The turbulent history of Tompkins Square

This photo, from John Gruen’s The New Bohemia, shows a snow-covered, placid Tompkins Square Park in the early 1960s. No hipsters or crusties; no playgrounds or dog runs either.

There’s St. Brigid’s Church on Avenue B in the back. The statue of post-Civil War Congressional Rep. Samuel Cox is in the foreground. And you can just make out the shadows of the then-new housing projects on Avenue D. 

tompkinssquareparkTompkins Square is quiet and lovely these days, but it’s been the scene of some pretty bloody riots since it opened in 1850. Food shortages and unemployment prompted demonstrations in 1857; the deadly 1863 Draft Riots spilled into Tompkins Square as well. 







Then came the Tompkins Square Riot. In 1874, thousands of workers gathered at the park to protest poor economic conditions brought on by the Panic of 1873. Police on horseback fought back the crowds by beating them with clubs, as illustrated below.


A new round of Tompkins Square riots pitting cops against protesters started up again in the late 1980s and early 1990s—another period of economic recession.

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “The turbulent history of Tompkins Square”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I remember in the ’50s the area around 9th and 10th Street was locked in the evenings, the Ukrainian park man, just as the visitors were, used to come around blowing a whistle that the part of the park was closing, and the old folks used to grumble but leave peacefully for the night or go to the park that was staying open.

  2. Pudding Says:

    I wonder if Abraham Lincoln did anything to quell these riots or punish those who took part in them. 🙂

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    That’s covered in Kevin Baker’s novel ‘Paradise Alley’ about Lincoln’s role in calling for a draft yet at the same time in trying to quell the riots, not only in Tompkins Square Park but the rest of NYC

  4. Tompkins Square Park’s first dog run « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Tompkins Square Park has a pretty colorful history going back a century and a half.  […]

  5. Nabe News - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] A brief history of Tompkins Square Park [Ephemeral NY] Tweet Street: Boogie Beat, Nabe News You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. blog comments powered by Disqus /* _qoptions={ qacct:"p-73KATSZDycgIA" }; // […]

  6. When the Straw Hat Riots rocked 1920s New York « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Senseless riots have always broken out in the city: Astor Place, the Draft Riots, Tompkins Square. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: