Pershing Square: the little park that never was

PershingsquaresignIf you stand in front of Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street, you’ll see lovely vintage signs for Pershing Square affixed to the Park Avenue viaduct.

Thing is, there’s really not much of a square to be found. The viaduct appears to cut into it, creating two slivers of car-free pavement crowded by sidewalk cafe tables.

What happened to it? A century ago, the city had great plans to turn this lot, formerly the Grand Union Hotel at 100 East 42nd Street at Park Avenue, into a victorious pedestrian plaza.


The hotel was razed in 1914, and the yet-to-be-developed square was named for World War I General John J. Pershing, commander of the U.S. forces.

Pershingsquare2013But it wasn’t meant to be. “The plot sat empty until 1920 when the city fathers sold it to a developer who built a twenty-four-story building there and named it the Pershing Square Building,” wrote Bill Harris in Five Hundred Buildings of New York.

Unless you count the afterthought of asphalt there now, Pershing Square basically ceased to exist after six years.

Here’s what it looked like from 1914 to 1920. At least the unusual signs remain!

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3 Responses to “Pershing Square: the little park that never was”

  1. Kazza Says:

    I worked in the Pershing Square Building thirty years ago. I haven’t visited it in quite a long time, but I remember a quietly lovely building. It was fun to visit co-workers on a higher floor and look out their windows at the details of Grand Central.

  2. Liza Says:

    My great-uncle SW Straus was the mortgage holder for this land, owned by the Pershing Square Corporation…of which another relative was the treasurer. SW Straus also built and owned the Ambassador Hotels in NYC and Atlantic City. His business went bankrupt during the depression.

  3. Liza Says:

    Great-great uncle.

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