Posts Tagged ‘Madison Square Park’

A little-known grave near Madison Square Park

June 18, 2012

Hiding between Shake Shack and Eataly just outside Madison Square Park is one of only two military grave sites in the city.

It contains the remains of William Jenkins Worth.

A celebrated general, Worth’s military career started with the War of 1812 and was cut short after the Mexican-American War, when he contracted cholera in San Antonio in 1849.

After his death, city leaders decided to honor him with a memorial in what was then an elite residential neighborhood.

While his body was temporarily interred in Green-Wood Cemetery, a 51-foot granite obelisk went up, listing names of crucial battle sites of his career.

A bronze relief of Worth on a horse fronts the obelisk, and military regalia decorate the cast-iron fence surrounding it.

It’s a grand monument—but it’s easy to miss as you cross that tricky intersection of 25th Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue (a pocket park called Worth Square).

It’s even easier to disregard the fact that Worth’s body lies under the obelisk. He was reburied here in 1857 during a processional involving 6,500 soldiers and a speech from Mayor Fernando Wood.

Where’s the other military gravesite in Manhattan? Grant’s Tomb, 100 blocks northwest. General Worth is also the namesake of Worth Street, and we have him to thank for Fort Worth, Texas, and Lake Worth, Florida.

Why is Lady Liberty’s torch in Madison Square?

May 10, 2012

It’s very strange to see the Statue of Liberty’s enormous hand and torch parked in front of the western side of Madison Square—a genteel, elite neighborhood at the end of the 19th century.

But it all came down to fund-raising, and Madison Square was where the money was.

The hand and torch were placed in the park from 1876 to 1882 to get enough donations from Americans to complete the pedestal (the statue itself was the financial responsibility of the French).

Cash was coming in slowly, so Joseph Pulitzer, editor of The World, stepped in.”Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds,” reports this Statue of Liberty website.

“Pulitzer’s campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate.”

New York’s “Flat Iron and Fifth Avenue Buildings”

February 14, 2011

I like Flat Iron as two words; it doesn’t obscure the origin of the building’s name.

Aside from the streetcars navigating Broadway, the best part of the postcard is the caption on the back: “Facing Madison Square, these two buildings are among the most interesting in the uptown district.”

Uptown for 1905, I guess.

In the center is the still-standing, seven-story Western Union Building, by late 19th century starchitect Henry Hardenburgh.

And look—no Shake Shack!

“After the Rain” in Madison Square

April 24, 2010

Paul Cornoyer painted a darkened, rain-slicked Madison Square Park around the turn of the century.

Madison Square looks almost the same on a rainy evening more than a hundred years later, doesn’t it?

A penny postcard of Madison Square

March 26, 2010

Looks like a sweet spring day at the crossroads of 24th Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway.

The neighborhood was extremely fashionable around the turn of the 20th century, when this card dates to. 

That’s Madison Square Garden, the Moorish-looking tower on the right. The billboard ad above the red building in the center is a gem—it’s for White Horse Scotch Whiskey.

Rainy, moody afternoons on Madison Square

January 26, 2010

At left, Italian-American painter Alessandro Guaccimanni depicts well-dressed men and women, colorful flowers, and a rain-slicked street beside Madison Square Park in 1893.

Madison Square was ultrafashionable in Gilded Age New York City. The best-known structure on the Square was Madison Square Garden; the Flatiron Building won’t be constructed for another nine years.

This second painting depicts Fifth Avenue and 24th Street circa 1894.

Who was Guaccimanni, and what was his fascination with Madison Square? His paintings are haunting and moody, but there’s no biographical info on him to be found.

The second-worst fire in New York City history

September 11, 2009

You know what the worst is. Next on the list—in terms of loss of firefighter life, that is—comes the 23rd Street Fire in 1966, which killed 12 firefighters.

23rdstreetfirefuneralIt started in a brownstone at 7 East 22rd Street at 9:30 p.m. on October 17. An art dealer stored paint in the cellar, which fueled heavy smoke and a raging basement fire.

Unable to make their way to the source of the flames, firefighters went around the block to 23rd Street to try to enter through a building that shared the cellar.

Firefighters didn’t know that after a renovation, a wall in the shared cellar had been moved, weakening the floor. The entire first floor soon collapsed into the basement inferno, killing 10 firefighters. Two more died in another part of the building.

The city was astounded and distraught. Days later, 10,000 firefighters flanked Fifth Avenue as fire trucks carried coffins to St. Thomas Episcopal Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (Above photo: FDNY. Below: The New York Times)


The site is now home to a high-rise apartment house, just across from Madison Square Park. A small plaque honors the men who lost their lives there 43 years ago.

A victory parade at Madison Square Park

November 10, 2008

In March 1919, the city threw a spectacular parade on Fifth Avenue to honor the soldiers from New York’s 27th Division, who broke the Hindenburg Line in World War I and forced the Germans to retreat. 

A ceremony took place at the victory arch at Madison Square Park, built in 1918 and modeled after the Arch of Constantine in Rome. Nope, it’s not there anymore. Despite an attempt to make it a permanent part of the park, the arch was eventually torn down.


Of 27,114 men, the 27th division sustained more than 8,000 casualties. The New York Times had this to say about the parade: 

“Early Tuesday morning the Avenue from 23rd Street to 26th Street will be carpeted with sand and roped off. As the head of the parade comes down the ropes will be severed by a bayonet wielded by a Sergeant wearing British and American valor medals.

“A caisson with memorial casket and wreath, drawn by eight black horses, with a military guard, will pass slowly under the arch, while the guns of the harbor’s forts boom out a 21-gun salute.”

City drinking fountains: their germ-magnet past

September 13, 2008

This 1913 photo shows a boy at a public water fountain in Madison Square Park; he’s drinking from a common cup attached to a chain. Of course, no one today would ever drink from the same cup thousands of strangers also put their lips on. But back then, in pre-germ-awareness times, not everyone realized how unsanitary it was.

Yet public health experts were beginning to realize that the shared cup was a big disease transfer method and had to be eliminated. In 1911, city officials announced that they were changing all the school drinking fountains so that a common cup wasn’t required. Communal cups were eventually banned in all public fountains. 

Forgotten New York politicians: Roscoe Conkling

August 1, 2008

Roscoe Conkling, isn’t that a great name? Conkling was a New York political fixture in the late 19th century, first as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives and then later a member of the U.S. Senate. He was pro-Lincoln and pro-Grant in a city quite hostile to the Civil War.

Mr. Conkling’s statue sits at the southeastern corner of Madison Square Park. There’s significance for this: During the Blizzard of 1888, he decided to walk from his Wall Street office to his home on 24th Street. At Union Square, he fell in a snow drift, became ill, and died five weeks later. 

His family asked the Parks Department to place the statue near where he fell in Union Square, but he wasn’t deemed important enough. Madison Square Park must have been for B-list New Yorkers.