Posts Tagged ‘Bowling Green park’

A Revolutionary War legend at Bowling Green

April 23, 2012

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.

When bocce ruled New York City parks

May 25, 2010

The Italian game of bocce has a surprisingly long history in New York. Its ancestor, lawn bowling, was played by Dutch colonists at Bowling Green, the city’s first park.

Mayor LaGuardia established the first official bocce courts in East Harlem’s Thomas Jefferson Park in 1934, when the neighborhood was mostly Italian.

By 1958, 27 parks across the city had bocce courts, including Washington Square Park, J. J. Walker Park on Hudson Street, and St. Mary’s Park in the South Bronx, where a group of guys play in the above Parks Department photo.

And though you don’t see so many old-timers gathering for a game anymore, it still has its fans; there’s still a citywide bocce tournament held every year. 

Meet the kids from Bowling Green

October 20, 2008

In the early years of the 20th century, the streets near Bowling Green—the oldest public park in the city, at the foot of Broadway in Lower Manhattan—were home to thousands of families, “crowded into tenements made out of old warehouses and former fashionable houses now fallen into decay,” explains Valentine’s City of New York Guidebook, published in 1920.

These are some of the kids growing up in that neighborhood, which at the time was a melting pot of Irish, Polish, Syrians, Greeks, Armenians, and “people from Palestine and Mesopotamia,” the book notes.


This is the era of settlement work, when wealthier New Yorkers began donating time and money to help poorer neighborhoods with schools, health care, and other social services. As the book explains:

“Both the children and the mothers have found a great friend in the Bowling Green Neighborhood Association, an organization which has voluntarily taken up settlement work. They have provided a playground, a little hall where dances and social affairs can be had, a modest little library, a babies clinic, and other desirable attributes.

“The infant mortality, from an abnormally high rate, has been reduced to correspond to the average of the city at large, and in other ways the neighborhood association has made for itself a warm spot in the heart of these friendless foreigners.”