A Revolutionary War legend at Bowling Green

Created by the Dutch as a cattle market in the 17th century, Bowling Green became New York’s first park in 1733—leased to three private landlords for “one peppercorn a year.”

Amazingly, the wrought-iron fence built in 1771 to surround the park still stands.

But it was partly destroyed on the eve of the Revolutionary War, and you can still see the desecration if you look closely.

It happened on July 9, 1776. After the Declaration of Independence was read to Washington’s troops at nearby City Hall, a crowd of patriots, whipped into a frenzy, rushed to the park at the foot of Broadway.

There they toppled the statue of King George III the British had placed inside it—and they also sawed off the finials that crowned each post.

“[A] partially drunken mob, led by the patriot Isaac Sears, raced to the fence that surrounded the park,” states It Happened in New York City, cowritten by Fran Capo.

“Sears and the others systematically sawed off the king’s crowns on each of the thick supporting fence sections.”

You can still see the saw marks. What became of the finials is unclear, but the lead from the statue was melted down and used as ammo against the Redcoats.

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7 Responses to “A Revolutionary War legend at Bowling Green”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Now here’s a rare example of drunken-mob vandalism that I can condone. Sawing off the crown finials was an elegant afterthought; will look for those saw marks,next time I’m at Bowling Green.

  2. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    It still amazes me that this piece of prime real estate was never exploited by builders. Think of its location over the centuries: it was just across the road from the Fort; just west of the main markets; just southeast of the mills; just south of Trinity Church and Wall Street; just northeast of Castle Clinton. Somehow, almost every generation of New Yorkers–Dutch, British, Cosmopolitan–has respected the place and let it be. Now it is a, well not peaceful or quiet, but welcome oasis at the most ancient spot of New York.

  3. rocco dormarunno(akafivepointsguy) Says:

    This silent film shows the Bowling Green area in 1928. Check out 3:58 and 4:12,

  4. Lisa Says:

    Yes, Rocco– thanks for posting that. Not only did I enjoy the imagery, but I discovered and downloaded that addictive George Olsen song, “Horses”!

  5. fivepointsguy Says:

    Glad you guys liked it as much as I did!

  6. Is this the oldest iron fence in New York City? | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] city though. The wrought-iron fence around Bowling Green, put up in 1771 to protect a new statue of King George III from independence-minded colonists, still stands—predating Stuyvesant Square’s fence by 76 […]

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