Bowling Green Park
Broadway & Whitehall Street
New York, NY 10004
I visited this wonderful park for my walking project, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com-Day 113-Walking the Historical Bars & Pubs of New York City’.
This is one of the most fascinating parks in New York City and probably one the most historical in the shaping of the United States. Located on the grounds of the original Dutch settlement, this tiny park placed an important role in the confrontation of the Loyalist versus the Patriots when deciding who to support during the Revolutionary War. The toppling of the King George Statue was the beginning of a new Republic. Along the historic fence which has been standing in the park since the late 1700’s are the markings where the tiny crowns were sawed off by the Patriots in defiance to the Crown.
Now it is a resting spot for tired tourists off the boats from Ellis and Liberty Islands and for Wall Street workers who need a nice place to eat their lunch. It is still a relaxing little park with tree lined paths and a beautifully landscaped fountain area. In the later summer, the flowers are still in bloom and the colorful highlights of the trees accent all sides of the park and keep it private. Even in this secrete setting it is mind boggling of the fact that people put their lives on the line to establish this country right from this tiny park.
Take time to walk through the cool paths of trees to the edges of the park, which are lines with historic buildings with decorative stone work and look at the beautiful statuary work on the old U.S. Custom House that now serves as the Museum of the American Indian. Take a quick tour of Stone Street just a few blocks away and see the development of the New York City after the Great Fire of 1823, which destroyed most of lower Manhattan.
Just at the tip of the norther part of the park is the famous statue of ‘Charging Bull’ a gift to the City by artist Arturo Di Modica to show the ‘strength of the American people’ and the now becoming famous statue of “Fearless Girl” by artist Kristen Visbal which was erected for International Women’s Day. Both statues have created quite the debate since they were both placed here in 1989 and 2017 and their fate is up to the City.
Take time to really see what all these symbols mean to the Bowling Green.
History of the Park:
The Bowling Green is New York City’s oldest park. According to tradition, this spot served as the council ground for Native American tribes and was the site of the legendary sale of Manhattan to Peter Minuit in 1626. The Dutch called the area “the Plain” and used it for several purposes including a parade ground, meeting place and cattle market. It marked the beginning of Heere Staat (High Street, now Broadway), a trade route which extended north through Manhattan and the Bronx. In 1686, the site was designated as public property, when the City Charter put all ‘waste, vacant, unpatented and unappropriated lands’ under municipal domain (NYC Parks.org).
Bowling Green was first designated as a park in 1733, when it was offered for rent at the cost of one peppercorn per year. Lessees John Chambers, Peter Bayard and Peter Jay were responsible for improving the site with grass, trees and a wood fence “for the Beauty & Ornament of the Said Street as well as for the Recreation & delight of the Inhabitants of this City.” A gilded lead statue of King George III was erected here in 1770 and the iron fence (now a New York City landmark) was installed in 1771. On July 9, 1776, after the first public reading in New York State of the Declaration of Independence, this monument was toppled by angry citizens who dragged it up Broadway, sent it Connecticut, melted it down and recast it as ammunition. Portions of the statue are held by the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Historical Society (which also possesses musket balls made from the statue’s head) (NYC Parks.org).
By the late 18th Century, Bowling Green was the center of New York’s most fashionable residential district, surrounded by rows of Federal-style townhouses. In 1819, the Common Council that neighbors could plant and tend the area in return for the exclusive use of the park by their families. By mid-century, shipping offices inhabited the old townhouses and the park was returned to more public use. Monuments installed in the park in the 19th century include two fountains (now gone) and a statue of New York’s early Mayor and later colonial Supreme Court Judge Abraham DePeyster (1896, by artist George Bissell). DePeyster was moved to nearby Hanover Square in 1976 and finally to Thomas Paine Park in 2014 (NYC Parks.org).
In the first decade of the 20th Century, Bowling Green was disrupted by the construction of the IRT subway. The park was rebuilt as part of citywide improvements made in preparation for visitors to the 1939 World’s Fair. Renovations to Bowling Green included removing the fountain basin, relocating the interior walkways, installing new benches and providing new plantings. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, members of the Board of Estimate and local businessmen participated in the rededication ceremony held on April 6, 1939. Despite unseasonable late snow, the ceremony included a demonstration of colonial era lawn bowling (NYC Parks.org).
A 1976-77 capital investment restored Bowling Green to its 18th century appearance. Improvements included the redistribution of subway entrances, the installation of new lampposts and benches and landscaping. Publisher and philanthropist George Delacourte (best known for the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park) donated the park’s central fountain (NYC Parks.org).
Since December of 1989, the statue of Charging Bull (1987-89) has been on display at the north end of the park. Its sculptor, Arturo DiModica, says the three ton and a half bronze statue represents “the strength, power and hope of the American people for the future.” It has been linked to the property enjoyed by Wall Street in the past decade. In 2004, the reconstruction of the park included new perimeter bluestones sidewalks and interior paths, landscaping, plantings and the re-sodding of the lawn. Antique-style gas lamps and hoof benches were also placed in the park with the addition of a new irrigation system for the parks fountain (New York Parks.org).
Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the New York City Parks.org site and I given them full credit for it. This is one of the special parks of the City so take some time to visit it while on your way to one of the other tourist sites or to Liberty Island or Ellis Island.