Posts Tagged ‘Sixth Avenue and 14th Street’

The pleasure gardens of Lower Manhattan

May 4, 2011

Pleasure gardens: The term sounds dreamy and enchanting.

And for 18th and 19th century city residents, these gardens definitely were: recreational spaces open day and night that featured landscaped grounds, lights, music, theater, fountains, and grottos.

Kind of a cross between a botanical garden, country club, and the Playboy mansion, pleasure gardens offered a coed social scene plus the latest fancy refreshments—the alcoholic kind as well as the new craze: ice cream.

New York Vauxhall Gardens, opened in 1767 on Greenwich Street by the Hudson River, was one of the first. Vauxhall eventually relocated between Broadway and the Bowery (practically the countryside at the time) in 1805.

Exclusive Niblo’s Garden (at left) soon became hugely popular, taking over an older pleasure garden at Broadway and Prince Street in 1825 and expanding it with a theater and open-air saloon.

Contoit’s Garden, close to Niblo’s on Broadway, was an elegant rival. And one of the last pleasure gardens to open, in 1858, was the Palace Garden (top), on the northwest corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue.

The pleasure gardens were gone by 1900. Blame the newly opened Central Park, cheap transportation to seashores like Brighton Beach, and more adrenaline-pumping diversions, like the Coney Island amusement parks.

Ice cream, whale-oil illumination, and a breezy promenade through a landscaped pasture just couldn’t compare to the razzle dazzle of Coney.

A crowd forms on Sixth Avenue and 14th Street

October 20, 2009

“Ashcan School” artist John Sloan really had a thing for the Sixth Avenue El. Several of his paintings depict the El at Third Street or Eighth Street; Jefferson Market Courthouse can often be seen in the distance.

Sixthaveelatfourteenth

Here he highlights the next stop on the El, at 14th Street. It’s still a major shopping crossroads. Currently a Starbucks and Urban Outfitters occupy the Southeast corner, past the “Shoes” marquee in the painting.

The building across the street with the pointed turret is still there. Down toward Seventh Avenue looms the Salvation Army headquarters, also still in existence.