Which “East River Park” is in this 1902 painting?

When William Glackens painted “East River Park” in 1902—contrasting the serenity of a city green space with the noisy industrial riverfront—the park that currently stretches along the riverfront called East River Park had yet to be created.

So what East River park did he depict here? Perhaps Corlears Hook Park, at the bend where Manhattan tucks under itself between the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges?

This was certainly a smoggy, ship-choked channel at the turn of the last century. The city purchased land here in the 1880s for the creation of a park, completed in 1905.

Neighboring East River Park didn’t exist until the 1930s, and according to the Brooklyn Museum, which owns the painting, a label on it indicates that the Brooklyn waterfront is depicted.

Or maybe his “East River Park” (closeup of the women and girl above) was farther upriver in Yorkville at today’s Carl Schurz Park—with a view of the factories and ship traffic of Hell Gate and Queens?

“The southern portion of the park was set aside by the City as East River Park in 1876,” according to NYC Parks. “The former Gracie estate was added in 1891 and a new landscape design by Calvert Vaux and Samuel Parsons was completed in 1902.”

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15 Responses to “Which “East River Park” is in this 1902 painting?”

  1. Bob Says:

    Inasmuch as East River Park was the formal, documented name of Carl Schurz Park before it was renamed in 1910, and the painting predates the renaming (and Schurz’ 1906 death), this is clearly Carl Schurz Park.

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  3. David Says:

    The Brooklyn Museum, in whose collection this painting is, says on their website that the view is toward Brooklyn. Alas, the painting is not on view, and has not been publicly exhibited since 1986… what a shame.

    • Bob Says:

      If you scroll down to the bottom of https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/656

      you’ll see in the Ask Brooklyn Museum section: “Download our app and ask your own questions during your visit. Here are some that others have asked.

      “The label for this says Brooklyn waterfront is across. do you know where? Or is any of the businesses depicted here are still standing or in operation?

      “This painting depicts the OLD East River Park, which is now called ‘Carl Schurz Park.’

      “Oh. Where’s that?

      “It’s located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. If you looked out over the East River from this point today, you’d see Astoria, Queens. I used to live right in that area! You’d see brick apartment buildings and some warehouses from this vantage point.
      Carl Schurz Park is located along FDR Drive in Manhattan, adjacent to the tip of Roosevelt Island.

      “Oh, I think I know it.

      “Most, if not all, of the buildings you see in this painting are long gone. There isn’t much industry in the Astoria area any more as it has become quite residential.

      “Fun Fact: Carl Schurz Park is located near Gracie Mansion, where the mayor lives.”

  4. kina99@comcast.net Says:

    There appears to be what looks like an old Staten Island Ferry in the center of the top picture. This could be Battery Park, with a view of Brooklyn in the background.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  5. mikeh (@rothmere) Says:

    Mayb a Brooklyn Heights area park with view toward Manhattan?

  6. carminebassano Says:

    To me this looks very similar to Corlears Hook Park — although, of course, I see the resemblance to Carl Schurz as well. I live directly across from the old Brooklyn Navy Yard (between the Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges) and can see Corlears Hook clearly as well so of course I’m going to perceive similarities. Actually, could be either. Simply my opinion.

  7. Tom Dulski Says:

    Possibly Governors Island? Looks like S.I. ferry is very close and the only area it would be so close and at that angle would be the Island.

  8. Bob Says:

    Glackens was a friend of Maurice Prendergast, who painted a river view from what is now Carl Schurz Park one year before Glackens, who was undoubtedly familiar with Prendergast’s painting. This is another piece of evidence in favor of Glackens work also being set there (besides the name of the painting itself.)

    See https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/swingset-and-sandbox-on-the-east-river-in-1901/

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      It does look very much like Carl Schurz Park to me. But the glitch is that the Brooklyn Museum says the painting shows the Brooklyn waterfront. Certainly the museum could have it wrong. I wish they would bring it out for everyone to see.

    • Bob Says:

      I understand Glackens also produced a painting called “Carl Schurz Park” in 1922. It is in the collection of the White House and the scene of people, trees, and river is arranged very similarly to the 1902 painting IMO, adjusted for the changes in scenery over time.

      http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/full.php?ID=50771#

      • ephemeralnewyork Says:

        It’s eerily similar…I’m now convinced it is Carl Schurz Park, and the Brooklyn Museum website caption has it wrong.

  9. Erich Rastetter Says:

    Astoria Park shows up as East River Park on some old maps and looked over at industry on Wards / Randalls Island.

  10. Fipper Says:

    Thanks. I just saw the painting on the Brooklyn Museum’s website and also thought they might’ve made a mistake and lead me to this site. The East River Park in the Lower East Side wasn’t built until the 30’s and prior to that was all shipping yards.

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