insects, fish, birds, and mammals that have adapted to survive in a saltwater environment. While salt marshes do not have a very wide variety of species, the volume of life present is remarkable.

In addition to saltmarsh cordgrass, Inwood Hill Park’s low marsh also contains big saltwater cordgrass (Spartina cynosuroides) and two species of bulrush. Between the low marsh and the park path are a number of marsh plants rare elsewhere in the city, including water hemp (Acnida cannabinus) and salt marsh bulrush (Scirpus robustus). Marsh elder (Iva frutescens), swamp rose-mallow (Hibiscus palustris), and groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia) also grow here. A broad, expansive mudflat runs from the marsh to the channel of the Harlem River Ship Canal. Great blue herons (Ardea herodias) frequent the flat in the winter. Great (Casmerodius albus) and snowy (Egretta thula) egrets are common visitors from spring through fall. You can often hear the chattering of a belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) as it flies overhead, hovers, and then drops into the water, emerging with a wriggling fish in its oversized bill.

Since industrialization, human activity has destroyed many marshes. Where marshes are disturbed, common reed (Phragmites australis) often grows in place of cordgrass. Since reeds do not decompose into as nutritious a substance as cordgrass, a reed marsh does not contribute as much to coastal ecosystems as a cordgrass marsh. In the last 200 years, humans have also filled over 80 percent of the city’s original salt marshes for construction. While recent conservation efforts have improved the condition of marshes, this valuable ecosystem continues to disappear from the City at an alarming rate.

Spuyten Duyvil Creek

There has been much speculation concerning the origin of the name “Spuyten Duyvil.” Dutch in origin, Spuyten Duyvil can be translated in two ways, depending on the pronunciation. One translation is “Devil’s whirlpool,” and indeed, sections of the creek were sometimes turbulent during high tide. The second interpretation is “to spite the Devil.” This translation was popularized by Washington Irving’s story in which a Dutch trumpeter vowed to swim across the turbulent creek during the British attack on New Amsterdam “en spijt den Duyvil (in spite of the Devil).”

Running from the Hudson River to the Harlem River, the Spuyten Duyvil Creek marks the northernmost tip of Manhattan Island. The creek’s significance is revealed through local Native American legends, an era of Dutch settlement, and laborious years of altering its natural course for commercial purposes. Eventually renamed the Harlem River Ship Canal (also the U.S. Ship Canal), this tidal strait has splendid views, and a variety of wildlife that still thrives despite years of human-induced change.

Lenape Indians inhabited the area for thousands of years. A Lenape settlement once stood on the Bronx side of the creek, in the area above where Columbia’s huge letter C can be seen today. Columbia University rowers painted the letter C for themselves and for their school’s teams, which play at Baker Field/Wien Stadium across the creek. The Lenape Indians called the banks of the Spuyten Duyvil Shorakapok, which has commonly been translated as “the sitting down place” or “the place between the ridges.” With an abundance of oysters, fish, waterfowl, and a diversity of other creatures, this region was an ideal hunting and fishing ground for the Lenape. Additionally, they relied on the innumerable freshwater springs that meandered throughout the vast wetlands.

Written accounts of the creek first appear in the year 1609, when Henry Hudson and his crew may have briefly anchored their ship, Half Moon in the Spuyten Duyvil. During the colonial period, many Dutch farmers and merchants found it convenient to cross the Spuyten Duyvil rather than pay for ferry service across the Harlem River at 125th Street. In 1669, to prevent people from crossing for free, Johannes Verveelen moved his ferry to where West 231st Street and Broadway now intersect. In 1673, Frederick Philipse replaced the ferry with a toll bridge known as the King’s Bridge. Reacting to both the fee and the occasional inconvenience of using this bridge, a Dutch landowner named Jacob Dyckman raised funds to construct the Free Bridge in 1758, which was later destroyed by the Continental Army while fleeing the British during the Revolutionary War.

The present course of the Harlem River Ship Canal differs greatly from the Spuyten Duyvil Henry Hudson once visited. To make it more navigable, the Army Corps of Engineers began to modify both the creek and its adjacent land in the latter part of the 19th century. In 1876, the New York State Legislature decreed the construction of the Harlem River Shipping Canal. When completed in 1895, the canal severed Marble Hill from Manhattan, creating an island with Spuyten Duyvil Creek as its northern perimeter. The new channel effectively shortened the water route between the Hudson River and Long Island Sound by 14 miles. Soon after the canal’s completion, builders filled Spuyten Duyvil Creek, thereby connecting the island to mainland Bronx.  Since the turn of the century, Marble Hill residents have successfully petitioned to remain within the governance of Manhattan: interestingly, for years telephone directories listed residents in both Manhattan and the Bronx.

Today, the Broadway Bridge, the Henry Hudson Memorial Bridge (opened on December 12, 1936 as part of Robert Moses’ controversial “West Side Improvement” project), and railroad swing bridge, used by Amtrak passenger trains, still span the waterway.